As kids, we experienced American pop culture with a permanent delay. Mexico has always been within the United States' cultural halo, though never fully integrated into it. Growing up, we experienced the gates opening and the world's most dominant culture irrupting into our own.
McDonald's arrived in Mexico in 1985. Their first restaurant opened in Mexico City in 1986, the second in 1988. For years, these two restaurants were the only way to access this American staple for the entire population of one of the biggest cities in the world.
A 30-minute drive to get to the restaurant could turn into an hour-long adventure to get through the Auto-Mac in the early days. Most of us waited.
For years, our borders remained closed to foreign goods. Protectionism was the law of the land, so when commercial restrictions began loosening, and American products, services, and brands trickled into the formal economy, the buzz was enormous.
And so, hours passed by in the back of the car. The tedious wait forgotten by the thrill of the hunt. We became collectors who kept coming back to complete toy series. As teenagers, the toys didn't lose their appeal. We hunted for specific Happy Meal toys and didn't rest until we got them all.
As adults, we worked to bring them to market and have heaps of them, so, we shared some of this plastic wealth with a talented community of artists that imbued new life and meaning to these plastic pieces and they played with them, as adult artists and perpetual kids at heart.
And here is the result of this playdate.
Angel Onofre / @angelonofre
Angel Onofre is a Chicago artist with a BA in Animation from Columbia College Chicago. His style can be described as disturbingly cute, merging gross horrific details with happy adorable characters. Much of his inspiration comes from monster movies, comics, and cartoons. He has been selling comics and art at conventions throughout the Midwest for the past 8 years. Outside of conventions, he consistently shows his work at various art shows. He is also an animator at Chewy Software, LLC where he has worked on projects for Disney, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr, ABC Mouse, LeapFrog, Hasbro, and Fisher-Price among others.
Brandon Perl / @bperl__
Brandon Perl is a multi-disciplined artist, designer, and educator based out of Chicago, Illinois. He received his B.S. from Illinois State University in Glass Blowing and a Master Degree in Art Education from DePaul University. Brandon’s work is predominantly two-dimensional: Painting, drawing, collage, decoupage, and graphic design.
His process is drawn from the subconscious mind and the intuition and intelligence gained from past experiences and the unknown. Brandon describes his work and style as “visual vibration”. His designs express a unique grittiness that is coupled with his original style and symphonic line. Much of his process is intuitive. Each choice and alteration made to the surface impacts how he moves forward. Color is an important aspect of Brandon’s work and his knowledge and intricate use of color theory are exemplified within his works.
Brandon’s goal as an artist is to continue to create, inspire, and collaborate with people around him.
Brenda Ruiz / @labreens
Mexican, born in the 90's. A graphic designer by trade specialized in digital and traditional illustration. A spicy food, cartoons, music, and dogs lover. She has worked for corporations and marketing agencies and currently has her own design and illustration studio. She invests most of her time painting, drawing, and designing, always trying to experiment with new techniques and styles and looking for inspiration sources: meeting new people, cultures, places, and music.
Bunny Mischief / @bunny.mischief
Bunny Mischief is a wife and husband team based out in NYC. Husband, Dru, resin casts our platform toy called Onigiri Boi and wife, Bunny, paints them up. The duo customize works inspired by music, childhood nostalgia, myths and food, lots of food! Bunny started customizing in 2017, working with clay and acrylics and have boothed at Five Points Festival and DesignerCon. Dru is the manager of the team and provides the musical talents of his DJ skills at their booths.
Chii / @chiibot
Chii, founder and designer of Chiibot, is a multimedia artist who seeks to represent energy and inspiration through the exploration of characters in many different forms. With a foundation in illustration and design and a background in product and packaging, Chii enjoys giving physical shape to her ideas. Her primary tools of choice are acrylic and spray paint, resin, leather, paper, wood and textiles. Although her subject matter is typically inspired by the unseen, she often sees her creations take life in practical ways, melding art and function, particularly with the re-imagination of wearables and furniture.
Regardless of whether it’s a massive mural or a tiny piece of art, Chii puts her heart and soul into her artwork. This is usually recognized through her signature “chii” energy characters, pops of vibrant colors, and her application of large and soulful eyes.
Fetch For Donuts /@fetchfordonuts
I’m a New York City based toy designer and freelance graphic designer. From my Queens, NY based studio, I work on my characters from concepts, to sculpting, resin casting, sanding and painting. I share my progress and creations on social media.I have a passion for art, design and creating. I’ve worked with galleries such as Clutter Magazine, Martian Toys and MotherShip Toy Gallery to create exclusive pieces for shows. I’ve also released my own platform, The Zombie Bunny, and have created a limited edition exclusive run for SauceDrop Toys. I also create custom pieces on existing platforms and showcase them on social media and my shop. I enjoy creating and also collaborating with other artists. Engaging in many platforms to form relationships and connections that will help us all grow and build a community where we can all art together and create some dope art.
