Posted November 14, 2017 by Brent Are in Collectibles

FlipGeeks Customizer Spotlight: Jan Calleja


FLIPGEEKS as we know, caters to Filipinos by being a source of news and updates on the geek genre. We do not only want to provide news for the local community, but feature news, updates, and people from the local community as well. Here at FlipGeeks Customizer Spotlightwe feature some of the best and the rising Filipino toys and collectibles customizers. We feature these artists not only to exhibit their works, but also to get to know them beyond their masterpieces. We also aim to inspire readers to try and get into customizing!

Our last Customizer Spotlight featured Zard Apuya, a Filipino based in Guam, who customizes toys by merging food and Kidrobot munnies. In this article, we feature Jan Calleja, a toy customizer who merges vinyl do-it-yourself toys and cars, vehicles, ships, and machines. Here’s our interview with him!

FLIPGEEKS: So tell us something about you!

JAN CALLEJA: I’m Jan Calleja, a graphic designer / art director by training and art-toy maker by practice (for 10 years now). Born and currently in he Philippines. My work usually meld machines with vinyl DIY toys or machine inspired scratchbuilt sculptures…that look like toys.

FG: What influenced you into customizing toys?

JC: It was by accident that I got into toy customizing / making. It was supposedly a one-off “Munny” job…and I didn’t even know what a Munny was back then. But after that one, came another, and another until I thought of it as just another canvas, or a blank illustrator or Photoshop screen where you can create things with. Why machines? I started drawing at a very early age while my dad watches “combat” on our black and white TV. Planes, tanks, guns caught my fancy and never stopped liking them for their looks, not necessarily for their function (peace, man!) And also robots and spaceships.


FG: The blending of car elements and the Dunny’s silhouette make your works very, very unique. Can you tell us something about your style? 

JC: The cars and the dunnys and munnys also was an accident. Around about the time I was starting with customizing vinyl toys, I was with Ogilvy Redworks, and my boss, who is an F1 aficionado tells me stories of the sports everyday until I got interested in the cars…not the sports, but by the look of the cars. I thought maybe I can tell those stories by designing the Munny around the look and feel of certain F1 cars…like the most inspiring cars and teams in the 60’s, or who won this and that year.

But my work is not all about cars. It just happens that most of my collectors are cars enthusiasts. I also pay homage to those wonderful flying machines and their place in history. Not only that, I also try to insert some social commentaries in some of them, like my VW Kombi design mixed with the ATAT from Star Wars. I tried to link them with their history..the ATAT, with the Empire, and VW with the Nazis in WW2.

FG: How long  does a custom figure take to finish? What part of customizing do you love doing the most?

JC: The easiest would be a week’s time, and some of my hardest takes months. Even years. I have one right now and it’s proving to be very difficult to finish. What part do I Iove doing? Everything! As long as everything is going right ha ha ha. But if nothing is going right, and it happens, I hate everything. :)


FG: If you were to rank all your works, what are your top 3?

JC: I cant really say which ones are my favorite because I love them all. Maybe if I were to pick some projects that stand out, it’s those that made me innovate with materials, manner of working and those that I finished which I though would never end up well. It’s not about how they look but how it was done that’s important to me. And I can’t pick one right now ha ha ha. Too many of them?

FG: What do you think is the best thing about customizing toys, figures, and collectibles?

JC: As with any creative endeavor, it’s the blank canvas that excites me most. Either you’re just going to make a simple bear that just says, “I’m cute” (my take on Paul Budnitz), or make a bear that eats his companion boy and make layers of stories with it. I try to make my work as interesting as possible with stories that are told via this “toy” platform with juxtapositions and appropriations…and not just look “like another toy” out there.


FG: Lastly, what is your message to those aspiring customizers?

JC: Work.Very. Hard.



There you have it folks! If you want to see more of his amazing works, you can follow him on Flickr or on Instagram @jan_calleja. Cheers!




Brent Are

History buff. Funko Pop! and Dorbz collector and customizer.