Action figure customizer Sillof has made everything from steampunk versions of Ironman to Star Wars characters circa World War II. We've featured his sets several times on this site, but what we've covered are only bits and pieces of an amazing body of work. The master model maker himself gives us the goods on why, and how, he does what he does after the jump.
Gizmodo:How did you come up with the name Sillof?
Sillof:I am a high school history teacher and Sillof was a fake name a few students and I came up with years ago. I used it as a running gag for giving generic examples; such as in the ancient kingdom Sillof, the loyal Sillofites, the might god Sillof, etc. When I began to look for an online alias I chose it.
I primarily use it to keep my personal and professional lives separated.
Gizmodo:When did you start customizing figures?
Sillof: Well, I did it a little when I was a kid, by cutting off Luke's hand or 3PO's arm, or putting Luke's head on the x-wing pilot's body. I later got more into it in the early 90's and then really started to make it a long term hobby. I met guys like Alex Newborn who inspired me and then the internet was just taking off and it really opened my imagination to the possibilities.
Gizmodo:What made you decide to take on this hobby?
Sillof: Initially I just wanted figures that they never made. The driving force was I had always loved The Cantina scene and Jabba's Palace scene in the Star Wars films and I wanted to recreate those scenes. I had built these miniature sets called dioramas, which are on my site, and wanted to fill them with all the movie aliens.
Gizmodo:Where do you get your ideas for themes and figures?
Sillof: Initially I just made the figures that I wanted but had not been made. I eventually got tired of just recreating existing designs and wanted to do something more creative. I am currently planning a line that is all original designs of my own original characters right now.
As for my process I just visualize a general idea in my head. I am always going for a figure that is very unique, yet recognizable as the intended character. Then I concentrate on the key elements that make the character recognizable - these are the elements I will try to represent in the new figure. I do a few sketches, one just straight ideas, and others that are a little more practical with regard to parts I could find and things I could make.
I then go about collecting pieces to use as parts and begin to combine them all. There is a fair amount of sanding, and dremeling, and cutting. Then use the parts like a skeleton sculpting my own designs using apoxie sculpting compound and then gluing any number of odds and ends to the figure. Then I paint the figure and give it a wash of diluted dark paint to antique it.
Gizmodo: Where do you source your materials - do you buy action figures as is or get them second hand?
Sillof: I have a large collection of toy "parts" and other miscellaneous found items that are not toy related. I buy some figures new and cut them up, I buy figures on eBay in large lots of played with toys, and there are some toy dealers in my area that pull things aside for me as they buy them.
Gizmodo:Has any company ever contacted you to work for them, doing this full time?
Sillof:I was approached to build replica props for a major company, but the idea of machining metal for a living, which was my father's job, did not seem that appealing to me. I was also approached for my diorama building by a new company in England, but moving was not an option as my wife was 7 months pregnant at the time.
Gizmodo:Would you want to do this full time if you could?
Sillof:I would love to try to make figures for a toy company full time. My dream job would be designing original props, costumes, or sets for movies. I do this on the side as another hobby for local films. My career actually gives me a sabbatical where they hold my job for a year and would allow me to explore the career. So I am always open to the idea to attempt this on a full time basis.
Gizmodo:If there was one piece of advice for aspiring custom action figure hobbyists that you wish someone had told you when you first started out, what would it be?
For a new customizer, I would just tell them to just keep making figures, practicing, and trying new techniques until they find what works for them, and never stop on a figure until you are 100% happy with it.
Personally, I would like go back and tell myself not to waste my time making figures of existing designs and just start doing my own original works.