Toy Talk: Diamond Select Sculptor Paul Harding
Apr 12, 2020
Toys, Statues and other collectibles don’t just magically appear on store shelves. A lot of work goes into the concept, design, sculpting and final production of these items, and many of the people who work behind-the-scenes with companies like Diamond Select, DC Collectibles and Gentle Giant, among others, remain mostly unknown to their appreciative audience: the final consumer.
With Toy Talk, we hope to introduce you to the artisans behind some of your favorite collectibles, and to let them enjoy their well-deserved moment in the spotlight!
This month, we talk with Diamond Select Sculptor, Paul Harding about how he got started with sculpting and the process behind making great collectibles for Diamond Select Toys.
PREVIEWSworld: How did you get involved in the toy industry as a designer/sculptor?
Paul Harding: In 2002, after the "dot com" bubble burst and I was out of a job, I sold a four-character design set to Mezco called "Sonic Alliance," a group of urban vinyl DJ's. I was a trained illustrator, so my passion was for character design.
They asked me to sculpt them and I said to myself, "Well, I better learn how to sculpt figures fast!" This led to a lot more work for that company and soon Toybiz in 2003, Diamond Select's Marvel Select in 2004, and then DC Direct in 2005.
PREVIEWSworld: What's your general process for creating a piece and how has it changed over the years?
Paul Harding: In the early days I was sculpting in the green clay called Castilene. This method soon transitioned to "Hasbro" wax which I would concoct in my studio to create figures for the toy company of the same name. In '09 I made the difficult switch to digital sculpting with Zbrush.
I can't believe it's been a decade now. Since then, and thanks to the digital revolution, I've been able to keep up with the incredibly demanding deadlines of the toy industry.
PREVIEWSworld: Given your experience creating both statues and action figures, how does your approach to sculpting differ between the two?
Paul Harding: Generally, I will start an action figure the same way I would start a statue: Standing up with really no pose at all. But that's only for the first day or so. The process quickly changes after that. For action figures, I will start cutting in articulation as I refine the anatomy and details.
For statues, I will get most of the major elements into the sculpt and then go directly to posing the piece. Musculature plays a more crucial role in statues and variations in posing will change how the muscles react. That's the fun part.
PREVIEWSworld: How do you manage to faithfully translate Skottie Young's cartoon style into three dimensional sculptures for products like Gentle Giant's upcoming Logan statue?
Paul Harding: With Skottie's art the sculptor has to understand his spontaneity and his intent, especially when it comes to a quick brush stroke or a wacky body part design. I think a lot of people weren't sure his art could be translated to three dimensions, but with a little TLC we've shown that it's definitely possble! And cute! And weird!
PREVIEWSworld: Do you have a favorite Diamond Select or Gentle Giant product you've worked on?
Paul Harding: For Gentle Giant I would have to say it’s the Premier Guild exclusive Darth Revan Statue. He's one of those beautiful designs that I figured I'd never get a chance to work on, so it was an honor when the project came to my studio!
As far as Diamond Select projects go, it would have to be the Batman '66 Shakespeare Bust. Mostly because of its size and that it can exist in a non-collector's living space as well. It has also been fun to hear how collectors have modified it to open their garage doors and hidden movie screens!
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