Posted September 19, 2017 by Brent Are in Collectibles

FlipGeeks Customizer Spotlight: Zard Apuya

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!

Last month, we featured JPOPS, who customizes Funko Pops customized to look like statues. This month, we feature Zard Apuya (also known as @zardapuya on Instagram) who customizes toys by merging food and Kidrobot munnies. Here’s our interview with the man himself!

FLIPGEEKS: Can you tell us something about @zardapuya? 
ZARD APUYA: My name is Zard Apuya (and yes, that’s my real name) and I was born-and-raised on the island of Guam. I moved to San Francisco, California 4 years ago for grad school and then moved down here to San Diego last year. Although customizing toys is my side gig, my day job is Account Management at a tech company. I’ve been customizing toys for about 7 years now.

FG: When and how did you start customizing? Also, w
hat got you into customizing?
ZA: I’ve always had a passion for art all my life. From high school to college (I was a Fine Arts minor), I did a lot more painting but more in the traditional watercolor landscape area. I started customizing toys after I had graduated from college. I was working a typical 9-5 job and had more free time after hours and during the weekend to explore outside my comfort zone of traditional painting on paper and canvases. I started to customize shoes, bags, hats, t-shirts, etc, whatever I felt like painting on.  Eventually I got my hands on my first toys. They were Kidrobot 4″ blank munnies, which is definitely a good intro into the world of customizing toys. I didn’t actually customize it until a few months later though because it did seem a bit intimidating as I’ve never done any 3D art before. My first customs I ever created were a very simple designs: a pair of paint-splattered munnies that look like they go into a paint war.  My friends liked what I was doing as they didn’t really know anyone else on Guam customizing toys. Eventually I started getting some inquiries about commissioned pieces and that’s where it started to pick up.
FG: What is/are your inspiration/s in customizing?
ZA: When I first started, I was doing a lot more designs based on pop culture: super heroes, cartoon/TV/movie characters. It was easier because a munny already had a human shape so I felt that it was much easier to paint it into an actual character. Getting into the toy customization scene, I always explored other artists out there, especially those who were well-established, and saw what styles they were designing in. What I noticed was that almost everyone had a signature style in their designs–painting, sculpting, shapes, color schemes, etc. Like if you saw a custom, you would be able to recognize and associate it to a specific artist. For me, I never really developed my own distinguishable style in any way and that worried me about how I’d be able to “brand” myself and my art. That led me to challenge myself even more when as I moved on from designing one figure to next. Maybe only 4 years ago did I start doing more food themed customs. I, myself, love to eat, practically anything and all the time. I also really enjoy cooking/baking. I would say it is my other hobby aside from art. (My dream job would actually be a pastry chef because it perfectly combines both food and art.) I thought to myself that if I enjoyed food, I know I would enjoy combing two things I love to do. So eventually, food ideas started popping up in my head. My first food custom was based on a popular Japanese snack I enjoyed eating: Hello Panda.
FG: Cool. So can you tell us where did you learn how to customize?
ZA: Like most ways to learn something new, the internet allowed me to do most of my research on how to customize. And on Guam, I didn’t know anyone who was customizing toys so I couldn’t ask someone to show me how to do it. I didn’t find much videos online either but I found some forums on tips and tricks, then also browsing around photos of customs other artists have made. But the best way for me was just through getting right into it and experimenting with different techniques and materials. It was a lot of trial and error. Eventually I starting sticking to techniques and materials that were working for me. Up to this day I still continue to experiment because I know it will help me improve my designs.FG: Your food-inspired customs are really outstanding. Can you tell us more about your style?

- Like I previously mentioned, since I never really discovered my signature style of painting or sculpting, I think I ended up being the food toy artist. When I do my food-inspired customs, my goal is to achieve realism. I always aim to make it look as real as possible–practically good enough to eat.FG: How long does it take you to finish a custom figure?

ZA: When I first started, maybe it would taking me a whole week to complete a figure, mainly because I work on each little by little as I would juggle multiple projects at the same time. I also use spray paint for my customs so I need to make sure it fully cures (usually overnight) before I move to the next step. Nowadays, I’m a lot quicker because I have nailed down my techniques and am a lot more comfortable at it but it also depends on the design. Maybe it might take me about 2-3 days, putting about an hour of work or less per day.

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

ZA: First is Spicy Ramen- I’ve done a few ramen customs but my favorite would have to be my latest one with the floating chopsticks. I needed to change it up from my old ones that’s why I wanted to execute it to make it look like it’s in motion. Second is Lechon – I made it as a tribute to being Filipino. I really liked that piece because I not only wanted to make it look like a roasted pig but I wanted to make the skin (the best part of lechon) look as crispy as possible. Third is Balut – I guess another Filipino-food inspired dish made my top 3 after looking back at my previous customs. It’s one of my favorites because after I finished it, I actually surprised myself at how it turned out. I even added some real feathers to it to sell the realism. Plus the best part was the reactions I got from others.
FG: Who is your favorite character of all time, and why? 
ZA: If referring to my favorite tv/cartoon/movie/etc character: This is a tough one because I don’t really have a specific character in mind that I would say is my all time favorite. I mean if based on what I like to watch, I love watching Bob’s Burger because the all the characters are pretty hilarious in their own way. That’s actually the show that I have running in the background whenever I’m painting.
FG: Since your works are related to food, what can you consider as your favorite food?
ZA: I LOVE SUSHI! I especially love going to those revolving sushi bars where you can just eat as much as you want and then they charge you based on the number of plates. I get carried away whenever I eat there and end up with a tall stack of plates.FG: What do you think is the best thing about customizing toys, figures, and collectibles?

ZA: The best thing about customizing toys is being able to look at the world in a new way because you get inspired by everything around you. Since I started customizing, I look at things, mainly food, and imagine how I would design a toy based on it. Although I don’t carry an actual notebook to record notes whenever a new idea pops up in my head, I do note it down in my phone’s Notes app to look back at later when I want to take on a new personal project.
FG: Outside customizing, what else do you do?
- Outside of customizing, I really enjoy cooking/baking. (Refer to #4) Although my dream is to be able to travel the world. I’ve always wanted to try authentic cuisines from different countries…and then make a custom inspired by it. :)
FG: What is your message to those aspiring customizers?
- I would say that, just like any other hobby, “practice makes progress, not perfect.” You always have room to improve and grow. Trial and error is part of the learning process because you may discover new techniques on your own. Then you can pass on what you learned to others aspiring customizers and share your own tips that worked for you. And never be afraid to ask some pointers from other artists either. :)
Here are some more of @zardapuya ‘s works. Check them out:
Cagsawa Ruins, Legazpi Chocolate Cake Green Tea KittyKat Kwek Kwek Pocky Totoro 2
If you want to see more of his amazing works, you can follow him on his website, on Facebook, or on Instagram @zardapuya. Cheers!

Brent Are

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