Triclops Studio’s Rob Ames and Luc Hudson on their new studio space – and why retro toys fuel creativity
Guys, it’s always great to catch up. First and foremost, congrats on the new studio space! What prompted the move?
Rob Ames: Cheers Billy. Our previous space was just a stopgap as we had to clear out of the one before that when the landlord sold it at the start of lockdown! We needed a bit more breathing room anyway, not just for the ever-expanding toy collection but also because we needed more space for a dedicated meeting room, a decent workbench – for tinkering and building prototypes – and a breakout zone for brainstorming.
And where are you based now?
Luc Hudson: We are based just on the border of Leyton and our hometown, Walthamstow in East London. We’re situated amongst lots of other creatives too – graphic designers, furniture makers and fashion peeps, which not only makes for a nice community of like-minded folk, but it’s also inspiring to see what others are doing and making.
How does the new space function? What happens where?
LH: Downstairs we can now table meetings with clients as well as hosting brainstorms and creative workshops. Since moving in, we’ve entertained several companies now and the feedback has been great. As we all know, it’s super inspiring to get away from the desk – and the same four brainstorming walls, so it’s been lovely to hear our lil’ studio/toy museum oozes creative vibes.
RA: Upstairs is where the magic happens! Or as Luc calls it, The Boiler Room… Quite literally, as there’s a massive window that we fully expect to slowly cook next to as the weather gets warmer! This is where we work up all the ideas we’ve brainstormed downstairs. We also have a kitchenette so when the zombie apocalypse comes, we won’t need to leave the studio, ha!
Ha! Handy! You kindly invited me round and I can vouch for the fact that the studio is an Aladdin’s Cave of cool toys. What are some of the jewels in the collection?
RA: It’s a very mixed collection… Downstairs we have samples of stuff we have worked on as Triclops, including mass-market toys, games and IPs, plus a small smattering of Designer Toys we’ve created over the last 20 years of being involved in that scene too. Upstairs the shelves are heaving with an array of random stuff from our own collections, but mainly vintage toys… Everything from gloopy monsters to rare Eighties and Nineties action figures, gnarly Mexican bootlegs to Japanese vinyl Sofubi.
LH: We tend to accumulate – or hoard in Rob’s case! – the weirder stuff on the toy spectrum as that tends to catch our eye more so than entry-level vintage. My favourite is my complete collection of M.U.S.C.L.E wrestlers – Kinnikuman in Japan. Although I don’t have them all out on display. I had 20 figures when I was a kid and now, I have all 236 – cue evil laughter! The other highlight from my childhood is my Krumm from ‘Aaahh Real Monsters’ with authentic armpit hair.
Authentic armpit hair – sold! And Rob, your top picks?
RA: Tough one… Too many to choose from! So, either my bad – bad meaning good! – goofy-looking ET bootleg I bought from a street market in Paris, or my collection of vintage St. Ives Fiendish Feet yogurt pots.
How does having these kinds of toys around feed into your creative process?
RA: Often we buy toys because they do something cool or have a mech we’ve never seen before. We’re always on the hunt for obscure stuff or old-school cereal/fast food Happy Meal toys that just offer up something slightly bizarre. When we iGen, we’ll often pull stuff off the shelves to refer to – like a research library or a ‘live’ Pinterest board… Well, at least that’s how we excuse more toy purchases to our partners!
LH: Being surrounded by so many cool toys from the past inspires us to keep creating cool toys for the future. In this era of cost-cutting, the features are often stripped back or even costed out entirely during the design process, but we always try to ensure that we come up with something that’s fun to play with – as well as it sparking the imagination.
RA: The chase for innovation is fair enough but there are a lot of toys out there that just miss the good old fun mark! Toys are meant to put a big smile on kids’ faces, something we both learned back in our Hasbro days via the full-of-life Alan Hassenfeld.
I don’t think I’ve asked you this before, but do you find you work in different ways? Do you both have different approaches to fuelling your creativity or are you quite aligned on that front?
LH: We both have different pools of inspiration and interests really. I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi novels, play video games, write rock songs, and play guitar and drums.
RA: I still read a lot of comics – old and new. I love films and animation, thrifting for Eighties junk, crate diggin’ and DJing, plus the design side of fashion and streetwear culture.
LH: These interests come from the fact that we were both kids growing up in the golden era of pop culture, toys and music of the Eighties. Over the years we have settled into our roles as – for most of the time – a two-man tag team… Think Legion of Doom or Tango & Cash!
RA: After brainstorming together we have developed an efficient kind of sushi conveyor belt system where we assign tasks and crank the workload side-by-side. That’s another positive change in the new workspace as we were always back-to-back in the previous stopgap studio!
LH: We have morphed into a hybrid Triclops way of doing things from how we individually did things before we started to work together, but it seems to work and because we have different interests, we bring different references to the table.
Guys, it’s always a pleasure to catch up. A huge congrats on the new studio space and thanks again for the tour! Anything else to mention before we wrap up?
LH: Thanks Billy. Only that… If you have a project and no-one else can help and if you can find them, maybe you can hire Triclops! Although we guess finding us is not so much of a problem now! With the new space at our disposal, we’re happy to facilitate brainstorms too, just drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Thanks again guys.
To stay in the loop with the latest news, interviews and features from the world of toy and game design, sign up to our weekly newsletter here