Do you love toys as much as us? How about action figure photography? Do you like action figure customization? This month’s featured social media account dabbles in all three of these areas. I stumbled across her page a few months ago and could get over how awesome her pictures are. Her name is Emma and her Instagram page is @Orokukarai. I reached out to Emma to see if she would be this month’s feature and she graciously accepted.
(Danniel Slade) Emma, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. Can you tell my audience a little bit about yourself and what you do?
(Emma) I live in the UK with my husband and two sons. Essentially, I’m an 80’s kid clinging on to my childhood through my growing toy collection. I’m a big Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan, as well as He-Man, She-Ra, Thundercats and the fantasy genre in general.
(DS) What does Orokukarai mean and how did you come up with that name?
(Emma) Karai is a female ninja in the TMNT universe who fights for the Foot Clan. She is second-in-command to Master Shredder (aka Oroku Saki) and usually a descendant of his, hence her full name is Oroku Karai. I find her character interesting because she is neither a hero nor a true villain, but a more complicated mix. Leonardo often tries to appeal to her sense of honor with limited success, but it is her loyalty to Shredder and the Foot Clan which usually determines her path.
(DS) Which came first, photography or customization?
(Emma) Customizing. Finishing my first full repaint of the 2014 Leonardo figure is what prompted me to open my IG account and my initial posts were photos of Leo in the garden which thankfully were very well received.
R is for Rage! 😠 #toyoutsiders #toyphotography #toysaremydrug #toycrewbuddies #toysyn #toydiscovery #toyartistry #ata_dreadnoughts #wheretoysdwell #toyz_zone #kineticcollections #toptoyphotos #acba #toy_fam #toygroup_alliance #toypops2 #teenagemutantninjaturtles #tmnt # #raphael #raph #heroesinahalfshell #cowabunga #turtlepower #ninjaturtles #bnwphotography #bnw
(DS) How did you get into taking pictures of and customizing action figures?
(Emma) My eldest asked me about the turtles back in 2013, so I eagerly showed him the 80’s cartoon and quickly learnt that I had a lot of catching up to do with other TMNT cartoons, films, comics, etc. Joining in with various TMNT groups online introduced me to the various turtle figures available and the idea of painting them. Having been a collector of vinyl toys and dolls in the past, I didn’t need much persuasion to jump right in, and one of the first action figures I ever bought was soon fully repainted.
(DS) A lot of your shots are outside. Do you take a box of figures and a camera and stop at a cool looking spot or do you plan your shoots out?
(Emma) Sometimes I have a plan in mind but usually it’s very spontaneous. I do most things last minute, so I tend to grab some figures on my way out of the house and scope out interesting looking sites, which is half the fun. Ideas tend to flow whilst I’m setting the figures up and are often influenced by the lighting and environment around me at the time.
Just four brothers who hate bullies. #toyoutsiders #teenagemutantninjaturtles #tmnt #outoftheshadows #threezero #oots #heroesinahalfshell #epictoyart #toycrewbuddies #toyboners #toysyn #toydiscovery #toypizza #toyartistry #ata_dreadnoughts #toyspotcollector #toysaremydrug #acba #toygroup_alliance #wheretoysdwell #kineticcollections #toyz_zone #capturedplastic #igfotoys #toptoyphotos #rebeltoysclub #turtlepower #cowabunga #ninjaturtles #toyphotography
(DS) Your profile says you are a glass artist. Can you elaborate on that?
(Emma) I have a little home workshop with a kiln and various equipment that I use to make fused glass jewelry, coasters and art panels. I also facilitate workshops and after school clubs teaching others different techniques. It’s something I studied at university and graduated 8 years ago, but between raising my kids and working a “regular job” there hasn’t been much time for glass until now, so it actually feels like a pretty new venture for me. I post about my glass work @stoppedclockglass on both Instagram and Facebook.
(DS) Have you always been artistic or did the customizations bring out your artistic side?
(Emma) I’ve definitely always had that urge to create and I’ve experimented with various materials over the years from stone to ceramics, metal to fabric. I’ve learnt that I’m useless at sewing origami or drawing in 3D, but painting, photography and glass keep me coming back again and again. Finding where your talents lie is pretty motivating.
(DS) How long have you been collecting? Do you have a favorite line?
(Emma) I actually started collecting Blythe dolls and vinyl artist toys back in 2004 after a visit to Hong Kong but took a long break for several years when I became a parent. I started buying action figures in 2014 and haven’t stopped since! In recent years I’ve become drawn to well-articulated figures as they hold so much more potential for varied and realistic set ups. I also love artist designed resin toys as they tend to be very expressive and I really admire the craftsmanship.
