CREATIVE CUSTOMS: Tomasz Rozejowski's FINAL FANTASY Play Arts
From Fantasy to Reality: Artist Makes His Favorite Characters Come to Life...
To insure your action figure collection, get in touch with Collectibles Insurance, the official insurance company of the Figures.com network. Say "Figures.com" to get 5% off your first term premiums.
To buy action figures, take a look at BigBadToyStore.com, Toynk.com, PastGenerationToys.com, BriansToys.com, ToyWiz.com, and MonkeyDepot.com.
For action figures, statues and sculptures, go to CSMooreStudio.com.
Every collector has his or her passion. For Tomasz Rozejowski that passion is Final Fantasy, in particular Square Enix's Play Arts line. However, as is so often the case, not every character you like receives the action figure treatment. For a talented individual like Tomasz Rozejowski, that simply means taking matters into his own hands...
FIGURES.COM: Briefly introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about how you got into customizing.
TOMASZ ROZEJOWSKI: My name is Tomasz Rozejowski, aka zelu1984, and I’m 28 years old. I was born in Poland but for the past 10 years I have been living in London. Currently I am working as an IT Engineer but I would like to shift into something more creative. Ever since I can remember I was into collecting action figures and customising/improving them, but back then not always with positive effect. I was always collecting all sorts of action figures from various movies, cartoons and games but I think my "obsessive" collecting started with Final Fantasy. When I played FFVIII for the first time in 1998 I fell in love with the series; not only for the story and graphics, but also the amazing characters. I started collecting Play Arts figures when they debuted with X-2 YuRiPa team and up to date I have all of them among other FF collectables, figures and rare statues.
I love action figures and I love to improve them – this is my hobby and that's what I do!
FIGURES.COM: Why do choose to only customize Final Fantasy characters and why only Play Arts Kai figures? Not a cheap format to customize!
TOMASZ ROZEJOWSKI: It all started with collecting Final Fantasy Play Arts figures - these articulated figures were so much more detailed to anything FF related available on the marked at that time. Even though more and more Play Arts volumes were made, none of my favourite characters were making an appearance. I bought a FFVIII Rinoa figure of eBay and it turned out to be a bootleg. She was out of scale with the FFVIII series but in scale with FFX. I did some research online and found some basic customising materials - this was about 4-5 years ago. Lulu was my first Play Arts custom figure and she didn't have much articulation. I literally ripped apart the old Rinoa figure and re-sculpted her with some random clay I bought from a local craft shop. The figure was not even sanded properly, just painted over. Even though it was my first figure custom and it wasn’t too detailed, I was really pleased with the result and that’s how I got into customizing Play Arts.
About 5 years ago I joined the FinalFantasyMerchandise.com community where I found some amazing people who had the same interests as me. I was posting VIP pictures of my work there and getting feedback/advice from members was very motivating. Up to date I have made about 20 custom Final Fantasy Play Arts figures from scratch and modified/improved almost every single one.
Customising Play Arts figures, especially these days with the new Play Arts Kai line, can be very pricy and old Play Arts are difficult to find. However, I’m always searching eBay auctions for bargains. Some of the Play Arts figures/parts have been donated to me by my friends, so if you have something you don’t need and I can use for a custom, just let me know :)
FIGURES.COM: What are some of your favorite customs and what inspired you to make them?
TOMASZ ROZEJOWSKI: My favorite Final Fantasy character is Zell from FFVIII (pictured top) and I always wanted to have his figure. Unfortunately he wasn't popular enough to be made into Play Arts form, so ever since I got into customising I was looking for the right parts to make him in the same style/scale with FFVIII Play Arts. I used four different figure parts to make him: Kingdom Hearts II - Axel's head, FFXII - Vaan's torso and arms, WWE - Jenny Cena's shorts and FFX - Tidus's legs. That was one expensive custom, but so worth it. Finally, my favorite character had been made into Play Arts form and I was very satisfied with the end result. The rest of the FFVIII characters soon followed.
