Armed with a cup of tea, cream, and a few lumps of sugar, Matt JOnes, AKA Lunartik, has taken the designer toy scene on a caffeine-induced tour through his unique mind. With a background in product design, his clean lines combine with a fun and endearing toy: Lunartik in a Cup of Tea. The figure has seen many variations, from its full size editions, to a mini series. This month saw the release of both Lunartik in a Cup of Tea Mini Series 2 and the Brew It Yourself Loose Leaf kit. Hit the link for our freshly brewed interview with Matt JOnes.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where you’re from and what you do. How did you get into this scene? Did you go to school for art or design, or are you self-taught?
Hello Albotas, and thanks for all the questions. I would like to take a moment and say hello to your audience (waves enthusiastically).
I’m Matt JOnes, or Lunartik, whichever you prefer, I don’t mind, I used to mind, but I don’t anymore, soooo….before my toy career I was a product designer, and I studied in the UK from 1996 -1999 at the U.C.E (University of Central England) and from there I was snagged up by a local design company making all sorts of “trendy” products, mainly made from mixed materials including plastics and metals, and as it happened, that company split, so I formed my own Lunartik.com and became a freelance website / product designer and worked for small companies doing all sorts of odd jobs to pay the rent and this time helped me to refine my style.
I found other ways to pass the time, like going to the pub and I occasionally frequented the local swimming pool and I’m so glad I did, as I happened to bump into a talented illustrator and toy enthusiast Mr Phil Corbett. And it was from this chance meeting that I was prompted to kickstart my toy design career.
In 2004 Toy2R announced a competition called “Design-a-Qee”, and they held an event in London just around the corner from Playlounge, where I meet all the toy gang including Raymond Choy, Triclops, Neil O’rourke, FL@33, Jamie Hayon, Tado, Aidan Onn, Hector & Lya to mention just a few…
I did enter a design for the competition and it was called QT Qee. I was very pleased to be announced as one of the series winners, and Toy2R gave me the chance to flex my design muscles and I came up with the packaging design as well.
From then on I was getting quite a lot of attention from the toy community and I was inspired to make my own platform art toy, which was to become “Lunartik in a Cup of Tea.” Originally this was a piece intended for me to customize rather than me working on other exciting platforms. (I got a thing about doing it all yourself, self made man etc.)
Where did the Cup of Tea character and concept come from?
Ok, so this design has been my rock since I began. Its origins stem back to when I was drawing concept characters way back in 2002. This design has stood the test of time. So in 2005, I merged this little fella (Lunartik) with a Cup of Tea – Very British don’t you think! And together it forms “Lunartik in a Cup of Tea” and the concept was complete and I’ve never changed it since.
Series 2 features more detailed paint jobs while Series 1 mostly used solid colors. What prompted you to create more detailed designs rather than stick with different color schemes?
Well, progression is a good thing. Moving forward and changing up the series.
I found Series 1 was a good learning curve for me and my first attempt at a mini series, all self produced/funded mind, so I didn’t really have a clue what I was getting into but it was a lot of work.
And yes this series was very basic. The colours were basic, but I do believe there’s a lot to be said for simplistic and classic timeless colours and design so I didn’t mind so much.
But like I said, moving forward and re-inventing and showing off the platform’s potential is what Series 2 is all about, and Series 3 is on the horizon right now.
The Series 2 packaging is amazing. Most toys come in boring blindboxes, so having your toys in cups really sets them apart. Was this a difficult process? Why do you think packaging is so overlooked in the vinyl toy scene?
Why thanks very much for saying so. I thought to myself there has to be a better solution to this wasted packaging malarkey that all the other companies do and the boxes are so done to death… So I came up with a paper cup (I’m not re-inventing the wheel here) but for the purpose of this toy it’s a perfect container and this really relates to my work and the toys inside.
And the cups double up as toy display plinths; you can take the toys and place them on top of the carefully designed lids. My ethos is “less waste the better” and to make the packaging part of the overall product and bring some much needed fun back into opening toys.
What’s one fun fact that most people don’t know about Series 2 or the Cup of Tea figure in general?
A fun fact hey… Well most toys you collect them and that’s your lot right? Well not with my toys, and Series 2 is no acceptation. Each one you buy comes with a Tea Token inside, and if you collect 19 of these Tokens you get a free tea from me. All signed and numbered, an edition of 200 pieces only – It’s my way of thanking all the people who are dedicated collectors.
You’ve just released the Brew It Yourself kit. Did you see a lot of cool customs, prompting you to create the blank version of the toy?
That’s correct. I saw loads of artists gagging to do this piece justice and it was frustrating for everyone to get them damn eyes out and pop the saucer off. Even I found it annoying, so I went back to the drawing board and dreamed up the perfect customiser’s tea, and named it “Loose Tea”. A fact about this is it’s a homage to my first resin cast Tea from 2005. It’s been displayed the same as the piece I have hung on my wall.
Another fact: The eyes are inside the cup. Take the body and put it into the tea and give it a twist to release the tea from the cup and reveal the eyes!
What else are you working on these days?
This year has been hard work. Tea and all sorts of customs for shows etc.
Right now I’m currently up to my eyes working on top secret stuff for Titan merchandise and I’m going back into R&D tea land with some new ideas for Mini Series 3 and a new range of Teas for 2013 which will be shown in April at the upcoming ToyconUK event in London.
What are a few of your main sources of inspiration?
Well looking around Berlin has been quite inspiring; it inspires me not to go outside and to get some work done. I guess the most inspiring thing is my mind. I don’t mean this in a big headed way or anything; its just that if I look out there on the net or in shops or in general, I see a world of all “done before” and in my mind it’s all clean a tidy and fresh, so I revert to my mind and a sketch book and this way I can dream up my new ideas.
What’s your secret weapon?
Anything else you’d like our readers to know about?
Oh, ok, good news, I will be signing at Forbidden Planet in London on the 15th November 2012 from 6pm – 7pm and if you can make it over you can pop down and have a cup of tea and chat with me about stuff. Thanks.