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Tomopop Interview: Cris Rose

4:00 PM on 08.23.2011 // Brian Szabelski

Longtime readers, and maybe even folks who've only started browsing recently, should be familiar with the works of Cris Rose. The London-based artist has long been a favorite of the staff and a friend of yours truly, charming collectors worldwide with his little robots for almost two years now, if not slightly longer than that. And it's been more than vinyl and resin, too, as he's expanded out into the realms of wooden toys and plush pieces as well.

So perhaps what better person to interview right now than Cris? It's been a good long while since Tomopop had done an interview, but you should get used to them, because they are going to be coming back a little more often, and that starts today as we chatted with Cris Rose about his past, his hobbies outside of robot creation, and what might lie ahead for the future.

Hit the jump to see what he had to say!

[All photos via Cris Rose's Flickr]



[Cris Rose circa 2007]

Tell us a bit about your background. How did Cris Rose get to be where he is today?

Cris took things apart at a young age, but it was much later he worked out how to put things together again. From an interest in working on cars as a teen, a degree in Product Design BSc was undertaken enthusiastically. Between leaving University and now, a variety of roles were undertaken, custom vinyl being a hobby. Now resin is my full time job and photography is my hobby.

As many of our readers may know, you produce your own resin robot figures along with customs and other works of art. What kind of advantages and disadvantages are there to producing your own resin figures?

One of the main advantages, is that i don't need to work around other people's concepts to achieve my results. I also don't need to work on anyone elses timescales, the control is liberating. Disadvantages? Resin smells and is messy. Oh, and pouring 100 robots can sure get dull.

Where did the original idea for your robots come from? Were there any outside inspirations or influences that helped contribute to their design?

My original robot, Runcible, was loosely based upon my late Grandfather, a repairman of radios, TVs, even early RADAR equipment during the war.

I try not to be directly influenced by things others are doing and often can a concept because it's too similar to other things, but generally it's a mix of "What jobs would i make robots to do..." and "How would that look if the 1940s had today's technology...". I try my best to reflect the average person in my robots. They're not heros, they have no great vengeance or divine destiny, they're the cogs in the wheel of society that make it all work, just like you and me. As they are designed entirely around the concept of their role, I guess that means you and I are one of the main influences.

How long does the process usually take?

From concept to final design tends to be quite fast. A new robot will come from thoughts about different jobs and roles that people currently do and how a robot could be specialized for that task. As i think primarily in 3D, a quick sketch model on a CAD program can swiftly develop into fully dimensioned designs. From idea to final design, it can be as little as a day or as long 3 or 4 days, depending on size, detailing or issues designing for manufacture.

I've noticed that a lot of your creations have camera lens-like features. Do they, perchance, reflect an interest in photography? And are any other interests or elements of your life worked into your creations?

Photography has been a keen interest of mine for over a decade. It's only recently that I've been able to spend as much time on it as i would like, but I've always had a camera on me in the past. I have quite a large camera collection these days, mainly film ones, the jewels being those that I have been given and my Leicas.

One of the reasons I've always carried a camera, is that I have a real problem with long term experiential memories, or more specifically, the retrieval of them. I'm fine with facts and figures, but past about 9 months back, I can't remember much of what I've done or where I've been. If I have photos to remind me, I can remember a lot more, meaning that in a way my camera is an extension of my memory. Therefore, I work cameras into my robots that work in a similar fashion to the ones I carry myself; as a way of capturing the moment and storing it.

Some of my more resent releases have seen the chaps carrying little film cameras of their own to compliment the digital ones in their heads, mainly due to me shooting more film myself. There's something about the physicality of an instant or negative that's produced when shooting film, it makes the image seem more ... real ... than a digital one.

Some people might not know this, but your earlier customs weren't based on robots. Can you tell us a bit about those older customs and how you ended up moving from those on to your current style?

When I first started painting customs, it was entirely for my own pleasure, something to get me away from the computer when i was working. I was doing a lot of nature inspired, quite abstract work and getting a lot of enjoyment from it.

The change occurred when a custom I did for a show was damaged in the post. It was a MAD*L and the edges were all bashed to crap, flaking the paint off. I decided to have a go at repairing it by working this into the design, rusting all the damaged areas, as if it was painted on a metal toy that had seen some love over the years. I was really taken by the contrast between colour and nature and technological decay and started thinking about the journey and experience it inferred.

[Editor's note: In a chance coincidence, this was Cris' custom for the MAD*L Citizens show at Lift Detroit, the first custom show I attended! Here's how it looked pre-getting banged up.]

It was after this that I started designing robots that were painted brightly and cheerfully, but that had worked for years and picked up dents and scratches and other things that showed what they'd been through. The moss and vines on my bots to this day are extensions of the nature themes i began with and built on as i'm very much a back to nature kinda guy.

In recent weeks and months, we've seen you expand from just the standard 3" to 4" resin robots and into other areas with Arborobots with Pepe, the Mirrobots and Bits 'n Bytes. Are there any other future projects you're working on that expand your creations into different media? Maybe a Sprogs video game, perhaps? ;)

I'm keen to express my concepts in as many forms, materials and medias as possible, as long as the concept works. I have some designs in ceramic and metal already, that I haven't finalized or released yet. I design a lot of bots that never see the light of day for one reason or another.

I've been approached a few times about doing an iPhone game using Sprogs, so you never know — I'm just waiting for a solid concept to be pitched and a strong business proposition. But I'm all for it. I really want someone to animate my bots, even if just for a few short stories.

You've mentioned this to me in previous conversations, but you're working on a book. Can you tell us a bit more about it?

Entropy started off as a catalogue of everything I'd done, all my customs, but as I've been pushing really hard to make 2011 about original sculpts, I've refocused it on my resin work. It's now all about the resin robots I've made over the last few years, the stories behind them, some "glamour shots" of them and a little behind the scenes / WIP stuff. The main thing is just finding the time to work on it and keeping it updated with new releases. Oh and knowing when to stop. I could easily make it 300 pages, tho it would be pretty damn expensive by that point! I would like it to some with an exclusive bot tho if I can.

When he's not in his lab working on toys, what does Cris Rose do for fun?

He grabs his Leica M6, loads up a roll of Tri-X and cycles around London, photographing the streets. But mostly, he's in his lab, working on robots.

Thank you very much for the opporunity to sit down and chat, Cris!

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Brian Szabelski, Editor-in-Chief
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Brian Szabelski is Tomopop's Editor-in-Chief, stuck with an ever-growing collection of figures and toys. When he's not posting on Tomopop, he can usually be found working on any number of project... more   |   staff directory

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