Bling Squared brings some of the most unique items to SDCC this year, the amount of care that goes into each of their characters is on full display. They are unique because we can’t think of any other company that creates their own characters, then makes them by hand in amazing glass. Please check out Bling Squared at SDCC at E-05.
Bling Squared had a very interesting start, can you tell us how you came to combine glass and creatures?
We left our cool jobs in the city to pursue a small town life in and that was difficult. We worked in animation and film. Our jobs were coveted and we both knew in our hearts it would be difficult to maintain those career paths while living out of the city…on an island no less. But with more time on our hands and more space maybe there would be a chance to finally make the movie we had always talked about or…. something else. We were willing to do whatever it took to make it work outside the city. But we needed a good sideline. Something creative. This led us to taking some classes together in flame-working – which we both obsessed over instantly. We originally started working with glass in very traditional, Venetian styles – which are amazing and obsessively fun, but they weren’t really ‘us’. We have always shared an adoration for anime and comics. One day Neacol made a little octopus for a friend and everything sort of snowballed form there. Suddenly we were crazy excited about the new animals coming out of the kiln every morning. The two light points in the eyes was a big shift; instantly they were cute AND had an anime feel, which, for us, made the designs relevant to pop culture. Then, when we decided to give them all the blue eyes (we chose blue because we both have blue eyes but also because the glass has a great color reaction that makes them more lifelike) they really came to life. Now we can’t stop coming up with new glass characters.
When and how did you decide to make give your creations a story and a character?
This was something we have always wanted to do. We have both always loved to write, and it had been a sort of bucket list goal for us to create a script and see characters we had written and illustrated come to life. To share stories with people. But as time went on we came to realize our careers in animation and film almost distracted us from what we really wanted. The chance to make OUR work instead of being someone else’s tool and having our abilities scraped for a for a paycheck. Original content was going to be integral for us. We had already had amazing careers in art. We decided, this time, working for ourselves, we would own the characters and the stories. While we were often asked to make other people’s IPs; Pokemon, League of Legends, Harry Potter etc, it felt too much like before. Making someone else’s idea for a paycheck, again. More like being a tradesman than an artist. Working in art wasn’t enough. We wanted to be able to transition our ideas, our years of work, into other mediums in case of injury or strain (not uncommon in the glass world). If we owned the original content, we could do anything we wanted with it. When we started looking at the characters we had designed, we knew there was something there, but we were also very concerned with creating a world and characters that were grossly marketing or hollow. No ‘This is Jim Bob and he’s a Pisces and he likes cupcakes’. We wanted the characters to be real to us and for the stories to have purpose and meaning outside of some content marketing campaign. So, we waited for them to come to us and didn’t force it. It took a couple years for them to materialize and it wasn’t surprising that the first character we really understood was Otto Octopode.
What comes first for you in the creative process the characters story or the creation?
Nowadays the collections are created in a tandem with story and design. Sometimes we have character designs we really want to do and work them into stories, and sometimes we design a character to fill a part in a story we want to tell. Sometimes you are staring into the flame and watching your pieces melt and you think, you know his would look great as a ninja or if I just twisted this down and pulled this up and added wings it would look like bat, maybe you’ve stared at doodle or sketch before and felt something similar. It’s really cool working in such a round, wholistic way, especially with your partner.
Obviously the skills you both have takes years and years to acquire, are you still learning or do you feel you’ve perfected your craft?
