It seems like a twisted joke, having to get out of work just to work, but that’s precisely what I found myself struggling for the night before Five Points Fest began. It’s a common reality for creatives across New York City, many of us stuck in day jobs as we work towards a career we really love. I was thrilled when my boss granted me a half day. It would enable me several hours at the festival’s opening to immerse myself in this showcase of the country’s best indie collectibles. In my conversations with the exhibitors, who had travelled from all around the country to make the show, I found one common thread: fierce passion, the kind that makes you want to skip work just to work more.
Five Points Fest (FPF) is hosted by Clutter Magazine. In a welcome letter at the beginning of the festival brochure, founders Miranda O’Brien (Clutter Owner/Editor-In-Chief) and Josh Kimberg (Clutter Managing Editor) write their intention to “[bring] together tastemakers, misfits, and rebels into a one-of-a-kind marketplace” in an effort to “be the best designer toy experience we could as the antidote to the average con.”
For its third edition, the festival took place at the Brooklyn Expo Center. This space balances numerous positive characteristics, including modern bathrooms, a warehouse-y feel on the expo floor, several separated indoor sections and a spacious outdoor courtyard. FPF took advantage of this unique space by separating their vendors into distinct areas focused on specific genres. The general exhibition area was accompanied by an “artist alley” indoors, and a dedicated “pin yard” outside amongst the beer garden and food trucks. Attendees relaxing outside with beers and bites also had the opportunity to enjoy incredibly well-curated live painting events featuring New York favorites like JCorp, Grace Lang, K-Nor, and L’Amour Supreme.
I, admittedly, possessed only a limited knowledge of the indie toy community going into this event.
I, admittedly, possessed only a limited knowledge of the indie toy community going into this event. However, I used to baby my stuffed animals with overwhelming motherly love when I was younger, and nearly teared up when I purchased by first plush from the Line Friends collection at the beginning of this summer. With these experiences in mind, I knew it would be a fast friendship for me and the world of collectible art goodies.
Perusing the main exhibitor area, I was pleased to bump into two of my New York art scene compatriots, Meg Spectre and the Sucklord. Together, they shared a booth exhibiting their splashy tongue-in-cheek wares. It’d been awhile since I’d last seen Spectre in the city, and I asked her how it felt to be back. “I am pleased as punch,” she bubbled, noting that she’s been busy with school before adding, “this is my first time being out of the house in a hot second.” I asked if she’d ever shown at a convention before. “Ive tagged along with the Sucklord and sold a sticker here and there but this is my first time that I’ve got multiple different products going on,” she replied.
As a first time exhibitor at Five Points, I wondered if she’d had any surprising experiences. “Yeah,” she smiled, lighting up. “so like five minutes in, the keyboardist from Blondie just comes up to us and introduces himself as ‘the keyboardist from Blondie.’ I was just sort of slack-jawed and that made me feel pretty high brow.” Regarding her goals for the weekend, Spectre said, “I’m looking forward to seeing all of my New York friends. Also, it’s a chance for me to look cool and practice being professional, which is important to me.”
A true toy legend, I made sure to touch base with the Super Sucklord himself as well. He’s a veteran of the show, having shown all three years of its existence. When I asked him why he keeps coming back, he told me very matter-of-factly, “it’s an opportunity to make money and meet people and have fun and get smoke blown up my ass.” He says the show has a somewhat distinct energy due to its location, explaining, “it’s got a New York energy, it’s a little more frenetic… it’s a curated show, so they pick who gets to be here so it’s a little bit more focused.” Because the organizers are more selective in choosing attendees, he says the overall quality benefits. Despite his infamy, the Sucklord is a simple man. When prompted, he plainly told me his goals for the festival were to “make some money [and] get my dick sucked.” When I asked him which of his products would hurt the most to lose to a sale, he quickly replied, “it hurts to not sell.”
In addition to celebrating established talent, FPF also serves as an incubator for up-and-coming artists to get their feet wet in the scene.
