Overseas Factory Product Supervisor too!
NECA Sculptor/ Overseas Factory Product Supervisor Chris Gawrych
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Following our talk with Trevor Zammit last week (read it HERE), we bring you another exciting interview with one of NECA's talented sculptors: Chris Gawrych. Chris is responsible for many fan favorite actions figures - from BioShock's Little Sister and Elm Street's Freddy Krueger to A Christmas Story's Scut Farkus. With so many cool projects on his plate, finding time to finish his own personal work, such as his amazing Stephen King figures, is a challenge.
As the infomercials say - "But wait, there's more!" Chris Gawrych also holds the tasking position as NECA's Overseas Factory Product Supervisor. Here Chris' job is to make sure the great action figures we collect (and the ones he helps create) come out the very best they can be. Read on to find out how Chris got his start in the industry, his passion for sculpting and what it's like to spend almost half a year in a foreign land...
FIGURES.COM: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to become a sculptor. Did you always know you wanted to sculpt?
CHRIS GAWRYCH: I have been sculpting for the past 10 years, with the first five more or less on the side when time permitted. I have been drawing for as long as I can remember, but I have the most fun when I am sculpting. I started off my sculpting career first with customized toys (my first was turning an animated Batman into Space Ghost), custom heads for 12 inch Dragon bodies, then expanded to doing busts, and eventually trying my hand at a full figure. I never really thought that I could get good enough to become a toy sculptor, but look at me now!
Unfinished Business: First Attempts At Sculpting Realistic Characters
FIGS: Tell us a little about how you learned to sculpt. Are you formally trained or self-taught?
FIGS: What are some of your past accomplishments as a sculptor?CHRIS: Pretty much self-taught. I was amazed when I first started at how many professional sculptors would actually take the time to help out beginner sculptors, and give them tips and tricks as well as valuable critiques on their work.
CHRIS: My only prior professional experiences were working at Shocker Toys and doing a single item for McFarlane (the multi-eyed squirrel from the Simpsons movie).
NECA Resume: Original "Pinhead" Bust (Doug Bradley Signed!)
FIGS: How did you go about getting hired by NECA and what's it like working for them?
FIGS: Do you do certain sculpting jobs or techniques better than the other? What are some examples?CHRIS: I met Randy (Falk) and Kyle (Windrix) at a convention (possibly Chiller, I think) maybe 7 years ago or so. It was near the beginning when the first series of Hellraiser figures were coming out. I kept in touch with them, and Kyle helped me a lot in improving my sculpting. Over the course of a year or two, I would occasionally ask Randy if there was any chance for me to get a chance at doing a piece for them, and eventually my time came.
Working for NECA is fun because we enjoy what we do. We are all fans of most of the material we produce, so the enthusiasm is there and you can see it in the finished product. Itís a pretty relaxed environment, and our input on the projects is always listened to with an open mind.
CHRIS: I think I am just a good middle man. I like to try to learn new things, such as fabricating, mold making, etc, so that I have some degree of knowledge in that area. But I donít think I have a specific area that I excel in more than another.
NECA's Adorable BioShock "Little Sister"
FIGS: What is your favorite subject to sculpt and why?
CHRIS: I enjoy sculpting just about anything that comes my way. Different subjects usually require different techniques. If you are sculpting something animated, it has to be very smooth. Something gruesome usually has more bubbly gore and flesh or bones. Likenesses require a keen eye for all the little nuances in a personís face that makes them look like they do. But if I had to choose, I do enjoy working on anime/animated sexy-girl type figures.
Quality Control: Making Sure NECA's Predators Are Ready For Their Big Night Out
FIGS: About how long does it take you to complete a sculpt?
FIGS: Who are some other sculptors you really admire or like and why?CHRIS: This really depends on what you are working on. The more detail or the harder the likeness, the longer it will take. An average time-frame for a full figure would be 3-4 weeks.
CHRIS: I definitely admire and appreciate Kyle Windrix because he is one of the most talented sculptors out there. Also because he was very instrumental in helping me become a better sculptor AND helped me get a job at NECA. Erick Sosa is an awesome talented guy, as well as Adam Beane being super skilled. They are both easy going, friendly, and very helpful in teaching you how they make their work look so beautiful. Jack Matthews and Tim Bruckner do amazing comic sculpts (as well as much more!) Check out the awesome and questionably cancelled DC Dynamics pieces.
