Do you read Tomopop in your daily tour of the web, perhaps alongside other fine toy sites, and think to yourself: I have an idea, but I don't know where to begin? Not an uncommon feeling at all. While there's a lot to be said for buying a blank Dunny and whipping it into any shape you want with Sculpey, you may have an entirely different shape in mind. Or, you may just believe you have an idea so good that you could end up being the next Kathie Olivas. What should you do?
Patch Together is a site that can help you. Much like the way Threadless welcomes budding designers to submit their designs to possibly be printed and sold, Patch Together offers a chance to see the toy you have in your head become a concrete collectible -- something you may not have had the means or funding to do otherwise.
I was lucky enough to get a chance to speak with Miller Song, the founder of Patch Together, and he kindly put up with all my meddling questions. Hit the jump to learn the what makes this innovative company tick.
Tomopop: What inspired you to create Patch Together, and what made you choose to give others the opportunity to bring their art to life instead of manufacturing your own figures?
Miller: We are very intrigued by the idea of “prosumer product”, where products are designed and manufactured by the individual. The idea of PatchTogether hit us when we stumbled upon several amazing T-shirt design communities where members were encouraged to design their own t-shirts and submit them for critiques and possible production. We really liked the idea of artists and fans interacting and helping each other push their ideas. Instead of t-shirts, we added our own little twist and decided to shoot for toys because we are all avid toy collectors at heart.
Miller: Creativity and execution are two important aspects if the idea is well represented. A design does not have to be complex to receive high votes and scores. Sometimes, an added background or a simple story to go with the design can gives the piece a likeable personality that made grow on voters.
Tomopop: What are some of your favorite toys that have made it through the contest? Alternately, what are some of your favorites that did not make it to production?
Miller: Our favorite design so far would have to be Floxy Fox by Soma. The design came via our ‘Do-It-Yourself” contest where members were asked to come up with a paint design for an upcoming fox toy. This open platform contest was a great way for artist to display their artistic style and variation. There were many amazing designs that, unfortunately, were not selected for toy production at the time due to the company’s limited resource, but we definitely hope to do them one day in the future. One particular one was Drew by Rayner.
Tomopop: Do the designers keep the rights to the toy if they get made, or are the winning designs owned by Patch Together after being chosen?
Miller: Once a winning design is selected for toy production, PatchTogether picks up the rights because of the amount of the resource which must be invested to initiate the production process. For artists who are worry about handing over the rights to their designs, we recently started a new “Product on Demand” service, where ANY designs can be put into production once a certain number of orders are received. This business plan helps reduce some financial risk for the company and allows for low production sizes. Designs that did not win our contests can now still be made if there’s enough interest for them. Profits from orders will be split between PatchTogether and the artist while the design rights never leaves the artist’s hands.
Tomopop: Are mature concepts allowed into submission, even if tastefully executed? Or is this a no-no?
Miller: As former art students ourselves, we have no problems with mature concepts as long as they are tastefully done to further the design. With that being said, we also want everyone to remember that there are many members in the PatchTogether community from different races and cultural background. Anything deemed offensive or harmful to other members will be removed.
Tomopop: Is vinyl the only medium that an artist would see his/her work produced in, or will others be available in the future, such as plush?
Miller: There is no limitation to which material we decide to use. However, due to the minimal production run requirement for some materials, we are currently focusing primarily on vinyl and resin. Other medium like plush, metal, wood are also available for small runs.
Tomopop: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all of our questions and give us insight into what makes Patch Together tick! Now, dear reader, if you keep staring at the little octopus you keep sketching in the corners of all your notebooks and thinking he would make a great toy, now is the time to act. Go check out Patch Together and see if you can pull your dream into the world of reality.
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