Our readers will know you as Eddi from adFunture, can you tell us more about yourself and your background?
Fill our readers in on how adFunture was set-up
It was out of interest of producing my own brand, I established adFunture back in 2002. It was at the same time as we opened Red Dot Restaurant in Shanghai. They were some crazy times. I was juggling between the 2 projects, while knowing Red Dot was more important because it was something that my father wanted to do. I once said to him that after I released Mad Teeth and Fling, I’d leave it and focus totally on Red Dot. I said I only wanted to realize a dream of having my own products in the market, that’s all. I guess I lied. We went on to producing other projects, and doing exhibitions around the world.
I got really hooked on what adFunture are doing back at the London show in 2005. Out of all the shows I go to, there was a real energy about it and an obvious passion for street art and product cross-overs. Street Artists seem to be a big focus for adFunture. Are they and why is this?
Thank you, I’m glad you liked it. We try to throw “parties” not “trade shows”. It is very important that we exhibit the artists’ artworks and not let the products overshadow their origins. If someone just wants to look at products, then go to a trade show. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just not what we are trying to do, that’s all. I personally don’t like doing trade shows, because it is not fun! If people like what we make, they’ll buy it sooner or later, they don’t need us to throw a party just so they can buy our stuff. Street art is what I personally like, so that’s what adFunture focuses on. We are not a big company, and it is still very personal to me, so we only produce what we love. We also produce non-street-art projects, again, it is just personal taste.
Are you planning any more adFunture parties anytime soon?
For sure! We’ll be going to Taipei for the Toy Festival this July, and talking to our guys there about throwing a party one night. Make it fun, you know?! And then we have August in New York, and September in Shanghai. Of course, the focus this year would be Shanghai’s party, because we never threw an official adFunture event in Shanghai yet, so we want to make this one count. New York, I’m always keen on, just because of the friends we have there. I do try to visit at least 2 times a year just to make sure we’re still in touch with the city. Then, we have London. How can we not come back for more? Let’s see when and where.
Are you a toy collector yourself? If so what’s in your collection?
Yeah, I collect some toys. Not hardcore though. I try to stick to only a few things. Hard to list though. I try to collect all the toys put out by Futura and Andre. A few pieces by Kaws, but not interested in getting all of them. Outside of the designer toys arena, I collect Boba Fett, Snake-Eyes, and Akumaizers3. I like things that can bring back memories. To me, that’s more valuable than the going-prices on eBay.
What toys (not necessarily by adFunture) have you seen recently that made you think “wow, that’s incredible!!!”?
The Pushead Companion wowed me the first time I saw it. Not so much the quality of it, but I like the sculpt, it is very nice. But most of all, I was drawn to the idea itself. Pushead re-doing KAWS’ classic figure in his own style. It takes two legends to pull something like this off. And then there’s Nosferatu by Futura, simply a classic iconic character done in the way he wants it. That’s ultimate for any artist, I think, to realize his own design exactly as he imagined it. A lot of times, a design has to be compromised in order to be made into an object. Mad props to Futura and Jakuan.
I read a nice quote “adFunture is about friends working together, and artists exploring different opportunities.” This is such an open and warm approach to business. Do you think this is part of the success of adFunture?
adFunture was built for the purpose of working with others. I’m not a designer myself, I never said I was, and I only bring half of the solution to the table, the designers have the other half. The willingness to work with friends is the key to this community, I believe. For us, all partnerships start with friendship. Almost all of the artists we are working with now are our friends to begin with or friends of our friends. We will take in the odd OEM job to keep the company healthy, but that’s not our bread and butter. We have always been keen to work with friends to make new things happen, and even leap out of the designer figure boundaries. I wouldn’t say that we are successful or not, because I really don’t know how you judge one’s success. But I like the way we are doing things here, and we intend to keep doing so.
adFunture seems to have explored most of the toy forms (mini-figs, platform blanks, larger artist pieces), including the biggest blank to date in the form of the 10″ TT.
Do you foresee a different toy form for different artists before you start a project or is it very much left up to the artist to decide on the toy form?
