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On My Mind: Vinyl virtuoso Carson Catlin

Custom toy designer Carson Catlin, who lives in Parkville. Catlin hold onto a toy he designed called "All Stitched Up" that he created for Doctors Without Borders.

“It’s toys. You can’t have a bad attitude when it comes to toys. They’re fun, you know?”

CARSON CATLIN, 36, PARKVILLE

Impresario of custom designer toys

A couple of years back, Carson Catlin — who is tall, clean-domed and the owner of a number of conspicuously placed tattoos — got serious about toys.

The Parkville resident began experimenting with designer vinyl in 2009, mostly on a whim, and has since turned the hobby into a successful side business. His pieces, a colorful collection of uniquely designed characters, have sold for as much as $500 and appeared at both the San Diego and New York Comic-Con events, as well as San Francisco’s 1AM Gallery.

When he’s not hunkered down in his basement workshop, Catlin works as a senior motion graphics designer at VML in Kansas City.

A collection of his work can be seen at his website, memakepretty.com.

Ink

On his first impression of custom designer vinyl: “I made fun of it. My friend Steve, who’s the one who kind of got me into it, had toys in his office. And he showed me this little piece by Michael Lau that was $70. And I was like, ‘That’s dumb.’ ”

On where he gets his ideas: “The patterns come from sketches I used to do when I worked at Best Buy, on my lunch break. I was trying to quit smoking, and I would sit down and draw these patterns on napkins.”

On the first piece he sold: “I put something up in my (online) store and two weeks later it sold for $300 and I was like, ‘Oh, crap.’ Because I didn’t see it coming. And then we paid a car payment with it.”

On the custom designer vinyl community: “It’s very loving. And it sounds weird saying that, but it’s a very kind community. I’ve only seen a couple people that aren’t somebody I’d hang out with.”

On inspiration: “I see stuff and I get inspired because of the quality, or what it looks like. But … I never want to (copy it). My stuff, I try to make it as different as I can from everybody else.”

On selling a piece: “I like when stuff sells, and it’s not a monetary issue. It’s just an issue of somebody wants to spend money on it. That’s kind of a nice feeling, you know?”

On doing this full time: “If I could do it full time, that would be great, but I really like my job. It’d be cool, but I worry about trends. It’s kind of hot right now, but who knows if it’s going to be hot in 10 years?”

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