Hey Guys this is the first of many interviews in our new Makers section. The place, where we introduce you to the awesome people behind innovative products. Our first guest is Alex Gwynne the creator of Fold Up Toys.
Please tell us a little about your background and what you are doing.
My name is Alex Gwynne, I’m a graphic designer and paper engineer with a decade of experience designing paper toys and paper crafts based in Yorkshire here in the UK. I run the website Folduptoys.com which hosts my paper craft designs and branding projects offering many printable paper toys as free downloads.
Paper toys are flat 2D nets that you can print out, cut out and fold together to create 3D characters or objects. Over my carrier I’ve designed hundreds of paper toys, so many that I’ve lost count, but if I had to guess I’d say I must have designed around 350.
What inspired you to create Fold Up Toys?
I started designing paper toys when I was still in school as part of my final art exam. I wanted to create plastic toys inspired by the urban art toy movement which was slowly growing in popularity at the time, but I couldn’t afford the materials to make the moulds or clay, so I instead settled on using paper. I had always been interested in designing toys and characters, paper toys finally gave me an outlet to create 3D products. As an 17 year old kid, I could sit in my bedroom, design a toy on and old computer and share it online, so it could be printed anywhere in the world. There’s something magical about that.
What goes into developing a new model?
The design process for a paper crafts varies drastically depending on what the desired outcome is. If a client has a mascot and they want a paper toy of it, you’re trying to find ways to manipulate the paper towards the end product, you’re given the solution and you’re creating the puzzles that will lead to that answer. But if you’re designing an original idea, I usually start with an interesting layout, or give myself a set of limitations and then work from there.
A lot of the process is just being able to see and end goal and figuring out how to get to it. Depending on how complex the model is it can take a day or a week. I pride myself on my quick turn around times, designing a toy everyday is something I’ve had to do before and something I’d be happy to do again.
One of my current projects is the Advanced Series, a continuing series of paper toys that focus on advanced paper engineering instead of character design. Every month I release a new model in the toy line as a Patreon reward, and these models end up taking much, much longer to design. I want the models to look just as when they’re a flat layout on the page as they do when built, so I end up re-starting design three or four times just to iron out small imperfections.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
One of the greatest feelings I have in my carrier is looking over old designs and realizing how awful they were. At the time they’ll have been something I agonized over, pushing my abilities to their limits, they were my best work. But now when I look back at them, I see how flawed they were, how poorly designed the templates are and that tells me I’m improving. Progress is key to any artist, otherwise you’re just spinning your wheels in the mud and you’re stagnating.
What are your goals for the future?
I’ve recently started a new video series where I design paper crafts and show the whole process from the initial sketches all the way to the finished product, my main aim for 2018 is to shift focus more towards video content, if I’m designing something, hit the record button, if I’m building something, turn on a camera. I think video is a great way to turn paper crafts into more accessible content. Not everyone has an hour to spend building a model, but they might enjoy the process or final design if you can present it to them in a quick and entertaining video.
What advice do you have for someone who is just getting started with their
If you’re just getting started on your own creative project, the best advice I can give you is to not be afraid of failure. Failure is unavoidable and necessary for growth, if anything you should be striving to fail, fail as often and as spectacularly as you can when it comes to your creative pursuit. Fear of failing leads to lack of experimentation, and that leads to stagnation.
I used to be terrified of failing, and so I wouldn’t take any risks, I wouldn’t try new things and because I was posting everything I designed to the internet I didn’t want to upload something that was a failed attempt. Now I love failure, I embrace it, I’ll actively set out to fail at something creative on a regular basis, it helps you grow as an artists, humbles you as a designer and you learn from these failures and become better because of them.
If you’re starting something creative, fail more often and as quickly as you can, you’ll be better for it. In time you’ll turn those failures into a larger success, and you don’t have to upload all of your experiments and failures to the internet.
Which resources, tools, insights have been the most helpful to you?
I’ve been privileged to work with many different paper toy designers in my carrier, each one has a different style and uses different techniques to create their paper models. Looking through their work and talking to them about design has been a real benefit to my carrier.
Also, on Adobe Illustrator, there’s this tool that lets you grab a corner and pull it to make it into a curve. I love that tool.
What is your favorite paper toy and why?
My favourite paper toy that I’ve designed would be Clink and Klank, two simple steam punk robots on a single page. They helped me decide what I considered to be a “good” paper toy, simple and easy to build, looks nice on the page, each toy was a single piece and there wasn’t lots of space left over on the page. Although looking back at the template now I can think of so many different was the model could be improved upon, it influences my future work so much that it will always be close to my heart.
As for paper toys created by other designers, that’s a tough one. Marshal Alexander’s work was a heavy influence to my own, so I’d have to say his RetroBbot design.
What character was the most difficult to design?
I remember at my old job, designing paper crafts for the educational market I had a week where I was tasked with designing an anatomical model of the respiratory system, a marble rollercoaster and then a great white shark one after the other. All three of these projects were tough on their own but I remember being exhausted by the time I finished the shark. Sharks are an awkward shape for paper crafts, they’re round and sleek and curve in all directions. Figuring out how to make a toy of a shark that was accurate enough to be used as a teaching aid, but simple enough for children to build was a real challenge at the time.