We basically decide all that for the artists. The artists that we work with don’t pay much attention to the “toy scene”. They are mostly really hardcore artists in their own field. They leave the toy stuff to us, and it is our job to tell them how we see their designs fit. And usually, I would have a solid idea even before the artist starts drawing.
Why do you choose the artists you do?
We tend to work with artists who have not done similar products before, and usually already have their own iconic characters that they have been using for a long period of time. We work with artists that are elites in their own fields, and we are only here to provide an additional platform.
adFunture are seen very much as innovators in the toy production scene. You never seem to follow trends and actually come out with really surprising releases. The TLP “The Lad” is one example. Is this set to be a one off or is there more coming from TLP and adFunture?
I wouldn’t say we are innovators, we still use existing formats but only according to our own pace and own purposes. For example, some said that adFunture was late entering into the “platform toy” game. But if it wasn’t for Flying Fortress’ Teddy Troop, and its history, we wouldn’t have made a platform toy in the first place. The Teddy Troop, the character itself, was used as a platform character in the artist’s paintings. So it was only a natural progression that its toy line would become a platform toy. We didn’t find someone to design us specifically a “platform”. There was no need. Same goes for WZL’s “I, WZL” figures, the very nature of the original character was to get new skin-designs by WZL, and WZL had been doing that in 2D for a number of years, even before the platform toy-craze. Ok, that warranted WZL’s toy to be a platform toy. We waited for the right reasons, and we got it.
We would like to think of ourselves as paying more attention to the design needs than the other way around. Trends can’t determine what fits the original artworks the most. As long as we are doing the design’ origins justice, we wouldn’t mind using the most traditional way of making something. Yes, it’s not new, it’s not hip, but if it is true to its design then that’s good enough for me. To a certain extent, we don’t really care what others are doing out there. We are making our own stuff with the artists that we appreciate. If the others want to keep playing with their cookie-cutters, let them. Nothing wrong with that. They are doing just fine. But I don’t see a point for us to jump right onto the bandwagon only to over-flood the community. We want to focus on iconic artists and their iconic characters. We focus on working closely with a number of artists, TLP has done a series of designs for adFunture, but only 2 of them were toys. With the TLP project, you will see adFunture moving more towards lifestyle products rather than just figures. This has been something that we’ve been trying to do for some time now and TLP was a perfect fit into this picture. The Lad figure itself was a dream come true for me. The first time I saw this character in books, I just knew this will be the perfect figure. We have been working with TLP for over a year now trying to put together this project. Just glad to finally see it come to life.
So do you foresee what adFunture will produce next – do you have long term plans – or do you like to surprise yourself with what comes next?
We do plan ahead, of course. Our production schedule is now lined up til March of 2007. That’s the regular stuff. Then, we get those “surprises” here and there for special projects. And if projects coming out of the blue do excite me, we’ll plug them into our schedule. It might sound odd, because we just said we have a “schedule”, and keep plugging new projects in between does ultimately mess up the flow of things. But if you are in my position, there are really some projects that you’d be crazy to pass up. You have to grab it and just run with it. Yes, even if it means screwing up your routine and schedule. It’s always better to have it late than never getting to make it. You know what I mean? Sounds like a bad motto, sorry.
One of the things that stands out about adFunture’s products are the obviously high-level of quality in manufacturing. Being based in China must be an obvious advantage, you have the factories on your doorstep, but there must also have been times or moments when things have gone a bit wrong? Any bad experiences you can tell us about?
Ha ha ha, shit happens all the time, things go wrong far too often. But these are the behind the scenes stuff that collectors don’t need to know about. Let us handle the bullshit, and you just enjoy the finished vinyl art pieces. Just keep in mind that every project has our hearts and souls put into it.
It’s hard to reflect on past adFunture products as you are always moving forward, so what are you looking forward to the most with relation to adFunture?
Wow, that’s a tough one. Most of what we do here excites da hell outta me, really. We have quite a few interesting projects on hand waiting to be released. The first one comes to mind is Fafi’s Fafinettes Set, a 2 figures set. We have been working on this since 2004!