Never! Like pretty much any medium, glass is one we don’t think can ever be totally mastered. We are still babies in the world of glass; there are amazing artists out there doing amazing things. At one point it was a super secretive artform. In the 16th century They used to lock up the glass blowers on the island of Murano so they couldn’t escape from Italy and spill the secrets of blown glass. Later glass blowing factories had to become more artistic because they couldn’t compete with machines. People began to protect their ideas so other artists wouldn’t “steal” them. Fast forward to now. The web has created revolution for people all over the world to coalesce their ideas online and create global movements. That has also happened in glass. There are teachers we want to learn from before they are gone. Most important though, we’ve always felt like we are raising support for our education in glass. We are so grateful when people buy our work. It is how we buy more glass and gas, how we feed our family and pay our bills. But also, we love making our work and when people buy it, we know we get a chance to make it even better, (or more intricate) the second (third, tenth) time. This is how we get better, this is how we become masters. Not with pieces getting dusty in a gallery but by producing over and over and over. We tell people it’s like a dungeon grind. We aren’t rushing the party to the End Boss. We are crawling and grinding every inch of the dungeon. Finding all the little chests, smashing all the pots, pushing against all the walls… just in case one opens to a larger hidden room we didn’t even know existed. This is not a about money or finishing first. It’s about true love for the game; the craft.
There is always something new to learn, or to try. Every year we get better and are making bigger and crazier things. And a lot of what we do ‘shouldn’t’ be able to be done in the kind of glass we work with because we keep pushing the boundaries. There are really no limits to this medium, no way to get bored.
What exclusives will you be bringing to SDCC 2018?
Argh, he’s so cute! We are bringing an oversized pendant of Drake Dragon in a Panda Kigurumi. We are planning on doing him in a different onesie every year for SDCC going forward so he’ll be the first in an ongoing SDCC collection. And his pajamas are etched so they are super soft feeling, very tactile and adorable. We are also debuting a new regular collection at SDCC 2018 too that we are really excited about.
I recommend everyone take a look at your twitch so they can see how much goes into each piece, how much work are you doing to get ready for a con as big as SDCC?
We essentially start prepping the minute we get home from the previous SDCC. SDCC is our ‘Big Show’. Every time we get in the studio, whether we are prepping for another con or not, we think about what we would like to show off at SDCC. This year we will have put hundreds of sculpting hours into the work we bring. People come ready to see some of the most amazing artists in the world. We need to make sure that we have work that lives up to that standard. It’s also a chance for us to work on some larger pieces and “fantasy” work instead of our regular work, because there is a higher level of excitement and of ‘buy in’ from collectors at SDCC. This year, we are busily prepping the debut of our online comic Chibi Island (featuring the stories of our characters) for launch on Webtoons at SDCC too. So, we are crazy busy and super excited!
What’s the one thing you’re looking forward to at SDCC 2018?
Meeting people. Collectors, industry contacts, new friends. Sharing our work and our personal story and hearing from collectors is honestly one of our favorite things in the world.
What separates SDCC from all the other cons?
It’s huge. It’s like two or three of our other cons rolled into one. But in talking to people working or volunteering at the SDCC you realize it’s still a very homegrown show. They are proud of their legacy and deservedly so. Some of the volunteers we have met have been volunteering for 10 years, and their Moms did before that. Its San Diego’s con. A lot of the big conventions are being bought by large companies, this has its own benefits and drawbacks. SDCC is still local, it’s still fresh and its huge. The energy is higher and the potential to connect with creative collaborators is practically manic. It’s a much more intense platform from which to show your work.
Is there anything in San Diego not SDCC related you are looking forward to?
We did the zoo last year, but seriously loved it and may go back. Stanley loves checking out the huge ships in the harbor. Mostly we love that we get to come to this beautiful city together (often we do cons separately) and go out for dinner every night. Coming to San Diego is a creative time for us too because we get a chance to be away from the studio, our family and our household duties and just focus on our characters, story, design work and the future of Bling Squared, and now Chibi Island.
What’s next for Bling Squared after SDCC 2018?
Our con season just rolls on. We are doing a ton more shows this year, but we are especially excited about DesignerCon which we are doing for the first time in November. Other than shows we are hunkering down (thanks to our Patreon!) and getting as much of our comic out onto Webtoons as possible and are planning to get back on Twitch for live work more often. 2018 is going to be a huge year for Bling Squared and Chibi Island!
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