Santa gets all the credit, but the elves do all the work. We had a chance to chat with George and Ayleen Gaspar, owners of October Toys and hosts of the show Toy Break. They make and sell toys for a living! What does it take to be a real-life santa elf? Check out their secrets and tips.
Want to Make Toys? Go to School. Toy School!
George and Ayleen: Experience with design and sculpting are essential and a solid background in business is a huge help. There are several colleges that offer courses focused on toy design such as Otis College of Art and Design and the Art Center College of Design on the West Coast, and The Fashion Institute of Technology and Rhode Island School of Design on the East Coast. Applying for internships at popular or independent toy companies would also be a great way to gather hands on experience in the field.
It’s Not Easy
The hardest part about becoming a toymaker is that there is no direct path to become a toymaker. Studying at a school with curriculum focused on toy design is extremely helpful, but toymakers come from a variety of backgrounds including art, industrial design, business, etc.
The worst part of being a freelance toymaker is trying to actually make money at it. That's where the business background and budgeting sense come in handy.
But It Has Its Benefits
George: The best part of my job is when I finish a sculpture and the artist/client is happy with the result. It's a great feeling of satisfaction being able to translate someone's 2D image into 3D.
Ayleen: The best part of my job is being in my pajamas.
It’s More Than a Hobby
Over the years, October Toys grew into our full time gig by expanding our own product lines as well as working with a variety of clients on outside projects and prototyping. In 2006 we added Toy Break to the mix (a weekly internet show all about toys).
Your Own Secret Shop
We are extremely fortunate to be able to work from our home studio most of the time. We don't have a specific time to clock in, but when you own your own company, you really never stop working. There are lots of late nights, but we also have the luxury of setting our own schedules (which comes in very handy when traveling to conventions).
Toymakers Need A Short Answer
The question we get asked most is "how do I make a toy?" Our quick answer is draw “turnarounds” of the figure from every angle and find about $10,000.
To make a toy, first check to make sure someone hasn't already made something similar. Then talk to as many people as you can who have actually made toys. Ask questions. Ask for advice. Be as specific as you can and really listen to people's responses. You can also shop your idea around by contacting your favorite companies to see if they are looking for new designs. A short, polite, spell-checked email could open an interesting door!
It can take anywhere from three months to over a year to make a toy. Breaking it down and sculpting usually takes a week to a month, production varies from two to five months, and shipping can add another month. Plus you also need to account for time spent getting approvals from the artist(s) as well as communication between all parties involved in production.
The Fruits of Your Labor
The best part of the process is holding a packaged production sample and feeling like we've really brought something into the world that didn't exist before. A close second is sharing that production sample with the designer/artist and watching their face light up with satisfaction at seeing their work translated into a finished 3D piece.
George had an unfortunate run in with an X-acto blade that nicked a tendon in his finger a couple of years ago and it still doesn't straighten completely. Really, every chemical we use in the prototyping process takes its toll on the body. Be sure to work in well ventilated areas and follow all precautions on labels. A dust mask and goggles may seem silly when you're wearing it, but they are 100% necessary!
You Will Make Friends
We’re really proud of the OMFG toys. The toy community came together around Toy Break and the October Toys forum. OMFG is a physical representation of that community. It's amazing to be able to work with both established and new designers to help create a cohesive series and brand that has limitless possibilities and no end in sight.
Right Now, What’s The Most Unusual Object In Your Pocket or Bag?
Ayleen: A bullet made of turquoise on a keychain.
George: A single chopstick with a magnet duct taped to the end.
Check out OctoberToys.com for more info!
What kind of toy would you make?