Fett.up toys / @fett.uptoys
Fett.up toys was created in 2015 when I started bootlegging old Star Wars and Masters of the Universe toys. Since then I have done many different forms of artwork from canvas paintings to sculpting complete figures molding and casting them in resin. You can find my artwork on Instagram @fett.uptoys and on Facebook under ArtOpcy Studios
Gaby Esquinca / @gaby.esquinca
Gaby was born in Mexico City in 1988. As a kid, she showed interest in drawing, painting, and art in general. She has a Masters in Illustration and is part of "The meaning of life", a collective of Mexican illustrators with whom she has exhibited in Barcelona, Spain, as well as in Mexico City, painting to contribute to good causes.
She currently works as an online art, branding, animation, and illustration consultant for clients worldwide. She is a college teacher of animation and audiovisual production and is establishing her own publishing house.
Jimena Gonzalez / @jimenapeluche
Chilanga to her core. She works as an art director developing digital projects, apps, toys, and products for global clients. Outside her 9 to 5 job, she does freelance work designing packaging, assigning colors, and creating decos for different collectible toy lines. At night, she develops her line of textile dolls. She is a fan of plush and anything kawaii related.
Lisa Kwon / @burnteyesblahg_doodles
My name is Lisa Kwon. My background is in graphic design and photography, while music, martial arts, and drawing are other passions I have that keep life in balance. By day, I work as a production artist in the retail display industry. After hours, I enjoy having the rest of the day to explore and exercise new ideas through whatever mediums spark motivation in the day. My motivations are usually inspired by the idea of planting a seed and sparking a recognizable narrative to be personally discovered by a viewer. I enjoy playing in all mediums as a tool for these discoveries.
Mario Jayes / @ch3atcod3.art
Mario Jayes is a 20 year old artist and toy customizer from Illinois. He is currently a sophomore in college with a background in robotics and a passion for creating. He and his brothers have designed and produced their very own vinyl toy this past year known as TIRAN23. (Which can be found on their Instagram @tiranjourneytoys) Aside from that, Mario likes to push his limits and skill set to get out of his comfort zone when customizing toys. He tries to incorporate his robotics knowledge into his figures, and he is only getting started. His personal art page is @ch3atcod3.art
Mr Mitote / @mr_mitote
Mr. Mitote is a graphic designer by trade and a sculptor, artist and illustrator by calling. Self-taught character modeler, he has become one of the most acclaimed toy artists worldwide. His work has taken him to represent Mexico, his native country, on several individual and collective exhibits around the world, and his interest and curiosity for the arts have allowed him to experiment with different materials and techniques customizing designer toys and collaborations with brands like Swatch and Kidrobot.
Mr. Richards loves the challenge of creating pieces with whatever he has at hand. The less auspicious the material the greater the accomplishment feels. His interest in art and crafts blossomed while living in Papua New Guinea where many people have significantly less than we can comprehend, yet whose art is extravagantly talented, expressive and bold. For arts and crafts they scavenge, collect, recycle, restore, reconstruct and rejoice in the manifestation of less being more. It is a contrast to buying and curating all the items we think we need, and almost living.
He has been collecting bits and pieces from around the world for decades ever since and is too busy living life to engage in a digital/virtual one, so his creations typically end up in the households of those he holds dear.
Playful Gorilla / @playfulgorilla
Bios are strange. You’re supposed to sum up who you are in a paragraph. Tough. I can say I’m a 3D Artist with a keen eye and flair for design – but what does that mean? My resume won’t delve into other passions that lie within me. How can I show you that my creativity isn’t bound by my resume alone. Where on a resume can I express my passion for the culinary arts? Or my insatiable need to sketch? Or how I can use words creatively to infect others with passion? Or that with the same hands I create digital art with – I can bring to life characters from a block of clay? I am an artist.
My career is pushing two decades – I’ve had the fortune to work in a wide variety of companies, followed my passion for the toy designer scene and ran my own art gallery and designer toy store . Recently I broke into the pet industry providing licensed and original designs for our furry friends. Each step taken – I evolved as an artist.
All the while holding down these 9to5 jobs – I freelanced bringing other people’s ideas to life. I’ve been featured in magazines on the radio and on TV, participated in multiple custom toy shows and have curated my own group art shows. Born to a hard working Puerto Rican family – my father instilled values that fuel me everyday. I’m an artist. My tool is my mouse. My canvas: the screen. But what sets me apart from everyone else is that I’m willing to work harder than the person next to me. It's my duty as a son, as a father and as a husband to bring everything I have to the table so that I may be able to make those around me proud.
