Having first opened its doors in 2006 under the Vinyl Toy Network guise, this twice-yearly gathering of designer toy movement artists and producers would, only three years later, become an annual event under the new name DesignerCon. And artist Paul Copeland, also known as Paulkaiju, would be present for this convention’s rebranded debut in 2009, supporting the release of his first vinyl sculpture, the Super7 produced Partyball. Since then, Paulkaiju has been a staple of these assemblies, his own booth spaces tending to draw crowds of collectors who all hope to win the lottery and get a chance to buy a Paulkaiju creation. And 2017’s DesignerCon was no different, the artist issuing forth a selection of one-of-a-kind works as well as small hand-painted editions.

Paulkaiju’s 2017 DesignerCon Exhibition Overview

Standing roughly 31½-inches tall, the giant-sized vinyl rendition of Paulkaiju’s classic Mockbat form (see article here) loomed like a beacon, attracting throngs of admirers to the artist’s corner booth location. Hand-painted by the artist, this Giant Mockbat‘s coloration was reminiscent of the regular-sized version’s Poison Touch edition from 2015, the beast’s bright orange vinyl body coated in an explosion of vivid green, purple, and black sprays.
Following a selection of his Gobo Gang mini figures hanging from chains, the tendriled monstrosity known as Hyper Kraken appeared in a Rainbow Smog color scheme. With the metallic accents on its multitude of beaks leading the eye, one naturally notes the debut micro-run edition of Paulkaiju’s Sparkman, a retro robot that rests on four tendril legs while an equal number of arms are stretched upward. Then, revisiting his very first original sculpt for vinyl casting, Paulkaiju issued an unpainted Boss Carrion 2.0, its minty green coloration strangely perfect for this zombified elephant with its surreally fish-headed posterior and strange face ‘blooming’ forth from its right hand.
With a shape reminiscent of an anglerfish, though one that’s evolved to emerge from the sea and traverse the land, Paulkaiju’s imaginative sea creature become land predator is titled the Biterfish. And for its appearance at DesignerCon, the artist has added very slight paint applications to draw forth sculpted details on the form, allowing the swirling orange and black coloration of the vinyl, which Paulkaiju called Pumpkinsplice, to be the true focal point. Nestled next the Biterfish is an unpainted Hyper Kraken as well as the Pumcat, or pumpkin cat, creation in hand-painted and undecorated versions.
Having debuted in 2015, Paulkaiju created the head for the Hyper Kraken to be used on Mutant Vinyl Hardcore‘s DX Sludge Demon body to form the Sludge Kraken. Evolving it into a beast that was uniquely his own the following year, the artist’s Hyper Kraken comes alongside a “Larval Stage Kraken” known simply as the Polyp. Depicting an amphibious invader of possibly alien origins, a selection of one-of-a-kind renditions were amassed in the artist’s DesignerCon booth, all of them given striking contrast by being partially hand-painted and partially untouched.
After debuting his two-headed Chimera sculpture only last year, Paulkaiju issued several one-off evolutions of the form at DesignerCon. Featuring hypnotic spirals for eyes, the Dual Pumcat replaces the beast’s feminine heads for feline ones, while both Cubby Bomber and Dirty Pumpkin utilize his doll-like Biterman heads from 2010. The Cubby Bomber piece is especially notable, as its multi-breasted chest is adorned with a third face, an element recalling various Japanese creature aesthetics. And, for the final two works, there is one adorned with the traditional devil-woman toppers and another featuring the alternate ‘Dual Impaler’ armored unicorn heads.
Hauntingly cast in the Pumpkinsplice coloration, the Mockbat and King Jinx sets feature minimal painted adornment over their enticing forms. But of truly historic note is the public display debut of Paulkaiju’s Sparkman test shot, the very first piece pulled from the vinyl molds and sent to the artist for approval. Having been hand-painted to assess the form’s usability, the dirty accents placed along the recessed groves draw forth the piece’s sculptural detailing.
Popo von Poomz, a salacious parody of the male anatomy, appears with its mini Popo finger puppet companion in the Ice Crapades edition, cast in a swirled mixture of white, clear, and flesh-colored vinyl that has been infused with glitter. Alongside the one-of-a-kind Pistachio version of Boss Carrion 2.0 is a strange hybridization of Paulkaiju’s Pumcat and Mockbat sculptures, creating the Pumbat form for a small-sized edition. Then, featuring an earthy brown tonality, is the artist’s hair-lipped alien Salamander Joe in a S’mores coloration, which offsets perfectly against the clear pink unpainted Quarteroid‘s insect-like form.
Closing out Paulkaiju’s DesignerCon array were six hand-painted Sparkman pieces, each visually elaborating on the diverse applications this new form allows the artist. Standing roughly 12-inches tall, or sitting at 10-inches tall depending on the leg positioning, this “space companion” character is a perfect hyrbid of Japanese and American aesthetics. Inspired by the sophisticated robots displayed throughout 1969 in the Robotto Eiji, or Robot Age, series within Weekly Shōnen Sunday magazine as well as the Robot from Lost in Space and Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still, the piece’s head is a tribute to The Price Is Right‘s original host, Bob Barker. Oozing a retro-futuristic feel, the antennas adorning each piece were hand-crafted for these works, as the vinyl versions were too thin and long to be properly used. Though newly sculpted antenna were made for vinyl production, they were not ready in time for DesignerCon, but we will get a first glimpse at them in 2018 when Sparkman returns.
Paulkaiju’s DesignerCon booth #533 exhibition was part of a two-day only event held on November 11th & 12th, 2017 at the Pasadena Convention Center (300 E Green St, Pasadena, CA 91101).

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