How to make cool and weird art toys
How were Wakos born? The Story of WAKO.webo
How to make cool art toys? Here is the story behind WAKO.webo, the first level of evolution in the WAKO mythology, my first venture in the art toy universe. How WAKOS are born, how do they evolve, how to make art toys an what are the influences behind the character.
A fast food Art Toy
“I want to make a toy to offer Bembos,” I said to my partner Alonso S. Gastelumendi at 4D2 Studio. “McDonald’s and Burger King include characters from Pixar and Disney with their happy boxes. At our most recognized national burger fast-food chain, some crappy toys”
We were in the midst of the Peruvian gastronomy boom, leading a revaluation of Peruvian identity, so this was “unacceptable”. There had to be a Peruvian toy influenced by the pop trends that fascinated me from anime, pop culture and art-toys, with the pre-Columbian millennial tradition. At least that was the initial idea.
How to make art toys – The birth of WAKO
That story is the standard narrative I give when asked, “How did you come up with the idea for WAKO?”
Now I understand that creations come with their own agenda. WAKO wanted to be something different, not a product but a more personal kind of work. The resources I had at hand also shaped its characteristics: the exquisite workmanship of our Peruvian artisan tradition, and my own need of self-expression.
Also, making a classic art toy in vinyl implies a production outside of Peru (most likely to China) in the thousands. I didn’t want the headache of making the toy, importing it, packaging it, investing a significant amount of money and selling it by the thousands. At that time my vision was smaller, more personal. and more artistic. So WAKO was born as a hybrid art toy.
WAKO is a hybrid between a product and an artistic expression, which is perhaps the most faithful reflection of who I am: an entrepreneur of my art. The piece had the appealing and playful design components from the art toy, but also the task of expressing my particular vision of Peru and an internal world constantly dealing with disconformity and existential angst.
The birth of WAKO.Webo
“So how were the WAKOs born?” a child asked me during an Open Studio in the Lima district of Barranco some years ago. I started giving him the standard speech “Once upon a time in Bembos…” But the little one interrupted me: “I’m not asking you how the idea came to you, but how is it that WAKOs ARE BORN?” In other words, how is a WAKO baby made? How do they age? How do they die?
My first sculpture was the WAKO.double.spout, to which I assigned a level 2. There were already the three evolution levels of the pre-Columbian Andean tripartition: condor, jaguar and snake (although I preferred to opt for an Iguana), and the fusion of all three in the Dragon. The baby, in WEBO form, should be level 1. (Check out the “great wako dispersion” here)
WEBO as a metaphor for creation
Such a simple question poses enormous complexity. Where do WAKOs come from? How do they get into the world? What is their reproductive system? How do they age?
The idea of WEBO is archetypal. It’s inspired by the biological form of the egg as a metaphor for creation, so it seemed natural to adapt it to the world of WAKOS. “In many creation myths, the universe is born from an egg, which contains everything inside and only needs to be hatched,” says the Taschen Book of Symbols, citing a diversity of ancient cultures that use it as a genetic element. They are also an image of regeneration and resurrection, which is why the Christian community distributes Easter eggs on Easter Sunday (Taschen).
The idea of ”Superdeep”
The WAKOs project is one that seeks to recreate certain archetypal characters of our community that merge the ancient and modern elements. This is entrenched in the idea of super depth and “superdeep” presented in my work. The pieces of our psychic mechanism are expressed through these images, which at the same time give us feedback and reproduce again.
We are beings that create visual symbols. Pop aesthetics are no exception, and neither is a Peruvian pop aesthetic. In this sense, making art toys can be a very interesting, deep and fun way of playing with culture.
Kawaii, pop culture and Carl Jung
That permeates the WAKOs project. Like all of us, I am not free from the aesthetic influences of my time.
I was born in 1976. I am the son of the eighties and nineties and, therefore, mass culture. Robotech, Mazinger Z, Astroboy, Star Wars, The Matrix, Transformers, Masters of the Universe and more, are the images that flooded my childhood. My early adulthood as an artist led me to contemporary pop artists like Takashi Murakami or Kaws (who I suspect lived this like me) who bring contemporary imagery to contemporary art.
However, I am also interested in Carl Jung’s deep psychology, intuitive and abundant with imagery. The idea of achieving individuation as a harmonious integration of the different dimensions of our psyche is fascinating. It might also be the existential search for our time. Who are we? What are we here? Do we matter in any way?
The Webo as origin and end
WEBO is origin and end. It expresses the most elemental, the primordial, the beginning. But it also expresses the end, simplification, harmony, peace. In WAKOS mythology the notion of roundness is at its beginning, in its evolution, and at its end — since I play with the idea that the last evolutionary level is that of the WAKO Orb (a gigantic and round WAKO, the synthesis that unifies all the WAKOS).
This Orb is also the beginning. The WEBO thus has an existential dimension, since it is pure potential at the beginning and pure harmony at the end.
The Webo and the OUROBOROS
In his book on the History of Consciousness, Erich Neumann (Berlin, 1905), a psychologist and disciple of Jung, talks about Ouruboros, the snake that bites its tail as a metaphor for the initial chaos.
This, understood as the chaos from which order would emerge, is the chaos that propels the hero out into the world to bring order back. In WAKOs mythology, WEBO brings us back to Ouroboros, because it is the absolute potential of a future order when it evolves and develops its abilities.
But since chaos and order are part of the same cycle, then a return to Ouroboros will be inevitable. Perhaps how you are born also responds to the idea of how you die. Will the final evolution of each WAKO be the return to WEBO?