We’ve been long time fans of the cheerful work by illustrator Ed Cheverton who has consistently combined creative practices to inform his own. From drawings to collages and most notably toys, the illustrator displays the joy that results from not being afraid to expand his creative remit. Most recently we noticed he had been animating his toys into playful gifs, giving his 3D objects a second life digitally. Below, we caught up with Ed to learn more about the personality of his characters and how applying another practice to a project can inform and inspire new ideas.
What’s the starting process of designing one of your toys?
Most of the time I don’t have a design in mind. I have a box of “materials” containing plastic and wooden shapes found in junk shops, car boot sales and pound shops, scraps of wood found in skips or just general day to day detritus such as bottle caps and coloured sponges.
I’ll pick out a handful of objects and see how they fit together, put the pieces I’m not using or aren’t fitting back in the box and maybe pull out some more specific pieces I think might work. I’ll then attach them all together and paint any bits that need painting. I really like this way of building the toys, it’s a very organic process and the shapes and personalities of the characters emerge naturally. I have made a few with a bit more of a starting design in mind, but often these just don’t work as well if I’m having to alter shapes or objects too much to make them work. However, a few have worked really well where I knew what I wanted the finished toy to be (a plane or a submarine for example) but didn’t give myself too many restrictions on what objects to use.
I’ve also this begun making some prototypes of wooden editions of toys. Only four to five maximum of one design, but for these I have a very clear idea of what I want them to look like in the end and I’m a lot more careful picking materials.
Do they each have different personalities?
They definitely do, for me at least. Again, where the process is quite organic the personality a toy has may not show until later on in its construction. The ones that have a strong character or personality are usually the ones I like to develop a bit more in drawings and collage (once I’ve made the toy).
The personalities are usually entwined with their character such as the Sad Jester, Dreamy Moon-Child or Wise Mage. I try and make them mostly happy though. I wouldn’t want to make an angry toy that then stares at me. I find it really exciting and rewarding when I make a toy out of very few objects that has a lot of character to it. Making the toys is like an engaging and fun character creation workshop for myself.
How does animating your illustrations help the design of the toys?
It’s mostly the other way round actually. The animations are a way for me to try and explore how these toys might move. I sometimes draw small strips of the toys or just play around with them in my sketchbook, but I began wanting to see them really come to life. I’ve experimented in the past with making articulated toys that could actually move. Some of these were more successful than others, however I always had to keep the moving parts in mind when building them which was a little too restrictive. Making small animations of some of them however gave me total freedom to see how they could come to life.
I’m hoping the animations will inform some of the toys I make in the future as well; I might look at some of the shapes in a new light from when they were just static blocks or connecting pieces before. Animating them also gave me ideas for other small animations as well, not related to the toys. It’s almost like inventing and learning a whole new anatomy from scratch.
I’ve been making toys like this for around five years now. They’ve changed a lot over that time and I still love building them so I’m excited to see how they will change in the future. For the past year or two I’ve been slowly working on a collection of them, with the idea of putting on an exhibition once I’ve made about 100. Most of these I’ve not really shown people or shared online, although there are a few here! I begun animating them in the past month which has been very exciting and inspiring. I’ve learnt a lot making these short animations already and I’m beginning to work on a longer piece at the moment, hopefully with a mix of animation of and film.
Ever since university I’ve tried to keep a balance of working in different mediums including collage, toy making and drawing. I’ve always wanted a natural dialogue between all of them, where each helps to inform and feed into the other. Although I’ve made animations fairly sporadically over the past five years I’ve always wanted to make more and so I’m hoping they will become another part of this dialogue.
About the Author
Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.