Gary Su is a Chinese artist, designer, and animator. He co-designed the popular physical collectible toy Dimoo, the IP of which is now owned by Pop Mart and grossed $50M in sales in China last year. He is also a key figure in the rise in popularity of collectible toys in China in general, having launched the Sofubi Shanghai Festival dedicated to collectibles back in 2016.
In this interview, Gary opens up about launching the first collectibles-based Sofubi Shanghai Festival in all of China, the creative process of Dimoo, and his aspirations on joining the crypto space.
Hi Gary! Can you introduce yourself and explain a bit more about your journey of becoming an artist, designer, and animator for those unfamiliar? What type of art do you create?
Hello, I'm Gary. I am the co-founder of InfinityTag, a product design studio that uses collectible toys as a creative medium. Our studio created many popular figures including the Dimoos, which became POPMART’s best-seller in blindbox collectibles. At InfinityTag, I am mainly responsible for conceptual design and product development. Meanwhile, I run a small gallery (Art Why Gallery) in Shanghai, which is engaged in contemporary art and urban art, with a focus on painting.
As I am not only a creator but also a collector, I prefer to create art forms that I find are more fun and unique, rather than deliberately pleasing the market. My recent favorite artist is Yusuke Hanai, whose illustration style has a magical, powerful attraction.
Since you launched the first Sofubi Shanghai Festival in China, dedicated to collectibles back in 2016, how have the past few years changed for you?
Many people may not know what Sofubi is. In fact, it was from the Japanese pronunciation of “soft vinyl,” perhaps a more appropriate English term would be “art toy” or “designer toy.” We brought this form of creative and cultural expression to China for the first time through SSF (Shanghai Sofubi Festival) in 2016. It has been a successful event that brought together creators and collectors. For me personally, it was my first in-depth encounter with artistic creation.
The SSF went on hiatus due to Covid-19, and since that time I’ve dedicated all of my time to InfinityTag and Art Why Gallery. Throughout my own creative journey, I have been inspired by the work of many predecessors, such as Chris Ryniak, T9G, and Hiroto Ohkubo.
As the co-designer of Dimoo, where did the inspiration for this character originate from? How do you determine what type of collectible series to produce next (Aquarium, Zodiac, Fairytale, etc.)?
In the beginning, we created a main backstory for Dimoo and a core concept that everything would be built around - symbiosis. Dimoo's inspiration comes from our exploration of support and sacrifice in relationships of family, friendship, and love. For each collection, our team will brainstorm a list of themes that are interesting and meaningful, then decide on the conceptual keywords for each product within the design theme. Dimoos need to tug at the emotional heartstrings of our collectors, who might resonate with very different themes, and at the same time, we need to ensure continuity across all the Dimoo collections. Today, we lean on POPMART to understand our customers better via sales data, which introduces a whole new dimension to our creative output. It feels like a new process and experience to co-create with our audiences.
In 2017, you cofounded Mountain Studio and developed many collectibles and designs for major toy brands, including POPMART and Bilibili. Which design is your favorite and why does it resonate with you? Can you name a few brands that you’re excited about potentially collaborating with in the future
My favourites are NIKO and NONO, created for Dimoo World, which is based on a mouse and a ray (similar to a devilfish), but they can work together to become "flying squirrels." The physical product design is a perfect manifestation of this idea.
We are also working with a number of well-known brands, including international fast-food chains and smartphone brands. I can’t share any further details at this time, but it’s quite exciting!
What do you think will be the significance of turning your art into crypto? Are you interested in the crypto space? Where do you think we are heading technologically with art and with creating?
In the past, I have tried and successfully marketed my artistic expression in 2D graphic design, illustration, and 3D physical product design. I am trying to learn and understand the limits of artwork that can be reached in the crypto space. In essence, this new medium represents a new challenge for me, and I am relishing the opportunity to explore its creative limits.
I'm very intrigued by the crypto space. Not only because the technology behind it is fascinating, but all the human interaction with the technology throughout the creation process is extremely interesting. I think it’s an exciting experiment for me.
We’re shifting away from the old model of sharing our art for free in exchange for visibility, and moving towards these new models of funding with NFTs. Our paths are changing, and I’m wondering, does that change the way you think about art?
I think it does have a certain impact on traditional art forms, but not a particularly obvious one as of now. It's more like a compliment, or a completely new space that offers more possibilities for more artistic creators.
Lastly, what are your other hobbies beyond art? Please share a bit more information about yourself.
I enjoy watching movies, going to exhibitions and taking my kid to Disneyland. Lately, I have become a bit addicted to collecting those old 3.75 inch American toys, such as vintage Star War figures.