• In conjunction with the current exhibition Patterns Bigger Than Any of Us: Jesse Fleming / Pat O'Neill in Ben Maltz Gallery, May 7 - August 12, 2017.

    In Conversation: Jesse Fleming and Pat O'Neill, moderated by LA-based idependent curator and historian Ciara Moloney


    Jesse Fleming (b. 1977) is part of an emerging group of artists and technologists that examine the convergence of media art and mindfulness. Recent solo exhibitions were held at Five Car Garage; 356 Mission; and Night Gallery, all in Los Angeles, CA; and the University of Texas in Austin, TX.

    Pat O’Neill’s (b. 1939) artistic and filmmaking career spans over 50 years, and he is highly-regarded for his experiments with film and optical printing. Recent solo exhibitions were held at Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, CA; Monitor in Rome, Italy; VeneKlasen/Werner in Berlin, Germany; Quinta do Quetzal in Vidigueira, Portugal; Mitchell-Innes & Nash in New York, NY; and Cherry and Martin in Los Angeles, CA.

    Ciara Moloney is an independent curator, editor, and writer based in Los Angeles. She was formerly Curator of Exhibitions and Projects at Modern Art Oxford where she curated exhibitions by Barbara Kruger, Josh Kline, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Christian Boltanski and Kiki Kogelnik.

  • Amelia Gray is the author of the short story collections AM/PM, Museum of the Weird, and Gutshot, as well as the novels Threats and, most recently, Isadora, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Her fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Tin House, and VICE. She is winner of the New York Public Library Young Lions Award, of FC2's Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize, and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. 

  • Luis J. Rodriguez was Los Angeles Poet Laureate from 2014-2016. The twenty-fifth edition of his first book, Poems Across the Pavement, won a 2015 Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement. He has written fourteen other books of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and nonfiction, including the best-selling memoir Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A. Rodriguez is also founding editor of Tia Chucha Press and co-founder of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore in the San Fernando Valley. In 2016 Tia Chucha Press produced the largest anthology of L.A.-area poets, Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes & Shifts of Los Angeles. Rodriguez’s last memoir It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing was a finalist for the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award. His latest poetry collection Borrowed Bones appeared in 2016 from Curbstone Books/Northwestern University Press.

  • Raised in Philadelphia, with roots in South Africa and Trinidad, Zinzi Clemmons’ writing has appeared in Zoetrope: All-Story, Transition, The Paris Review Daily, and elsewhere. She has received fellowships and support from the MacDowell Colony, Bread Loaf, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and the Kimbilio Center for African American Fiction. She is co-founder and former Publisher of Apogee Journal, and a Contributing Editor to LitHub. She teaches literature and creative writing at the Colburn Conservatory and Occidental College. Her debut novel, What We Lose, as well as a second title, are forthcoming from Viking.

  • Louise Sandhaus is a graphic designer and graphic design educator. She was previously Director of the Graphic Design Program at CalArts where she currently is faculty. Her recent book on California graphic design, Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires and Riots: California and Graphic Design 1936-1986, co-published by Metropolis Books and Thames & Hudson, has received laudatory reviews from The New York Times, The Guardian, Eye, and Creative Review. The book received the Palm d’Argent for best art book at FILAF (International Festival of Art Books and Films on Art).

  • Photo Credit: Jesse Pniak


    F. Douglas Brown received the 2013 Cave Canem Poetry Prize (selected by Tracy K. Smith) for Zero to Three, published by the University of Georgia. He also co-authored the chapbook Begotten with Geffrey Davis as part of Upper Rubber Boot Book's Floodgate Poetry Series. Both a past Cave Canem and Kundiman Fellow, his poems have appeared in the Academy of American Poets, The Virginia Quarterly, Bat City Review, The Chicago Quarterly Review, The Southern Humanities Review, The Sugar House Review, Cura Magazine, and Muzzle Magazine. He is co-founder and curator of un::fade::able - The Requiem for Sandra Bland, a quarterly reading series examining restorative justice through poetry as a means to address racism. Brown currently teaches English at Loyola High School in Los Angeles.

  • Emily Raboteau’s nonfiction work Searching for Zion was named a best book of 2013 by the Huffington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle, and was a finalist for the Hurston Wright Legacy Award, grand prize winner of the New York Book Festival, and a winner of a 2014 American Book Award. She is the author of a novel, The Professor’s Daughter, and her fiction and essays have been published and anthologized in Best American Short Stories, the New York Times, The New Yorker, Tin House, Buzzfeed, LitHub, The Guardian, Guernica, Virginia Quarterly, The Believer, and Salon. Other honors include a Pushcart Prize, the Chicago Tribune’s Nelson Algren Award, and fellowships from the NEA, the Lannan Foundation, and the MacDowell Colony. Raboteau teaches creative writing at City College in New York.


