Interview with Nick Knite

I've wanted to do a TOYSREVIL-edition of a MechaBunny for quite a while now, actually and managed to cajole Nick Knite into an exclusive edition in February, specifically to celebrate the blog's 6th birthday, and I am extremely happy with it! The fact is, besides self-promo, I too am extremely interested to have TOYSREVIL-exclusive toys, bearing the brand / logo, and papertoys is one of the coolest way to share with folks worldwide, especially when they are downloadable for free! It might come across as "freeloading" off designers' skills (of that I do not deny how it may look) but I am loving the availability of papertoys and that they are able to transcend countries and across oceans. With that I get into the mind and nitty-gritty behind Nick Knite, and as well have a closer look into the realm of "papertoys".


TOYSREVIL: Who is Nick Knite? Please share with us what you do. How did you start down this path of scissors and glue.

NICK KNITE: I am a papertoy-artist from Germany. After collecting lots of Action-Figures and Designer-Toys, and spending a big amount of my money on Books and Magazines dealing with these, I wanted to create one of my own. But the lack of talent with 3D-programs and the sewing machine left me searching for my platform to bring the ideas I had to life. An article about creating your own (they called it) flatpack toy in the Computer Arts Magazine offered me the tools I was looking for. A short couple of trial and errors later I had finished my first papertoy-character, called SIZZA!


TOYSREVIL: I remember SIZZA! Why do you do what you do? What spurs you on?

NICK KNITE: The passion for shapes, to simplify those and get them onto a sheet of paper. I really enjoy the process of creating a character or shape I have in my head on the computer and see it come to life afterwards.

TOYSREVIL: What inspires you as an artist? Who / What / When are your heroes?

NICK KNITE: There are tons of inspirations all around. It’s really the graphic world that has me hooked; I am so amazed by the stuff people come up with. Everyday I find new things somewhere that just blow me away: new toys, customs, art, graffitis, street art, logos, sketches, tags and products.

Paperwise my heroes are Shin Tanaka, Marshall Alexander, [MCK], 3eyedbear and Matt Hawkins simply for the shapes they get out of single sheets of paper; and Sal Azad, ABZ and Tougui for what they make out of the templates and how they bring them to life with their custom designs.


TOYSREVIL: Why paper toys? Do you want to release vinyl toys of your own design? Do you ever want to see MechaBunny as a vinyl toy?

NICK KNITE: Paper is the perfect way to get your toy around the world without any shipping fee; you just need a computer, a printer, a knife or scissors and some glue. To get one of my designs made out of vinyl would be great and I really try to get that done one day.


NICK KNITE: MechaBunny has a nice shape that I think would be great on vinyl and it would make again for some amazing custom possibilities. But as for right now, I have made three really big MBuns out of Forex (a PVC-like hardfoam) and I am planning a Plexiglas and a wooden version - laser-engraved!!

mechabunny-03 mechabunny-04

TOYSREVIL: Ooohhh sounds sweet! Good luck for that! Do you collect toys yourself? What do you collect?

NICK KNITE: Yes, I do have a nice little collection of vinyl- and papertoys. I enjoy designing papertoys way more than actually building them (pretty common among the PT-designers..^^), so I am pretty picky with what I really actually build. Same goes for the vinyl toys, the ones I bought are the ones I just had to have and have to keep! The latest “get” there was the original Tequila by the amazing Muttpop. I found him at Toykio in Düsseldorf and didn’t think twice about buying him.


TOYSREVIL: Nice. I've always wanted a Tequila myself but never seem to find an opportunity to score one … You have designed a handful of papertoy creations this far utilized by a host of designers worldwide - Choose a single design form of your favorite, and tell us why you chose it.

NICK KNITE: That is hard to say, as each creation has its own story and place in my heart. But if I had to choose one, it has to be MechaBunny, simply for the response it was and is still getting.

Up until now I already have over 30 designs/customs of him and there are still coming in new versions, it is really amazing. Also because the process of creating MechaBunny was so much fun and almost effortless. It was and probably still is my most complex creation, but somehow I had no trouble at all getting him designed.


NICK KNITE: As for my favorite design of Mechabunny.. man, that is a tough one! Right now, I would choose the “El Loco” custom of Mechabunny by Sal Azad. His design is so perfect for the template, everything about it feels natural and as if the template was made for exactly this design.

