Cris Rose is a London-based artist and sculptor that is best known for his rusty retro-styled robots. We recently caught up with Cris to see what he’s up to and to chat about his stunning views on design in an alternate future. Check the interview after the jump.
Cris, where did the inspiration come from to create these characters and figures?
I certainly take inspiration from that 50s view of what the future would look like; everything streamlined, seamlessly-panelled, flexi-armed, fully automatedly. But near any machine can be a robot if you put eyes on it, so I see them all over the place too. With regards their characters, those were initially inspired by my late grandfather; my first was based upon a large collection of valves and electronics he left behind and his own trade as an electronics repairman.
Do you remember the moment when you said, “This is what I want to do.”?
I’ve wanted to design and make objects/products/things since I was about 14. That’s when I headed towards Product Design as a career. I didn’t really mind what it was I’d be making; just that I could develop a concept, see it realised and have people hold it in their hands and enjoy it. And that’s what I do now. So I guess this is the result of a childhood desire.
What sort of toys or figures do you remember playing with as a kid? Do any of them inspire your works today?
Lego. Lots of building things and taking them apart. I still love Lego. I was also very into space as a kid and anything scientific; from telescopes to experiment kits. I actually did a pair of robots with parts of them rebuilt out of Lego and repainted, as part of a show on that very subject.
Can you speak to your creative process when creating a new figure?
Everyone starts with a story, a job, a reason to exist. I’ll think about the sorts of things we do, but take for granted, or don’t want to do, and I give that job to a robot. By working out how he’s to do his job, I get an idea of how he’d be built, and the look develops from there. A form follows function approach, for robots that don’t actually have to work. Then I refine the design for manufacture, model it fully in CAD, optimise for prototyping and spend an ungodly amount of time sanding the result to bring out the detail. Then in goes the silicone, out comes a mould and it’s time to cast, assemble, and paint. Turnaround is usually about 3 weeks from idea to market.
How many figures do you generally make in a week? And are you a one-man operation?
I’m entirely a one man deal; I do this full time. I cover every aspect, right down to the shipping and emailing. I wouldn’t say I “work to capacity” though, as I’m not a factory. I’m sure I could make a hell of a lot more robots in a week than I currently do, but there is generally more time put into the development of new ones than in the painting of existing ones. I’d imagine that if I had to go from having the moulds ready, to pouring, assembling, painting, detailing and finishing, I could make a few hundred painted ones. Maybe 500 unpainted, but I’d be pretty exhausted by the end of it. I prefer to stick to under 40/week.
Creative walls are ever-occurring issues for many artists. When you hit one of those, what do you do to shake it off and keep designing?
I’m known as a workaholic. My rate of production is a small slice of the concepts I generate and I only really struggle when someone asks me to work outside of what it is I really do. I can’t really ever stop thinking about new robots, new details, new production opportunities or ways to improve my current ones. My biggest problem is knowing how to stop working and take a break.
As I have so many projects on-the-go at any one time, if one is frustrating me for some reason, I go and work on another and come back to it the next day. So I guess my advice is to diversify your activities and not to put all your robots in one basket.
Can you impart some advice to our readers about the vinyl toy industry or as a creative person?
- It’s not a race, nor is it a competition.
- Things are rarely how they look on the outside.
- Don’t worry about what other people are doing, do your own thing.
- Do it because you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else, any other motivation is going to disappoint someone in the end.
What does 2013 hold for you and your artwork?
More robots. Some vinyl. Mainly a new artist brand in partnership with my girlfriend (Lunabee) which will see a very different world from my own, with a very different set of characters. It’s unlikely that any of these will be robots, but I’m very excited to develop them together. Other than that, I shall see what opportunities present themselves as you never know what can happen in the span of a year.