From signings at cons to exhibitions all over, it’s really not that hard to meet your favorite designer toy artists. Unless that artist is from Japan, that is. While Konatsu visits California once in awhile, it’s very rare to catch her on the East Coast, which is why her exhibition at myplasticheart is such an important event for her fans, sofubi enthusiasts, and lovers of anything cute. I started firming up plans to travel down to NYC as soon as the exhibition was announced, and I’m happy to report that the trip was absolutely worth it.
Tickets to buy Konatsu’s art and toys were being passed out at 2PM on Friday, with the event actually opening at 7PM. I arrived in NYC at 11AM and figured I’d be one of the first people in line. Nope! There were already 10 people in front of me. After tickets were passed out, we were able to go into myplasticheart to browse the selection and say hi to Konatsu.
Konatsu is a tiny, shy Japanese woman in her 30s, just as adorable as you’d expect based on her art. She speaks little English but was accompanied by her manager who was fluent. The walls and shelves were full of her watercolor paintings and sofubi toys. Paintings were available in three sizes, starting with A4 as the smallest size. Three prints and a wall scroll were also available. Custom toys ranged from 3 inch figures to giant dioramas using Konatsu’s Negora, Kurubiros, and more, starting at about $150. Towards the cash register, a case was filled with more affordable toys, including a Mamera and Shibara sofubi set, custom Lucky Negoras, and her Space Racers. Bags, pouches, and art books were also in the display case. On the register counter were containers of plush brooches and flocked circle pins, as well as miniature watercolor paintings. In other words, there was a lot of stuff and now I’m a lot poorer. If you couldn't make it, the remaining pieces are now available online.
After lining up again at night, fans were brought in to make their purchases, with the paintings going fast. By the end of the night almost every custom piece and every painting had been claimed. At 8PM, Konatsu painted two watercolors on the spot and wrapped up the night by signing any merch her fans bought.
The next morning we all lined up again for Konatsu’s sketching session. As a very nice surprise, these weren’t so much sketches as they were full-on illustrations. She used a brush pen and Copic markers to make super high quality, one-of-a-kind drawings for the first 20 people in line. Most people had her draw their pets or their favorite animal, with adorable results.
I never thought I’d meet Konatsu, let alone get a custom illustration from her. This event was the highlight of 2016 for me, and judging by everyone else’s reactions at myplasticheart, most fans feel the same way. Check out my quick interview with Konatsu and her manager, as well as a ton of photos below!
Note: Responses have been edited for consistency and clarity, as both Konatsu and her manager answered the questions.
When did you start drawing?
I was just three years old when I started.
You have a lot of animals in your art. Did you have pets growing up?
I don’t have any pets right now, but growing up in my parents’ home, we had a cat, dog, and bird.
I’m assuming based on your art that cats are your favorite.
I love cats, but actually I really love birds the most, so they are my favorite (laughs). We’re going birdwatching in upstate New York on Tuesday.
Is this your first time in New York? What else do you have planned for while you’re here?
Yes, this is my first time here. I’m hoping to do some shopping, and of course the birdwatching.
Who would win in a fight between Negora and Shibara?
Actually, they’re friends, but sometimes they do disagree sometimes (laughs).
What new projects are you currently working on?
I’m working on a new battle kaiju called Pigora and a new kind of fox kaiju.
Are you surprised by how many fans you have in the West?
Yes, but we are able to have a decent idea while I’m home in Japan because I can see how many followers I have on social media.
What’s the easiest way for fans outside of Japan to collect your art?
Right now, Konatsuya [Konatsu’s brand] distributes to myplasticheart, Q-Pop, and Rotofugi. But at the moment, it’s hard to make so much stuff. Sofubi factories are small, so we can’t produce in large quantities. Unfortunately, this means that some people will buy the toys and merchandise and then sell them on auction sites, driving up prices. I don’t want that. We hope in the future to make larger quantities of our releases so that we can keep prices reasonable for everyone.
What’s your favorite food?
But you love birds!
I almost feel bad!
Anything else you’d like to mention to your fans?
We will be releasing some exclusive items through Q-Pop’s booth at DesignerCon in November. I’ll also have a booth at the Taipei Toy Festival next month.
Wednesday, November 25, 2020 - 4:29pmJeff Lamm x Clutter present: Kaaarg!
Tuesday, June 23, 2020 - 4:01pmPulled in beautiful bright green Sofubi, the newest release of the Kaaarg is ready to hit your shelves!
Thursday, April 23, 2020 - 7:49pmFrom the murky depths of the Hudson River emerges...The Killer Kaaarg! The first painted release of the amazing Jeff Lamm design is set to be unleashed tomorrow, April 24th!