Sunday, December 04, 2016

DesignerCon highlights

When you have over 350 designers, manufacturers and artists and the like coming together for one convention, that takes a little bit of time to process. In the coming months ahead, I hope to profile a few of my favorites in more detail, but in the meantime, here's my hot take on Pasadena's DesignerCon, which just celebrated its 10th year in November at the Pasadena Convention Center. A big thanks to Jo Bangphraxay for letting me know this was going on.

This year was the first year they needed to spread out into the extra pavilion, and it seems to have worked out well for everyone. It was a tremendous celebration of self-expression and creativity blending pop, punk, and urban sensibilities. There were a lot of remixes and countercultural subversions of characters from popular culture, but also a dizzying array of original characters and concepts. I think there was a little something for everyone.

I enjoy the art of Brian Kesinger, particularly his take on a steampunk Thai dancer and her octopus, and this year, there were many copies of his books available for sale. It's nice to see him doing so well. DesignerCon was also a great place to learn about a variety of upcoming kickstarters for some great projects such as acclaimed fantasy artist Michael Wehlan's Beyond Science Fiction campaign currently underway. 

There were so many intriguing monster designs throughout the convention that I wanted to take home. There weren't many that were created with a Southeast Asian motifs, but I expect that may change in the future. If you go, you'll have to be very careful, because it's easy to blow your entire budget within ten feet of the entrance.

This one kind of hits me hard with the news that the chef who invented the General Tso's Chicken recipe passed away recently. Between him and the Big Mac creator, it's been a hard 2016. Thank goodness White Castle is still doing fine. Also, McRibs seem to be back for a limited time out here, so there's that.

There was an extraordinary amount of craftsmanship placed into many of the designs presented at DesignerCon. If you were thinking of getting a vendor table, you have to be prepared to bring your A game, because there are some very talented visions presenting here.

Of course, the dachshund-themed Adventures of Laszlo and Zazie (and Scrapple too!) was a personal favorite of mine. They approached it all with great humor and creativity, and I'll be interviewing them later on about how they got started.

Here was the fabulous Rotten Rexx and Dieceratops from James Groman which really captured the imagination. If I'd had these as a child I'd probably have been either the happiest kid in the world or totally freaked out. But the detail on these was amazing. He's also got a line of B.C. Blasters he's been designing. One day, I'll have to add these fellows to my collection, for sure.

One of the vendors who also really stood out for me was the ambitious Mighty Luchador who was presenting a variety of luchador themed toys and designs that build upon the mythology while adding some new touches to it. I'm looking forward to seeing more from them in the future!

Recently this little fellow won the Designer Toy Award for Best Licensed, also known as the Sketracha Dunny from Sket-One and KIDROBOT. I really want to get one for that Sriracha-themed Lexus IS.

Freehand Profit was doing some particularly amazing work to me because of the way he was taking old sneakers and re-purposing them into masks of figures such as Anubis, Princess Mononoke, Star Wars and other creations of popular culture. There's some really interesting thought going into this regarding identity, hip-hop, consumer culture, and what a vision of the future or retro-future might look like.

Hip-Hop Trooper has also been making the rounds and the community had a lot of fun with his presence. One day I think there's an interesting conversation to be had about what he "means".

Also ran into Christie Shinn of Hora Tora Studios doing her thing. Her diverse works include Sepulchre, Personal Monsters, Caligula Imperatore Insanum, and The Wallflowers and Wildflowers Learn Manners. She has a very distinctive style to keep an eye on.

More to follow, but hopefully this gives you some idea of the types of talents and ideas on display here.

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