Outside the (Toy) Box at *Assembly Required

“Ferdy” is an icon of the lowbrow/pop-surrealistic/avant-garde toy movement.
Photo by Rachel Pressley

Trendy toys are cheap in spirit, if not always in price tag, and well after the commercial blitz of the holidays is over, *Assembly Required: Asheville’s Designer Toy Expo presents the edgy alternative of that world.

The sixth annual expo is intended to showcase the creative richness of the art-toy subculture. It’s a scene that shares the DIY spirit with Asheville’s world-class craft milieu; in this case, the medium of choice is liquid urethane resin cast in handmade silicone molds, an artisanal interpretation of action figures from the “plastic generation.” Many makers tap the Saturday-morning-cartoon era of the 1980s and early ’90s and the mass-produced characters popularized by movies, TV shows, and comic books — either in homage (to craft bootleg items) or as inspiration for creating new characters and worlds.

But art toys are not limited to plastic-adjacent substances. Some figures are sewn or knitted. Some are even sculpted of porcelain — namely by an artist branded Re-Collection Toys, whose figurines look like the much-more-entertaining version of your grandmother’s bone china.

Edwin Salas Acosta — an Asheville artist raised in Costa Rica who initially gained noticed for his performance-art puppetry — “has pioneered the art of recreating action figures in wood,” notes the event’s founding artist MJC (aka Matthew J. Casale), a local sculptor and CEO of Unboxing Asheville. Casale has culled more than 30 art-toy designers from across North America to exhibit their work, and notes his event’s similarity to DesignerCon in California and Five Points Festival in New York. “*Assembly Required sets out to promote the independent designer-toy culture … celebrating this lowbrow/pop-surrealistic/avant-garde movement,” states Casale.

No matter the medium, these are toys intended as collectibles, not playthings. “We believe history will look back upon this time to see we are surrounded by the da Vincis, Botticellis, Michelangelos, and Raphaels of this art form.”

Saturday, Feb. 3, 11am-5pm, and Sunday, Feb. 4, 11am-4pm, at the Grey Eagle (185 Clingman Ave. Asheville); see assembly-required.net for ticket info and details.

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