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The Amos Miniture Plastic Workshop

Russell Waterman and James Jarvis launch their retrospective expo and figurine workshop at east London's KK Outlet

James Jarvis and Russell Waterman bring you the best part of ten years work in their exhibition showcasing their weird and wonderful mix of vinyl and plastic friends at Hoxton’s KK Outlet. Since starting in 2002, Amos has been the fun idea factory of founders James Jarvis, Sofia Prantera and Russell Waterman. Branching out from the world of fashion under the umbrella of their London-based Silas fashion brand, with its style embedded in laid back street wear and skater graphics, the Amos name houses the collective's ever-expanding portfolio of unique figurines.

Never one to rest on their laurels, the company also publish their own works such as Vortigern’s Machine – Jarvis and Waterman’s children series of books - following the adventures of two young friends discovering their fruitful urban environment in a comic book layout showcasing the Amos characters and creative signature of the brand. A selection of Jarvis’s most iconic designs, including inspirational works, are on display as well as an exclusive chance to have your snapshot with Caleb, the life-size character created in 2005 which has went on to become one of Amos’s most celebrated figures. Dazed Digital caught up with Russell Waterman to discuss the exhibit...

Dazed Digital: How did you guys meet?
Russell Waterman:
We first met when I was working at the legendary London based skateboard store, Slam City Skates back in the Dark Ages. James Jarvis used to come into the store to shop and one day he showed owner Paul Sunman his work. He was soon commissioned to do some adds for the store. Then, when we started Holmes, Slam’s in-house clothing brand, JJ worked on our catalogues and some tee designs.

He actually started to design his first toy for this brand but then Sofia (Holmes, designer) and I moved on and started our own brand, Silas. Thankfully JJ followed and continued to work with us. We adapted the toy design and this became Martin, the very first Silas product. This was in 1998. We were one of the first fashion brands to use toys as part of our marketing. Martin was amazingly well received.

DD: Can you tell me how Amos started?
Russell Waterman:
It quickly became clear to us that JJ’s work appealed to a wider audience than we could reach with Silas, without compromising the brand. So together we started Amos, a new company to give this side of our work a chance to breathe and expand. Amos has developed over time and become far more than a toy company. We have also published books and zines, and made several license deals to produce printed apparel, soft furnishings, luggage and other accessories.

We’ve also worked on numerous other collaborations with a variety of companies. A recent example was with All Tomorrow’s Parties, the music festival promoter/record label. They asked us to curate the December 2010 Inbetween Days Festival at Minehead Butlins. We chose the bands, films, daytime events and programmed the inhouse TV channel over the course of the 4 days.

DD: How do you produce the characters – is there a clear concept for each design or is it mainly improvisation?
Russell Waterman:
There are two sides to this. James has his own approach for the physical and visual design. There is a clear concept for each character that is often (although not always) developed before James puts pen to paper. The In-Crowd is a good example. This is one of the most straightforward concepts. We took popular cultural icons and put them through our Amos filter to produce sets of figures joined by loose themes. So for “Punk Is Not Dead” we went through a bunch of Punk archetypes that we could use as our inspiration.

These included well known icons such as The Sex Pistols, The Damned, Buzzcocks, Devo, The Ramones, and then some that were a little less known, like The Exploited, Blitz, The Varukers and others. Then James took over and produced a bunch of different sketches, amalgamating some of these iconic looks, which we eventually whittled down to produce a set of six figures. YOD and Vortigern’s Machine had a completely different process with a more involved conceptual background. We rarely, if ever, produce improvised character designs for Amos.

DD: What do you enjoy most about what your work?
Russell Waterman:
Our lunchtime meetings, developing new ideas over huge plates of charcoal grilled meat.

DD: How did you select the pieces for the exhibit?
Russell Waterman:
We chose to pick figures from a selection of themes/concepts that have depth, either in the sheer body of work involved, or the theory behind the products. In-Crowd looks impressive as there are over 50 different figures; Vortigern’s Machine is a whole world designed for children which began life as a comic book and is currently in development to be made into a TV series; and YOD is our high concept contribution to the dubious world of “Art Toys”.  I would say that these themes are a combination of James and my favourites. We also picked Caleb as he is our most recent project and we haven’t quite finished with him yet.

DD: What’s your favourite toy from the collection at KK and why?
Russell Waterman:
My favourite is YOD. I love the simplicity of JJ’s design and the ridiculousness of the concept behind the figure and the context in which it exists.

DD: What new projects are you working on at the moment?
Russell Waterman:
We are about to start developing a TV series based on Vortigern’s Machine. We had always intended for this to become an animated project and we had serious interest both here in the UK and in the US. But we totally underestimated how hard it would be to find partners who would cut us a fair deal! It has taken us almost 5 years to get something signed that we are happy with. So now the real work begins. We are also working on creating a kids range of products using new characters and old. And 2010 marks our 10th year as a company so we are making plans for some special projects to celebrate, including a major redesign and re-issue of one of the most popular Amos characters we have so far created. But that’s for another day.

The Amos Miniture Plastic Workshop runs from may 6 – 31 at KK Outlet, Hoxton Square. James Jarvis and Russell Waterman will be producing in-house work between may 21 and 28, 2011