He really did n amazing job on it, but there are many others I also really like and if you ask me again tomorrow I would maybe even choose another one.


TOYSREVIL: Share with us the proudest moment you have experienced, with your time in this hobby. Actually, how many years have you been practicing?

NICK KNITE: I have started within the papertoy-scene early in 2007, but just after I had finished SIZZA I found out that there actually IS a papertoy-community. There are a few moments that I really cherish, the first was getting my first design out there on the web, the next was getting asked by Matt Hawkins to be a part of his amazing book “Urban Paper” and to finally hold the book in hand!

The same goes again for Castleforte and his book “Papertoy Monsters”, also an undescribable feeling to see the finished product and my little creations in there.


TOYSREVIL: What do you think of the papertoy culture, versus the art toy vinyl culture?

NICK KNITE: I actually don’t really see it as a “versus”. Both can really coexist in my mind, there are certain limitations to both forms – vinyl is mostly limited and hard to get your hands on and paper never really comes already built, so it demands some (minor) skills. Vinyl toys on the other hand can be made in any shape and form, whereas paper can’t be.

Papertoys are mostly downloadable for free and are accessible from any computer in the free world. It would be cool to see some more shows displaying papertoys also, even though there is not that much money to be made with.

TOYSREVIL: Totally agree. The notion of a free downloadable paperboy is a double-edged sword, because folks will think twice about paying for something when they can download it for free (There was a huge discussion about it on NPT a while back too, as I remember). Having said that: "Papertoys is less about economical validity, versus the financial undertones of vinyl or resin art toys". Do you agree with that sentence?

NICK KNITE: No one should be blamed for trying to get something out of the things he comes up with/produces. I kind of agree with the sentence, but I wouldn’t paint it just black and white. Most of the papertoy-designers I know do what they do for fun or to push other things they do apart from the toys. And I think the fun mostly gets sucked out of the creative process once money is involved.


TOYSREVIL: I personally think the proliferation of collaborations between paper-toy designers / creators fuels the passion for designing and creating, but how viable is it as a survival aspect of the trade?

NICK KNITE: That is another reason why I love designing these toys: collaborating and meeting with and learning from other designers and artists. You are right, that this doesn’t put any butter on your toast, but it always pushes you another step forward, shows you new aspects and opens new doors. You have to be creative though to make some money with a thing most people know off and expect to be free of any charge.

I have seen package designs and collaborations with companies that use papertoys as a merchandise tool. So, some people must have already made some “paper” with paper. I also have some ideas that I still hope to turn into a dollar or two one day.. ^^


TOYSREVIL: People say "designing papertoys is a poor man's version of designing toys" - do you agree with that saying? How much can that change? Or is there a reason for a change?

NICK KNITE: Hehe, I again have to kind of agree with that. That is exactly what happened to me at the very beginning. I wanted to make a vinyl version of my SIZZA when I had it sketched out and make a toy like Kidrobot’s Munny of it. Now I am glad it didn’t work out that way, I seriously doubt I would’ve gotten the same amount of exposure in that short of a period as I did with the papertoy-version of it.

Plus, if the toy is interesting and the demand for a vinyl version is there, it can still be made then. I have already seen some papertoys turned into vinyl, and to “test” a character or design that way can only help its success. So for me, I don’t see the necessity for a change in that, paper should stay and have its own niche in the toy-universe!


TOYSREVIL: What is Nick Knite up to these days? What can we expect to see from Nick Knite in 2011?

NICK KNITE: We have just recently found out the winner of the ECKOrhino-custom contest. That was another great experience for me to work with such a big partner for once. The response for the contest was overwhelming and I hope to be able to release the customs as a series for download soon.

I am working on a new series of papertoys, which have yet to be finished and then get some designers or graffiti-artists preferably to collaborate with me on the designs and make some limited-edition, pre-cut versions of those toys.


NICK KNITE: I also still have a pile of customs I want to finish this year and there are also two companies that asked me to design something for them. I will keep you posted on all of that and you’ll find it on TRE first! ^^

[Photography by André Loessel]


jasoncbolt said…
Great interview Nick!