I really enjoyed making both FFIX Beatrix and FFXII Fran as they were little bit of a challenge. Just the amount of detail on Fran's "helmet" took me about three days to make but I think it turned out pretty good. Making Beatrix's curly hair was a bit tricky as I had to cut very thin parts of plastic and shape them up and glue them before sculpting the detail. I have to admit that I did cut myself pretty badly at least three times making her...
I was very disappointed to see that both XIII-2 main characters Noel and Caius had not been made into Play Arts figures. So I decided to make them. I made Noel using FFVII Cloud's Play Arts figure as a base and I customized the head and Caius is Advent Children Sephiroth. I cut out their weapons from styrene and sculpted the details with FIXIT Sculpt. With the Noel custom I managed to sculpt almost the entire figure out of clay keeping Cloud's body just for articulation.
FIGURES.COM: What materials/ process did you use to make them?
TOMASZ ROZEJOWSKI: At the beginning of my customizing work I was clueless on what materials to use. I was checking at various websites/forums/and tutorials to get information on how to do it. I was always trying something new - I went through many different clays/putties/paints and materials, before I found the perfect one for me. Currently I’m using FIXIT Sculpt and Magic Sculpt epoxy for most of my work – It’s a great material and it gives you about 3-4 hours to work on the piece before it gets solid hard. For sculpting the figures I am using mostly different sizes of X-Acto knives, wax carvers and various pointy objects. In terms of paints I’m using Vallejo - Model Colour Acrylic Paints and many different size brushes. Before painting the figures, most of the time I will use white primer and varnish after to keep the paint from rubbing off. If you want to get into customising Play Arts figures I would recommend FFVIII Selphie as a base for female figures. Once you strip off her clothes and take off the hair, she is a great base figure with decent articulation. I used her, or at least parts of her body, for many of my customs.
FIGURES.COM: How long does it take you to complete a figure?
TOMASZ ROZEJOWSKI: The process of making a figure can take months. The vital part for me is to make the project as detailed as possible, keep a lot of articulation and to ensure I am satisfied with the end result. The most important step is to gather the right materials and choose the best parts as a base figure. Normally I would sculpt a little bit and wait for about four hours for the clay to get hard before moving to another part. I am trying to multitask where possible but it is difficult at times - as when I'm working one side, the other might get damaged or deformed if the clay is not dry yet. The quickest custom I made was XIII-2 Snow as it didn’t involve too much work. I was able to complete it in two weeks. The longest one is FFXII Fran - I worked on her for about three months and the figure is still not completed. I would say that on average it takes me about 1-1.5 months to complete a project, but it all depends on what character it is and how much detail I need to sculpt. I will work on the figure until I am completely satisfied with the character likability; a detailed paint job of the face is, in most cases, the key to success. Due to a lack of time I only work on my customs on the weekend unless I find some spare time after work.
FIGURES.COM: What's your most recent custom and What customs do you have planned next?
TOMASZ ROZEJOWSKI: Currently I have four custom Play Arts I am (slowly) working on - Final Fantasy XIII-2 Yuel and Chocolina, FF VII-Barrett and a commission of a slightly "different" version of Aerith. The customs characters I would like to make in the future are FFVersus- Noctis and XIII-2 Hope to complete the cast. The customs I might work on in Play Arts form are FFVIII Laguna, FFVII- Cid, FFIX Steiner and Kuja, FFX Wakka. I am working on some other custom figures as well.
FIGURES.COM: Where can people see more of your work? Do you accept commissions?
TOMASZ ROZEJOWSKI: I am currently working on my website but meanwhile you can find more of my work on deviantART and Carbonmade. You can also follow me on Twitter @Zelu1984_FFM if you want to know more about Square Enix products- those official and custom made. Due to the fact that all of my customs are very detailed, it takes me a long time to make them. Up to date I've made only 5-6 commissions. If you're interested in a custom creation please get in touch on what is on your mind and we can discuss the details if I have time :)
A very special THANK YOU to Tomasz Rozejowski for taking time for this interview. Keep the fantasy alive!
Interview by Jeff Saylor
All Photos Courtesy of Tomasz Rozejowski