You might be looking at this photo and thinking, “This is a toy?” or “Ooh, that looks kind of cool.” Either way, the image you see is a limited edition toy (only 500 made) that actually sells for $38 and for this particular vinyl piece of its kind is CHEAP. Designed by Tristan Eaton, founder of Thunderdog Studios and a former Detroiter who likes to show love to the place he once called home for 4 years.
The significance of this particular toy is that it can only be attained at Royal Oak’s own Lift Designer Toys on Fourth Street. In fact, Tristan is also responsible for the pop art piece on the wall of their shop. You might recall the piece he did at Burn Rubber Sneaker Boutique too, which might help tie in the inspiration behind this featured toy.
Metro Detroiters, particularly those in Royal Oak, might know Lift as its former incarnation of Lift Footwear at 11 Mile and Center. Even then, they carried a small collection of toys produced by Kid Robot, which is the most recognizable name amongst designer toy aficionados. Now as Lift Designer Toys, they are one of the largest stores to carry “Japanese-inspired American pop art” in the country.
It is not out of the ordinary to wonder who buys and collects such items. Store manager, Shane McGrath, says their customers range from high school students to a “lawyer in his 40s.” Mind you, this lawyer just so happens to have the largest toy collection in the state of Michigan. As you might imagine, there is definitely link between youth culture and the art world that would explain the graffiti influence on a lot of the “urban toys” like you find from Kid Robot. All the same, the urban toys have found its placed amongst more traditional artists too. In fact, the Munny Series, which is basically a blank canvas toy that you can decorate, has sparked art installations around the country for burgeoning artsy folks looking to show off their style.
Other sites to learn more about designer toys and its culture:
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