Posted by baykiddead July 15, 2011

Or as I like to say, Shin Motherf****n' Tanaka. Or simply, "Master." That's what Shin is, a true master of the medium. By now his legend is just that, and anyone who follows the paper world knows it as gospel by now. But just in case, and in an attempt to bring this highly deserving artist a wider following, it bears repeating. As I mentioned in my last post on Shin (HERE) his beginnings as a designer go back to his formative years craving kicks he couldn't afford. So he made them himself. Out of paper. 

Don't get me wrong, the idea of replicating sneakers isn't what propels me to hold Shin in such high regard. It's the idea that he saw something he wanted and went out and got it in a very unconventional manner. And then he used that spark of creativity to discover new ways of expression, ultimately creating a line of paper toys, vinyl figures, two dimensional design, and yes sneakers (the wearable kind), to place his name alongside the other heavies in the toy and art scene.

Shin Tanaka and his creations

Gritty by Shin Tanaka

Shin's Nokanooka

Like any great artist, Shin has taken his love of his initial influences, in his case hip hop culture, and infused his vision to create something new. And like the artists who created the sneaker designs that left Shin wanting, he himself has built a body of work that has collectors the world over pressing their noses up against the glass. Some of those designs are there for the mouse click, a sheet of paper and some glue, but many unfortunately are not.

And it's not about money. Shin's paper toys that are available, are free, but if you're too slow, or not paying attention, or in a few cases, blink, you'll miss them. And then they're gone. The effect is at once frustrating and understandable. By doing this, Shin has created a demand for his toys that exceeds the supply. And for the lucky few who are able to grab them, the templates becomes a prized possession. 

But all is not lost, Shin's work can be found on a variety of other mediums accessible to his fans. And his fan base is growing as companies the world over are looking to Shin and his art for the branding of their goods. Besides the slew of shoe companies asking him for designs, Shin's work can be seen on or promoting products as diverse as watches, cars, and mp3 players.

T-Boy (for Adidas) by Shin Tanaka

Giant Robot (for Scion) by Shin Tanaka

But ultimately it's his paper that makes Shin so special. Bound by the limitations of the medium, Shin continues to discover new ways to fold and cut his creativity into the shapes and designs that astound. He'll spend months drawing and redrawing his lines to perfection, transforming a simple piece of paper into an amazing piece of art. 

Baby Spiky (Basic, Series 8) by Shin Tanaka

SSP by Shin Tanaka

Three by Shin Tanaka

But not one to rest on his laurels, Shin has continued to redefine what's possible with paper. With each line he releases, he's able to further establish his style without repeating himself. Granted, there are derivatives within his body of work, but looking at the series Three, T-Boy, or Hoophy, it's easy to see why his work is so engaging to the collector as well as other designers. Like a great song, covered by another band, Shin's work can show its brilliance in the hands of others. It's a sign of his confidence that allows his vision to take a backseat to that of another, often times to staggering success. 

Maybe it's the class of artist he chooses to work with, maybe it's said artist being inspired, and maybe it's the canvas. Maybe it's all three, but whatever it is the results speak for themselves. Customs of his toys are just as engaging as the originals. This doesn't diminish Shin's accomplishments as a designer, in fact, it serves to establish the opposite. Besides, without the templates, those designs are just two dimensional. And you don't have to be a world-class artist to contribute either. Shin is currently accepting customs for his Boxy toy from all comers, posting the results on his site, furthering his democratic approach to creating art. An approach that's led to the creation of a staggering body of work. Beautiful, elegant, and whimsical at every turn Shin's portfolio strikes the perfect balance between so many of the integral elements of art.

Similar posts

  • Monday, September 26, 2016 - 11:57am
    Everybody loves shiny stuff, and now you can customize your platform toys with shiny paint from Montana. In my own experience, Montana has the best range of colors and best application of all the spray brands I've tried.
  • Fakir graffiti
    Wednesday, June 8, 2016 - 1:21pm
    What makes great sushi even better? Mochi dessert. But also, a super cute lucky cat mural. Fakir was recently commissioned by Gumi Sushi in France to paint up the front of their restaurant. By combining flat design with aggressive shading, this kitty is 100% Fakir.
  • Viktor Hertz art
    Thursday, April 21, 2016 - 2:04pm
    Ah, truth in advertising. Swedish artist Viktor Hertz is following up his snarky rebrands of famous logos with a new series of designs.
leftClutter is a FREE monthly print publication covering all things Designer Toy and Sub-Culture art. Founded in 2004 in the good old United Kingdom, Clutter moved to NYC in 2009 where it continues to grow. Pick up a copy here.

Newsletter Sign Up!