Then, it is MR. A by Andre. This will be a tall one! The series of 10” Teddy Troops should be dope. We have some really good artists for this series. A long term collaboration with the Jellymon duo is also in the works. That will be fresh, we know it. WZL will have another figure coming out this year also. A few more projects that we have told no one about, you’ll see it when you see it. Apart from the figures, I’m working on a new underground music label with DJ V-Nutz in China, that’ll be sick. We want to showcase the talents and the up and comings in China’s scene. Let’s have some fun. And of course, I look forward to the parties we’ll throw for the company’s 4th anniversary later this year.
Woah, 4 years old already! Have they been a personally satisfying 4 years?
Yup, 4 years… not VERY long, but still, 4 years of doing this earned us a lot of true friends around the world. It’s cheesy, but these friendships are priceless. Imagine if one day I do leave this business, then these friends are what I’ll get to keep, not the toys. I’d say the time spent has been satisfying so far. And we look forward to many more years to come.
You have recently opened DA>SPACE with Jukai, firstly, how did this partnership come about? Secondly, was DA>SPACE an easy venture to launch?
I’ve been staying in Shanghai on and off for almost 4 years now, and opening a gallery shop in the country was always in the plans. Julia and I would go location-shopping once every 2 months. She got tired of me keep “thinking” about opening one up. I met Jukai back in August last year in Taipei. We were there throwing the “adFunture Invasion” exhibition, and Jukai was asked to do the event poster by the organizer. We were talking about things, and he said he too wanted to open a similar concept shop in Shanghai. So one thing led to another, we joined forces and did it. The whole venture was based on the drive to do something different in a city that is already so different. There are many fine art galleries in China, but DA>SPACE would be the only one that showcases street art. And with the connections that we had on hand, getting support from the artist community was not tough. However, launching such a venture in Shanghai was not easy. Street art is still relatively new in China, so if we run it like a gallery thinking that we can sell a shit load of paintings, then we’ll be destined to fail. However, if we can manage to keep the culture real while still surviving, then we are willing to do this. For that, we’ve opened a studio to pick up various design jobs, so that we can keep up with the expenses of the gallery. Like any other businesses, there are some barriers you just have to get over. Luckily for us, Shanghai and its people are quite open-minded in comparison to its neighboring cities.
DA>SPACE is China’s first street art gallery, why was it important that you set up a street art gallery there?
Because… that’s what we like? Other than passion, there’s really no bigger motivation.
Tell us a little about the street art scene in China.
There are already many graffiti artists in China, but there’s only about 8 to 10 years of history. They are slowly maturing, and need to interact more with different artists from other countries. That’s why whenever we have foreign artists here, the local artists are willing to travel from 16 hrs away by train to get to the gallery to talk to the visitor. They are willing to move forward.
Which Chinese artists/crews are you most looking forward to working with?
We are now organizing an exhibition with 60 Chinese artists. Is hard for me to pin point who we would want to go further with at this point. I do know we want to work with P.E.N. Crew, a group of 5 youngsters working hard to keep graffiti real in China. I’ve met with them a number of times already, and we are ready to move forward. I’m sure there’ll be quite a few artists that we’d want to work with later on. We just need more opportunities to see their work.
You have also recently launched DA>LIFE as a streetwear label, what are the future plans for that (that you can disclose)?
It is a label that is under that DA>Concept umbrella. It is a clothing label that we are working on that will have a mix of Chinese designers and our other friends around the globe. It is not China’s first street wear label, but we want to make it the best.
…and BareFootChina sounds interesting, what’s the deal with that?
This is one of a few projects I’m working on with Jellymon, it is a web site all about sneakers! This will be China’s own info site on the sneaker culture. We’ll be covering topics around the culture from around the world, but all in the Chinese language. It is supplying information to help a sub-culture’s growth. It is that simple.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to us Eddi, VA wishes yourself, the adFunture crew and all involved in DA>SPACE every success in the future.