(DS) How many pieces total do you have in your collection?
(Emma) Good question. I shall go and add them up… I’ve counted 207 and there’s probably about another 30 or so in storage. That includes tiny figures such as Megabloks too.
(DS) Do display your action figures or does it get stored away?
(Emma) Definitely display, looking at my collection makes me smile on a daily basis, although space is often an issue. It’s funny that whenever someone who doesn’t know us very well enters our home, they automatically assume the collection belongs to my husband, then they guess the children…wrong again!
Not had much time (or half decent weather) for toy photography this past week, but I did sort my detolf out recently. It was looking too crowded, so many figures have gone into storage… 😲 …only until I get more shelves! 😥 😉 Still missing a vital figure from my little MOTU collection 😳 but my BRS family has doubled since sorting this lot out, woohoo! 😆 #tmnt #teenagemutantninjaturtles #leonardo #raphael #donatello #michelangelo #turtlepower #cowabunga #heroesinahalfshell #shellshocked #pizzakings #ninjas #toys #actionfigures #tmntcollector #tmntcollection #motu #motuc #motuclassics #skeletor #sorceress #shera #xenomorph #alien #facehugger #blackrockshooter #chariot #brs #figma #tcb_notoypopssunday
(DS) Is there a particular line that you just will not touch?
(Emma) Funko Pops seem to be a bit of a black hole for many, so I’m glad I’ve avoided that one. There are some decent photographers I follow who take really nice shots of their pops that I enjoy seeing, but the figures themselves aren’t for me personally.
(DS) Do you have a favorite piece that you customized?
(Emma) I was pleased with the Yoda head I painted for a customer, especially as it was so small. I’m probably most attached to the 2014 Leonardo I painted simply because that was the first full repaint I did and what got me started with the painting, photography, all of it.
Do, or do not, there is no try. (Latest commission piece.) #starwars #starwarstoys #starwarsblackseries #blackseries #hasbro #jedi #yoda #masteryoda #repaint #customfigure #commission #toptoyphotos #toydiscovery #toysaremydrug #acba #toygroup_alliance #wheretoysdwell #kineticcollections #toyz_zone #igfotoys #ata_dreadnoughts #toyspotcollector #epictoyart #toycrewbuddies #toyboners #toysyn #toyartistry #actionfigure
(DS) What is it about action figures that make you want to paint them and touch them up?
(Emma) Adding extra paint to a figure can bring out details in the sculpt that are otherwise hidden by limited factory paint apps. This is especially true when buying the less expensive figures primarily aimed at children. Making the toys look more realistic is very satisfying, particularly when using them for photography.
(DS) How long does it take you on average to complete a customization?
(Emma) I’ve never dared time myself. I know I spend too much time on them, but I enjoy working in layers and being as precise as I can with the details, and inevitably this all takes time. I’m certainly not one of those people who can finish a repaint in a day, I wish I was!
(DS) Is there a figure out there that you have not done yet but are itching to customize?
(Emma) Any character with a lot of detail or texture appeals to the painter in me. A couple of personal projects I have lined up include a sculpted Orc bust with incredible details and a Legends Groot which is obviously very textured. I’m looking forward to both of those.
My 4 year old saw this figure for the first time and immediately yelled “Saki! We die together!” 😁 That’s my boy. #teenagemutantninjaturtles #tmnt #shredder #orokusaki #footclan #dreamex #mastershredder #heroesinahalfshell #epictoyart #toycrewbuddies #toyboners #toysyn #toydiscovery #toypizza #toyartistry #ata_dreadnoughts #toyspotcollector #toysaremydrug #acba #toygroup_alliance #wheretoysdwell #kineticcollections #toyz_zone #capturedplastic #igfotoys #toptoyphotos #rebeltoysclub #turtlepower #cowabunga
(DS) Do you sell your pieces or do commissions?
(Emma) I’ve completed quite a few commissions for people (more so than what I’ve painted for myself), most notably the 1990 movie turtles by Playmates – I’ve painted so many of those! Other commissions have included Yoda, Captain America, Ceaser, Mr Incredible, and I’m currently working on vintage He-Man and Skeletor figures for a friend.
(DS) How can someone find out more about you? Do you have other social media accounts or a YouTube channel?
(Emma) Just Instagram. I’ve tried other sites but I just keep coming back to Instagram. I have some amazing followers who offer a lot of positive feedback and keep me motivated to do more. I really appreciate the support.
Emma, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. For those who want to follow Orokukarai (and you should) head over to her Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/orokukarai/ and click that follow button. She updates very regularly with amazing content. If you are a collector or just passionate about action figure photography, this is a page you do not want to miss out on!