, LLC, was formed with the express purpose of creating a designer, bootleg and art toy expo for Asheville, NC. Celebrating this turn of the century avant-garde art movement, *Assembly Required is not only the premiere destination for independent designer, bootleg and art toy artists and collectors. But it is the largest gathering of its kind, focusing exclusively on the independent artist.     


What are Designer Toys?

Designer: The use of the word points directly to the creator; the maker; the artist who has been so inspired to produce a particular piece of art. Not dependent on a corporate board of trustees to get a product approved, or a test market to see if a product will be ‘marketable’. The Designer Toy Artist is  restricted only by their own imagination. 

Toy: Often misunderstood, the use of the word toy in Designer Toy, is a slight misnomer. And can be misleading. Refining inspiration from a variety of underground and subcultural elements, this lowbrow pop surrealistic art form adopts the mediums, methods and production aspects of traditional toy manufacturers. 

These sculptures, intended for display rather than play, are personifications of toys; a motif.

This motif points more to a major source of inspiration and the target of commentary. Mimicking the factory and mass produced products that were marketed directly to children, these sculptures reveal the influence of the commercial, and marketing genius that revolved around toys of the 60’s, 70’s… and primarily the 80’s.


The 80’s?

The Great Marketing Deregulation: In 1981, Ronald Reagan instituted the deregulation of advertising, which allowed companies to market as much as they wanted to children. This would come to an end in 1990 with the Children’s Television Act (CTA), that ordered the FCC to put in place regulations to protect children from advertising. But the damage was already done… 

Then those children grew up. And some of those children were artists.

Many artists in this culture are now reaching back to a time where their young developing brains were the target of those commercials in the shape of 30 minute cartoons, produced by toys companies who embraced the pop-culture zeitgeist of its time: Mass production filling a void of mass consumption; cross marketed not just in toys, but leading to an explosion of cartoons, junk food, fast food, and breakfast cereals, etc.  

Now, the designer toy artist has found a way to pay homage to nostalgia of the pop-cultural shift unlike any other before or after that, while giving the middle finger to the foundation it was built upon, which was completely commerce-driven. 


Techniques, Products and Materials 

Arguably one of the most popular technique for designer, bootleg and art toy makers is creating handmade molds from silicone, with pieces casted in hand poured resin. Due to the life of the silicone used for molding, designer toy artists produce work in very limited quantities and are typically available for a limited time. This can be reflected in a particular work of art being made available for a “limited run”, colorway or a specific event exclusive.

With the mediums, materials and methods historically used by toy companies, now readily available to today’s artist, designers hand make each piece. In order to capture the look and feel of a particular action figure, box art or even the box itself, there are a variety of specialty tools and materials used in this process. 


Why Asheville? 

Rated the #1 US travel destination in 2017 , Asheville, NC, was rated as among the best small cities in the country in 2020. The small town, nestled in the mountainous western part of the state, was named the No. 5 place for residents and visitors, according to the report by Resonance Consultancy.

According to the Expert Vagabond “Asheville has to be one of the coolest small cities on the East Coast […] Located in North Carolina’s scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville has a unique mix of hipster coffee shops, award-winning restaurants, outdoor activities, and more breweries per capita than anywhere else in the US.” 

As a full-time adventure travel & photographer for Expert Vagabond, Matthew Karsten continues to write, “Asheville’s creative (and slightly eccentric) locals contribute to a lively downtown unlike any other. You can experience an intoxicating drum circle, shop at vintage boutiques, sit down to an amazing locally-grown meal, and admire cool street art all in the same day”.  

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