It is my honor to have a interview with Mick Baltes the owner and producer of
"about my work,The Dunedin Blog". After seeing his works on his blog, I knew I have to have an interview with him in person to clear some questions in my head.
1. Hi Mick, You started blogging on 1st July 2008 but when exactly you begin to collect 12 inch toys?
Well, I collect action figures for almost 20 years now. It all began with 7 little
figures, I bought in a comic shop. They found a place on top of my TV set.Over the years they spawn up to a 1000 something. I started my collection with smaller scales like the old Kenner Star Wars toys, Playmates Star Trek, McFarlane Movie Maniacs, Neca Cult Classics... After three or four years I bought my first 12 Inch figure. And meanwhile I focus on that scale.
2. You are very good with your hands building houses and props like the DJ box. Where did you learn that from and how long have you been doing these custom props?
Thank you. For almost 15 years I was just a collector. I put the figures on a shelf and that was it. Then I saw some pictures of custom "Lord of the Rings" figures and diorama on a message board. That was the starting point! I built my first 1:12 diorama for the Toy Biz LotR figures.
Mick's very first Diorama "Fangorn"
Actually I learned it nowhere. I just use my imagination. If I need something for a set, that doesn’t exist in that scale, I look for a simple way to built it by myself.
Props example "Monitor Speaker"
Props example "F/X"
Props example "Palanquin"
3. You do these props alone or with help of others?
I do it alone, with one exception: I’m a bumbler when it comes to sewing. So, for my Rome project I hired two ladies from a fashion doll board to help me with the costumes.(Thanks to Inge and Nina)
4. I read from your blog that you have 120 head sculpts and with all those props and toys, where do you build those settings and where do you store all those stuff?
Space is always a problem. I have a toy room where I store the figures on a shelf and where I take most of my pictures. Most of the work I do in my kitchen. And I have a little way too small storeroom. So from time to time I have to recycle parts of my work.
The toy room
small props sorted by topics
some bigger material
5. Just wondering, do you have children figure for 1/6 scales?
A few. It’s not easy to find good kids figures. I’m not a fan of Barbie stuff, but recently I found a good looking young Harry Potter. You have the same problem, if you need for some reason an older lady.
6. Do you keep an itinerary of your props so you know exactly how many you have and what you have?
No, most of things I own, I have in my mind and in the majority of cases I know where to search the Bermuda triangle of my flat.
7. Have you considered to open a toy museum with your toy and props?
A place like that would be nice. But I would have to rent some rooms for it. Someone must be there, to take care and so on. The bottom line is, it would be too expensive to run a place like that. Presenting my work virtual on the net is a good alternative I think.
7. The composure in photography of your figures, background and lighting are very professional looking at your blog. What equipment do you use to take those shots and what are the studio setup like?
I use a little Canon Ixus 900 camera. For the light I use the normal ceiling light and some Ikea desk lamps. Sometimes I use some colour filter foil and for some effects a little fog machine.
toyroom with fog machine and Ikea lampt
the final setting
fog example "Zombie"
fog example "Platoon"
fog example "Riots"
7.1 Have you consider doing your toy on outdoor shots?
I prefer indoor shooting, where I can control all aspects, but in the Rome story will be an outdoor scene. That will be my first one.
8. I read your Toy comic "Tom's adventures in Toy toy land". How long does it take you to put something like that together?
Tom Tales cover
The Tom adventure was my first comic. This story is my result of the German AFD-Forum "Globetrotter" game. An action figure (Tom) was send from member to member. Every member takes some pictures with Tom and his collection or Tom in his hometown and so on. I did this little comic strip and it was a lot of fun, so I decided to do more. On the Tom comic I worked for three weeks. I put a weekly update with 5 pages on the net
9. It's exciting to look forward for your Rome toy comic Memento Mori in Feb 2010. After the Rome project, what other thing will be in your plan in 2010?
Subura set for Memento Mori
The Rome story will be an epic one. I never did something so big like that before. It will contain about 40 or 50 episodes with a weekly update separated in 4 seasons. After every season there will be a break for a month or two, to give me the time to work on something new, to go on holyday and so on. I think it will run until 2011.
This year I bought several female figures and did a lot of bashes with them. Next year I will launch for them a new category on my blog called “The Sunday Girls” As it says every Sunday some new girl pictures.
Then there is my comic project about a Rock band. (Working title: "The Triggerfish Chronicles") I started already to work on it in the beginning of the year, and did two "behind the scenes" comics on it. But then I had a lot of work to do in my job, so I took the decision to focus on the Rome project and put my other projects on hold.
When the Rome project is finished, I think I will do something very different, maybe some Science Fiction stuff.
10. That's really an Rome Epic. It sound like you already have the storyline done up. How much is completed so far capture on camera?
I wrote the story outline, but I’m still working on a more detailed version. I’m still busy with building some props and some backdrops. After Christmas I will start shooting the first scenes.
11. Sunday girl and Rock band look interesting. Any Preview?
For the Sunday Girls I haven’t done any images. We will see figures from movies, sometimes it will be just fashion, and there will be some crazy B-picture like material like “Samurai schoolgirls fighting zombies” as well.
For the Rock band comic I created ten characters. Then I wrote a little tool and did a casting on the internet so the audience took the decision, who will be in the band. There was also a comic, presenting the voting results:
Cover "Behind the Curtains2"
My favourite character was Olaf, a nice nerd (and toy collector) he didn’t make it into the band, but he’s a good friend of one of the guitar players. What means we have a good chance to meet him anyway.
Matthew's Music Store
12. Since you have Rome setting, have the Christ period crossed your mind to do something along that line?
In my Rome comic the persecution of Christians will be a small subtopic, but apart from that – no.
13 Will there be Lion dens then?
The persecution of Christians is mentioned in some dialog. And maybe there will be a little flashback into an arena, where we can meet a lion.
14. You have a head sculpts of yourself and that's really cool. How and what make you do that?
Mick on the Road 1/6 in Cambodia
Mick on the Road 1/1 on Magnetic Island
I think it’s a nice idea to have a mini-me as a host in my "work-in-progress" pictures and I like to do some little Hitchcock appearances in the stories as well.
Work in progress
The head sculpt was done by Chan Ada in Hong Kong.
Guideline pictures for the head sculpt
This Version was painted by Chan Ada
11.1 Will you be doing your toy stories on Video in the near future?
I like stop-motion movies. For example I’m really a fan of the Robot Chicken Star Wars specials on Adult Swim. Maybe I will do a shorty one day. But It’s a bloody hell of work.
12. If you have to pick one figure as your favorite from your entire toy collection, which one will it be and why?
Ooh, I can’t really answer that. There are so many fantastic figures. My favourite figure I bought in 2009 was the Subway Jack Torrance from Shinning. I was waiting for a good Jack for a long time.
Subway Jack Torrance from Shinning
Subway Jack Torrance from Shinning
My favourite custom figures are Alfred Hitchcock and Tom Waits, some of my personal heroes.
Alfred Hitchcock (Head sculpt by Chan Ada)
Tom Waits (Head sculpt by Chan Ada)
Igor - Young Frankenstein - Sideshow
Generations of Dracula
13. I know that you are from Germany but would you like to share something more about yourself such as Bio?
I was born in 1962. I studied political science and art. Today I work as a freelanced screen-designer and flash-developer. For some more information have a look here:
choose “about” in the navigation and then “CR (extended version)“ from the sub- navigation.
About my travels:
A big thank you to Mick for letting Open the toy for this interview.
If you have further questions which I failed to cover, you may leave a comment directed to him here or on his blog. Remember to check out his Epic Rome project in 2010. I know I would. :D