Toy Design Chair Deborah Ryan in Long Beach Press Telegram

Designers came to toys from varied careers

By Jordan England-Nelson
Actively seeking a career in toys is a relatively new phenomenon. Toy design schools didn’t exist a generation ago, which means most veterans of the toy industry got into the business by accident. Product and industrial design is a common background for toy designers, as is fashion, illustration and animation.
Here are the stories of six designers who never could have predicted they would be working in toys as adults:
Deborah Ryan was a New York fashion designer for Versace when she accepted a job at Mattel designing clothes for Barbie.
She thought she would stay just a few years but soon realized that designing for Barbie is not that different than designing for runway models. The body types are similar.
The main difference is that a single line of Barbie clothes might sell hundreds of thousands of units, which is much harder to pull off in the luxury fashion world.
Ryan said her roots as a designer began as a 7-year-old, making Barbie clothes with her aunts.
“That’s what got me into fashion design,” she said. “It kind of went full circle.”
Ryan now directs the toy design department at Otis College of Art and Design in Westchester, near Los Angeles International Airport.
Steed Sun used to be a structural design engineer at McDonnell Douglas.
He designed parts for the C-17 military cargo plane, parts took years to develop.
Now, Sun leads the Hot Wheels team at El Segundo-based Mattel, where he creates new toy lines every 12 to 18 months. He is currently developing a remote-controlled car that also flies.
He likes that he can use his design skills in a more creative, fashion-driven industry, where things are constantly changing.
“When you’re in the aerospace industry you can spend an entire career working on one airplane,” Sun said. “With my guys, we literally come up with new concepts every year ... it’s extremely satisfying.”
Dan Garr built a bus-size Titanic, broke it in half and sunk it in front of James Cameron’s camera.
This was before computer animation dominated the film industry, and there was still demand for complex physical sets and props.
Garr saw that CGI, or computer-generated imagery, was going to put him out of business, so he moved over to the toy industry, where he applied his skills with animatronics on a smaller scale.
He started the toy fabrication studio Hot Buttered Elves in a warehouse near Los Angeles International Airport, where he invents consumer products and moving toy parts that large toy companies buy and incorporate into full-fledged toys.
“It was a nice transition to take those big mechanisms and then bring them down into smaller mechanisms into the toy world,” he said. “It’s a condensed version of special effects.”
Dan Brodzick, a Simi Valley resident, studied illustration in college but graduated in the late 1990s, when traditional animation was quickly disappearing.
He moved to Los Angeles and got a job painting movie props for the “Star Wars” and “Alien” films.
Now he paints toy action figure prototypes.
A company will send him a 3-D image of the toy that Brodzick prints out on his 3-D printer. He usually prints and paints two copies. One is shipped overseas to serve as the factory model. The other stays in the United States to be shown at toy fairs and photographed for marketing purposes.
Brodzick, who does prototyping for lots of different kinds of toys, is still partial toward film-related projects.
“Let’s just say I’d rather paint something from ‘Pirates of The Caribbean’ than something from Hello Kitty,” he said.
While studying graphic design at the University of Cincinnati, Zachary Opaskar developed a paper hand puppet that could be folded out of a single sheet of card stock.
Nearly a decade later, the La Crescenta resident is trying to turn his kid-friendly idea into a full-time business.
He raised $14,000 on Kickstarter to produce 8,000 dinosaur puppets he calls Snappets — because they make a snapping sound when you open and close their mouths.
Opaskar said he’s already sold 30 percent of his build-it-yourself toy, with sales growing “exponentially.”
Most of his customers are children’s museums, gift shops and bookstores, but Opaskar would like to expand into “a lot of verticals,” including puppets for therapists and promotional swag for Hollywood movies and sports teams.
“There’s so much potential with this thing,” said Opaskar, whose primary income comes from managing the apartment complex where he lives. “It’s a labor of love.”
Maggie Bermudez started making porcelain dolls when she was 15 years old, but she never thought she would have a career in toys.
She studied fashion at the International Fine Arts Academy in Miami before landing a job as a designer with the fashion line Bisou Bisou in New York.
“When you’re a fashion designer, you’re a bit snobbish. You don’t want to design for doll,” she said.
It wasn’t until she became the first in-house fashion designer for Bratz, a wildly popular doll series featuring hip-and-edgy teenagers, that she realized the two worlds are quite similar.
“As designers, we never consider the dolls as dolls. We think of them as human,” she said.
Over the past decade, Bermudez has bounced back and forth between jobs in toys and human fashion. She is now the director of girls design at Jada Toys in the City of Industry.
She loves both worlds, but if she were forced to choose, it would have to be dolls.
“Both industries bring a lot of pleasure to people,” she said. “But it’s more magical to bring pleasure to children.”
Otis College Ranked 6th in Nation by The Economist