Kamakura Interview

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First, can you tell us a bit about what first got you involved in customizing GIJoe figures and vehicles?

Like a lot of children of the 80's, I started "customizing" my Joe figures when figures in my childhood collection would break. I would take the parts from broken figures and put them together to make a complete figure I could play with. My first was an unmasked Destro with a Short Fuse head and Snake Eyes arms. As an adult, I started by customizing Star Wars figures and soon got bored and moved on to Joe figures after I came across Evilface's customs and was totally inspired.

What were your original goals when you first began customizing figures, are those goals the same today?

When I first started, my goals were to simply try and make some new figures. Then my goal was to become as good of a customizer as those that had inspired me to start the hobby. One goal that has seemed to always be present has been to try to constantly improve my skills. With 25th customs, my goal had been to try and make 25th versions of ARAH figures. With my ARAH customs, I try to make updated versions of older characters as well as translating my original character ideas into action figures.

What single project of yours would you say has been the most extensive, time consuming and downright frustrating, yet resulted in something you are extremely proud of?

With out a doubt…my Cobra De Aco exclusive for the 07 Joe Con. The project consisted of 30 figures that were custom cast and hand painted. Originally it was to be kind of a group project and ended with me doing it ALL myself. I got screwed over by a local plating company and the chrome plating had to be sacrificed and replaced with silver painted heads. Overall, I personally was disappointed with the figures but they seemed to be very well received by everyone who got one. I guess I am most proud of the fact that I was able to do it despite the setbacks and everyone seemed to like the figures. The run was sold out at the con and I still get requests for the figure. All in all…it was a great learning experience for my exclusive project for the 09' Con.

Cobra de Aco.JPG

Are there any areas in life, perhaps work related, that you feel greatly enhances your skills when it comes to customizing?

The part of my life that has helped my hobby the most was the time I spent working at a prop and costume company. I spent 2 ½ years as the Shop Manager of the prop manufacturing side of the business. Not only did I get the opportunity to work on some really cool movies I learned a lot about prop manufacturing. This is where I learned about molding and casting. Those are skills that I will always be greatfull for and have really made a difference in how I handle my customizing. I mold and cast a lot of the parts I use. I did also get a lot of time to improve my sculpting skills while working there. This job also opened me up to a plethora of products and tools that I never would have thought of that have become great assets in my arsenal.

What three pieces of advice would you offer to a customizer who is looking to begin working with GI Joe figures?

1. Slow down/Take your time! A lot of new customizers seem to rush through some of their early work. I was guilty of it myself. If you slow down and really take your time with parts selection, mods and especially painting you will have a better finished product.

2. Listen to the advice and critiques of your fellow customizers. This board is filled with many collective years of customizing experience and a wealth of ideas, techniques and suggestions to help others improve. Every member of this board seems to truly care about our unique hobby and we all strive to better the hobby by passing on what we have learned.

3. Don't be afraid to try new things. This kind of goes hand in hand with #2. When you get that suggestion or tip from another customizer…try it out. Even if it's something you have never done before. This will help you to grow as a customizer. Also…be open to trying new products. We all have our preference when it comes to paint, sealer, epoxy, casting materials. Try different stuff until you find what works for you and gives you the results you want.

We all have a 'Dream Project' that, for whatever reason, never seems to materialize. Tell us about yours.

I have this grand idea for a huge multi-level play set that would have everything from a motor pool to barracks to supply rooms. The whole 9 yards. I have a rough sketch of the lay out but my idea really is too big both in size and with what is in it. I have a way to make light up computer panels so I want every one in this base to work. I want a motorized elevator. The list goes on and on. Problem is I don't have the space to store/display such a base right now. Maybe someday. A guy can dream right?

What is it about your custom creations that you feel sets them apart from others?

I feel that my painting is one of the things that sets my figures apart. When I start to paint a figure, I try to work with a core group of colors to try and maintain a very military based color palate. I also work very hard to paint my figures in such a way that they would fit in with regular collection and not look out of place. I strive to keep the military look while trying to make my figures look as "production" as possible.

What area of your customizing skills would you say presents the greatest opportunity for improvement?

Camouflage. While I feel that I have tiger stripe camo down, I think my skills with a basic woodland camo, urban camo or chocolate chip desert pattern can use a lot of work.

What area of your customizing skills would you say is your greatest asset?

I feel it is my painting skills. Customizing is not only a hobby of mine; I find it to be therapeutic. I know a lot of people swear by spray paint or rit dye for base coats. For me, I tend to hand paint everything. I feel more connected to my work and it is the part about the process that I most enjoy. I strive to really make my paint nice, crisp and production quality. I also have a tendency to spend a lot of time painting the small details like buckles, buttons, and straps. If you take the time to work on those smaller details, your customs will stand out.

Who are your three greatest inspirations in the customizing community? Who's work do you see regularly that consistently wows you?

1. Sgartz. Steve was one of the first customizers whose work I found when I discovered JoeCustoms. His work was simply great. Flawless paint, great execution. When I first started customizing, Steve and I began emailing WIP pics and other ideas back and forth. This really helped me to grow as customizer. Now, Steve lives about 15 min away from me and we have become great friends. Who would have thought?

2. The Wonder Twins (Chad and Matt). I have always been impressed with their work. The amount of creativity these two guys have and the ability to utilize that creativity to produce the figures they do is uncanny. I am never let down when I view a new figure made by either of them.

3. iwbeta. Tiger Force customs! Do I really need to say anymore than that? I guess I do. Talk about taking an idea/passion and really running with it. Damn! Not only are there a lot of those TF figures to choose from, every one of them looks amazing. Great idea and great execution.

If you had to sit thru a six hour insurance seminar, which two figures would you sneak in to keep you entertained?

25th wave 3 Snake Eyes and my 25th custom of Kamakura. It would be time for a master and student throw down. I would have to make Kamakura win at least once. I know, I know….blasphemy.


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