Rick Strohmeyer / @ricstroh
Rick Strohmeyer, Autism aide, painter and toy designer. Richard was a classically trained painter and printmaker. He received a Bachelor’s degree of Fine Arts from the University of Texas at El Paso.
Richard moved to Saint Paul in 2006 to continue his painting and a career in education. Since then he has been working with kids with autism by day and painting anything and everything by night. He has been painting custom toys for ten years. It’s been the most fun in the art world yet!
Rick Sans / @ricksans
Lifelong artist and fan of anything creative. I grew up skateboarding, doing graffiti and playing in bands. I eventually transitioned my crafty skills and eye for design to screen printing and creating a wearable art clothing line with Serganddestroy in the early 2000s. Our clothes were worn on MTV and in Nintendo commercials before switching gears to more fine art mediums. Around then we started doing pop art on vinyl records. I was captured by the allure of designer toys in 2005 and started customizing them shortly after. In 2009 I started producing electronic music. I have multiple original resin figure releases coming out this year.
This juxtaposition of different creative mediums and styles has led me to many different collaborations and exhibitions. Style wise, I like taking the graffiti line work of my adolescence, gritty looseness of punk rock and metal related aesthetics of the 90s and 2000s meeting the sci-fi vector art of today. Random, and just whatever comes to mind. Creepy but cute, Clean but distressed? I try not to limit creative output to fit into a specific style or feel. I feel expression does not have to fit into a genre, but I prefer it to be bright and glow in the dark.
Scott Bokma / @scottbokma
Scott Bokma was born in Columbus, Montana in July of 1976. He grew up in the surrounding areas of Billings and Big Timber – a true one-horse town. Eschewing horses and rodeos in favor of art galleries and cafes. Scott escaped to Seattle in 1995 to attend the Art Institute of Seattle, where he received an Associate of Applied Arts degree, and then began his career as a graphic designer. In 2014, wanting to see what the east coast had to offer, he moved to Brooklyn, NY. Missing the west coast and wanting to slow things down a bit, he moved to San Francisco in 2020.
Consumed by his visions, you'll find Scott compulsively scribbling seemingly otherworldly renderings in the first step of obeying his muse. The manifestation of this process never disappoints nor fails to surprise Scott, and he dares not guess what his muse has in store for him next.
Sergio Andujar / @officialserganddestroy
Sergio Andujar II aka SERGANDDESTROY is a graffiti artist who has taken his artistic styling from the streets of Cleveland to art galleries far and wide. Sergio balanced his day job with personal creative work, like painting records, canvases and screen printing, which garnered attention from companies such as Nintendo, Red Bull, MTV and Hilton.
"I enjoy Destroying what an item was and transforming it into something new. The new Creation still has its original soul with a little street flair."
"My creative approach—no matter the medium—is to find a balance between my graffiti background and character design. I find that these two worlds allow for endless creative outcomes."
"Ultimately, it’s about creating memorable images." Destroy to Create.
UNCLE / @unclestudio
UNCLE is based in Florida, USA and has been painting, drawing and sculpting his entire life. He entered the designer toy scene 12 years ago at the suggestion of a friend.
His works focus on a world far outside our own. A world of astronauts, moon princes and hand held universes. The goal of his work is for the viewer to get lost, like a weight is lifted and feel as though they are floating in the galaxies and nebulae he paints.
The Mad Hattress / @the.madhattress
Nicole a.k.a. Mad Hattress as she goes by in the art world, is a 30yr old Connecticut/NY born, self taught mixed media artist.
Having worked behind the scenes in marketing and media for conventions and companies for years, she took the leap to full-time self producing artist in 2019 following the passing of her mom, to honor her.
‘Mad Hattress’ namesake, derives from her whimsical approach to art and the world itself. As well as her undying love for Alice in Wonderland.
Specializing in an abstract contemporary approach to ink, and dimensional textures, her goal is to just produce art that moves people, in whatever way that may be.
Vampkira / @vampkira_art
VampKira is a Chicago based multidisciplinary artist who loves everything Tiki, Geeky and Strange. Her surrealist style has both a dark and whimsical touch. VampKira has been an art instructor since 2012, and currently teaches with the National Museum of Mexican Art.
She is also the curator of Pintura Obscura -A Dark & Whimsical Art Exhibition, which is an annual art show in Chicago.
YoSoyBuque / @yosoybuque
Yosoy Buque is a graphic designer who focuses mainly on illustration. He has collaborated with brands worldwide, such as XICO by Pineda Covalin, Anatoy, Martian Toys, and Hang Ten. His work honors the values of Mexican graphic style art and aims to give it international projection.