Karen Palinko also produces some fabulous work. Heck, you should even check out Ray Villafane, he does the most mind-blowing pumpkin and sand sculptors around! The list goes on and on Ė I could even say that my good friend Andre Kevermann, a sculptor from Brazil, I admire a ton because he loves sculpting, has developed greatly over the years, and I know it is hard being in the position he is in down there but he continues on with it because it is his passion, his love. Thatís a real sculptor in my eyes.
Pet Project: "Cat's Eye" Troll
FIGS: Given the opportunity to sculpt anything you wanted, what would you do and why?
FIGS: What amazing sculptures and projects are you currently working on and what do you have on tap for the near future?CHRIS: I pray that one day I can work on either The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Ė or something Stephen King related. (Let it be known I have worked on both of these things on my own in the past lol)
CHRIS: Well, obviously it is hard to say what the future holds, we usually find out what we will be working on pretty much right when we start working on it. And I am not sure if we can say what we are working on at the moment, sorry.
Toto, I've A Feeling We're Not In Kansas Any More.
FIGS: In addition to being a sculptor for NECA, you also have the distinct responsibility of being their Overseas Factory Product Supervisor. Please tell us what it is you do to insure NECA's collectibles are the best they can be?
FIGS: How much time do you spend abroad? Do you speak any Chinese?CHRIS: This is one of the most difficult jobs to have. You want the factories to reproduce both the detail of the sculpt as well as the paint job, because all the artists worked very hard on making the 2-up look as amazing as they can. And if one of these is lacking, it can severely effect the other. A bad paint job can make a good sculpt look bad, and vice-versa. So while in China, I have to constantly check up on different figures that are in different stages of production to make sure everything is moving according to schedule and looking accurate. Unfortunately this doesnít always goes smoothly, and we have to work hard in pointing out any defects or issues that we come across.
Fred Head: 2-Up (Right) and Final Production Size (Left)
One of the fun aspects of the China side is looking over the fine cuts, and opening up and playing with the new figures. The fine cuts are the resin/porcelain copies of the figures before they get molded. These are made so that we can see all the sculptural detail and articulation, and make sure the figure looks right after being shrunk down from itís original 12 inch size. And we open and play with the new figures to make sure every step of production went well, the figure moves well, and the paint looks good.
CHRIS: On average, I spend about 5 months a year in total time, generally broken up into 5-7 trips throughout the year. I have been going for the last 4 years, and I do pick up a fair amount of Chinese when I spend time there, usually related either to eating and travel, or to production related areas such as colors. I always enjoy my time there, I love the food, and the people are always very kind, friendly, and helpful.
1/4 Scale Predators Assemble
FIGS: What are some of the challenges you face with the factories?
CHRIS: One of the biggest challenges is translating. Sometimes things donít always get translated through properly, or itís hard to explain certain details that even in English could be a little challenging. Sometimes itís easiest to use body language or draw it out. One of the other challenges is sometimes the factories can just be outright stubborn. Sometimes we need something changed, and usually the factories can be pretty accommodating, but once in awhile they can be a bit troublesome when they donít want to make the changes we need.
Freeze, Punk! RoboChris of War
FIGS: Being overseas must give you great access to a lot of new toys coming out. Are you a big toy collector? What are some of your favorites?
FIGS: Thank you so much for your time! Any parting words for our readers?CHRIS: Unfortunately, this is very true. I tend to spend money on toys overseas Ė mostly because the toys are so damn cool! And on top of that, they are cheaper than buying them here because you are getting them straight from the source, so to speak. I love getting Revoltech, Figma, Enterbay and Hot Toys figures when I can. There are a lot of big, fun, crazy toy stores in Hong Kong. Even just walking around them is an adventure!
CHRIS: Just a huge thanks and tons of appreciation to all our fans for supporting us over the years. We keep trying to put out the best toys around Ė and at collector-friendly prices without shrinking the sizes. We love your feedback and always want to hear from you, whether itís good or bad. And please know, if itís something bad, this helps us to know whatís going on and we can work on remedying it as quick as possible. Thanks again, and keep giving us your comments and feedback!
And a "Huge Thanks" to Chris Gawrych for making this interview possible! Keep the cool action figures coming (and finish up that amazing Cat's Eye troll, stat!).
- Interview by Jeff Saylor
- Photos Courtesy of Chris Gawrych