Shin Tanaka is a paper toy creator. When he started creating paper models and templates for all his favorite sneakers he couldn’t afford when he was a student – people were simply stunned about his detailed life-size objects. Shin’s sneakers were then displayed in a showcase of the NIKE design library and by now he has collaborated with over 80 brands (Adidas, Ark United, etc.) and many different artists. But not only Shin’s sneakers became big – he got most popular with the T-BOY, one of his various paper toy models, which he developed on his research for a new surface for his graffiti pieces. His detailed toy-templates are available for download on his website so that everyone can customize, build up and display an own individual character with a different face. PingMag talked to Lars Eberle from LessRain, who are currently hosting the Shin Tanaka KAMI ZOO exhibition in their gallery in Berlin about how they collaborated with Shin.
Written by Uleshka
Lars, LessRain is actually a web-design company, but you launched a little shop, bar and gallery in Berlin as well. (And maybe I should also mention here, that you just opened up the LessRain Tokyo office! Well done!) What is your relationship with Shin then? Why was he chosen for an exhibition in Berlin in the first place?
We found him on an internet tour doing research about paper models and graffiti for our online graffiti community Vandalsquad. We were amazed by his paper models and the idea of sharing them over the internet and asked him, if he was interested in collaborating.
here the modified PDF for a very red Less Rain Gritty
Gritty with front cover on and from the side without hood! Hah! almost fearsome, this little fellow!
We actually haven’t met him in person yet, just spoke on the phone a couple of times and exchanged lots of emails.
Less Rain developed a graffiti spray tool, which allows you to spray virtually and legally on a high level – online. Over 30000 works uploaded on Vandalsquad every month (!) prove well, that people like it. In what way did you connect online graffiti with Shin’s paper toys?
On the whole we invited about 20 German artists and designers to download illustrator and freehand files of Shin’s paper toys and in particular, we invited the 50 best graffiti artists from Vandalsquad to design the “wallman”- toy. (PDF download here)
Parts of this particular character could be downloaded into the graffiti studio on Vandalsquad, then sprayed on and uploaded as a PDF. These designs can still be seen on Vandalsquad and downloaded by everyone.
The ready designed PDF can then be printed out and build as a paper toy (takes more effort, love and care than you might think!). During the exhibition we have a lot of scissors, glue and papercrafts lying around…
We also showed about 30 toys designed by Shin Tanaka himself and 40 toys designed by other Japanese artists.
T-boys from Japan
Spikies by Bionic Systems and Alexandra John
We plan to bring this exhibition to Tokyo afterwards and ask more Japanese designers to collaborate.
I guess one of the strengths of Shin’s work is that it is fun for everybody to create their own version of his paper toys T-Boy, Gritty or Spike. (Although you now have to write an email to Shin first and get the PDF from him, since someone started selling the PDFs on Ebay without his permission, so he keeps it personal now!) Would you call Shin’s work’s origami, though? If he uses scissors and glue??
No, Shins work has not much to do with origami, but rather with plastic toy characters. When coming up with this idea, he was more into the idea of finding a way to produce his own characters – by himself and as cheap as possible. Getting a plastic toy produced and getting it into the shops is a costy and commerecial thing, where as creating and publishing paper toys is free. He is also very much into the idea of getting other artists to create designs for his toys which works perfectly – everyone seems to enjoy collaborating. Shin is working on new toys right now and currently doing a project with Adidas.
What other projects do you have in mind for your gallery space?
LessRain is currently searching for other artists whose work would allow such an interactive exhibition – linking artists across the internet. The KAMI ZOO exhibition is the first one in a series which introduces fresh Japanese design, illustration and ideas to Europe.
Thanks a lot! The exhibition in the Less Rain basement gallery in Linienstraße 154a, Berlin Mitte is open from Monday to Friday, 12.00-19.00 pm until the 30th of September. In case you are around – pop in and say hello from Ping!