In addition to celebrating established talent, FPF also serves as an incubator for up-and-coming artists to get their feet wet in the scene. Such was the case for newcomer Kelly Killagain of South Jersey. She and I chatted at length over her charming “ugly cat” mini-sculptures and fine art prints.
The artist has been making “fine art for a very long time” and “collectibles for the past six years or so.” She expanded her repertoire out of necessity, explaining, “I used to do a lot of ceramic art and then once I left school I didn’t have access to a kiln … I love the idea of collectibles because to me they’re like three dimensional prints. I make a lot of fine art prints so I was like ‘why can’t you do that with sculptures?’ I just make what makes me happy and hope other people like it.”
Killagain had never shown at FPF before, though she said, “it was always on my radar, I’ve always admired the artists that come here but I actually did but I actually did Rhode Island Comic Con and there was another vendor there who suggested Five Points. It never occurred to me to apply because I never really felt like… I always felt like the artists here were so good and I never computed that I was on the same level as them, so I was super excited to get accepted.” When asked about her goals, Killagain said, “I just wanted to meet the people I admire. It’s given me a lot of inspiration and motivation.”
Community proved the overarching goal and talking point throughout my conversations. Every artist I spoke with, Katie Mansfield of Tragic Girls, from Salt Lake City, raved that there were “so many awesome artists here,” and told me she hoped to “to get [her] name out there.” Diehm777 of Columbus, Ohio explained to me the origins of his Bearrito figures and told me he hoped to do “as much networking as possible, be more interactive with clients, and hopefully have a nice sales day.” Nicky Davis came to show at FPF from Houston, Texas and called the event, “good vibes and good fun.” Spicy Donut, from Austin, made his first showing at the event after multiple invites from the founders, who he used to work with. “I’m really excited to be here,” he grinned. In every interaction, the artists expressed their affection for the community fostered amongst the artists creating collectibles.
I was predominantly acquainted with Chris’s street art work, and wondered about the subtleties of working in different mediums.
I caught Chris, of Robots Will Kill, on my way out the door, heading to work. He’s a veteran of the show who told me, “I’ve done it every year so far.” When I asked why he keeps coming back, he replied, “I think it’s a great collection of artists and collectors. It’s a great underground scene that’s getting attention finally.” I was predominantly acquainted with Chris’s street art work, and wondered about the subtleties of working in different mediums. “For the most part,” he said, “when I do street art work it’s a little bit more on the idea of the iconic, quick reference of knowing who it is. Where the fine art, 3D stuff is a little bit more intricate, more layering, getting the person to kind of get into the work more, draw them in and see the different things going on.” The street art came first, he grew up painting and began doing graffiti at eleven years old. Chris noted, “it’s weird how the graffiti and street art culture and the toy and collectible culture kind of mix really well together. A lot of the artists walk that line.” A well-known figure within the scene himself, even Chris told me his goals were simple, to “see a lot of old friends” and “meet a lot of new people.”
Beyond the show they put on for attendees, the team at FPF have curated an exceptional gathering of artisans from all locales. This gives back to both the enthusiasts and the artists themselves. I enjoyed an extended chat with two artists, Boobun and Mango Island, both from Massachusetts, and both sharing a booth in the Pin Alley. Boobun made an off-hand remark, mentioning how much better FPF was than the furry conventions she was accustomed to showing her work at. My interest was, of course, piqued. We discussed trends in the furry community, and I learned that foxes, once a venerated staple of participants, were losing ground to the increasing popularity of hyenas. The conversation’s natural progression led us to a discussion on which cartoon character we’d most like to fuck. Mango Island told me about her affinity for Knuckles from Sonic the Hedgehog. I still harbor a conflicted, deep lust for Shadow. Here, this relative stranger and I found commonality through the unattainable loves we dreamed of, both from the same video game. If that isn’t community, I don’t know what is. It hardly felt like work.