Interviewing Sneaky Raccoon / Anna Mullin

With Sneaky Raccoon's Sneaky Snow Ball just launched at Kidrobot London, its a swell time to roll out my interview with Anna Mullin, which took over a year to materialize! Note that the questions were asked the end of 2011, with slight tweaks and newer questions thrown in the mix, for perhaps a slightly better understanding of one of the more understated female artists in our toy culture. Read ON!

TOYSREVIL: How have you been Anna? Did the year treat you well?

ANNA MULLIN: Hello Andy! I am very well thank you and honoured to be asked to do an interview with you. It's been too long! 

I think that 2011 went well, but very fast. I don't seem to recall where it went, but I do remember doing a lot of projects and producing a lot of work for shows, clients and personal projects. In October, I also celebrated the 5th Anniversary of Sneaky Raccoon with the 'Tales from the Sneaky Crypt' custom toy show here at Kidrobot in London. With that and shows in California, Berlin, and London – I was a very busy bee indeed.  

["Tales from a Sneaky Crypt"]

TOYSREVIL: We remember Sneaky Raccoon's flurry of activity leading up to 2008, then everything stopped, before you re-emerged for your website relaunch and Dunny signing in 2010. Where did Sneaky go?

ANNA MULLIN: From 2006 – 2008 I made the transition from living in the quaint city of Bath in Somerset, where I had studied and graduated from University, to the bustling streets of London to be among the many other creatives and 'toy family' who were living there and putting on shows. Little did I know that a lot of those friends were about to go travelling, seeking new adventures elsewhere around the globe, and the toy scene really started to disappear, as did the galleries who hosted them. I wondered what I would do now knowing this, and as the Autumn nights of 2007 started to drawn in, and my Series 5 dunny design with Kidrobot was in the process of being produced for launch in Autumn of 2008, I needed to keep myself afloat in the meantime being freelance. 


It was then that I realized, having a Fine Art Degree wasn't ever going to get me the kind of work that I wanted to be doing, which was graphic design, so I had to figure out a way of going in that direction which wouldn't mean going back to university to lose yet more years of my life. So in January 2008, I embarked on ploughing £8,000 into an intensive graphic design course at Shillington college here in London, which I graduated from three months later with a graphic design portfolio, and walked straight into a freelance lead designer role at a small digital agency. 


Just as my Series 5 dunny had been released into the world, I began taking on more and more projects as I promoted myself creatively through shows, projects and working with other creative designers. My career as a young designer was just beginning and so I tried to make it the main focus in my life – which luckily, it has now become. In the years between 2008 – 2011, I never really disappeared from the toy scene – I simply took the time to explore the things that I am passionate about, learn as much as I could from the great people and friends around me, but still making time to create custom toy work as and where I was invited to, which then led to the production of my Dunny 2010 design, which I was very excited about. At that time I was working on quite a few long design contracts with big brand clients, so I felt that in order to do my job thoroughly, I needed to be a sneaky raccoon and immerse myself in my work – popping out of the woodwork when I felt I needed a break. After a year of doing that, I entered into 2011 making more toy work with shows at Dragomi, at Picoplasma with Inkygoodness in Berlin, and several shows here in London at Kidrobot, including my own show with lots of my beloved toy family. 

[Above: Show Customs / Click HERE for coverage of Sneaky Raccoon's work on this blog]

TOYSREVIL: You celebrated the onset of 2011 with a splash, in your three-woman group show for Dragatomi. Congrats for that, and how was it? I read that you had very little time to produce your work?

ANNA MULLIN: The show at Dragatomi with Lunabee and Julie was interesting. I personally had very little time to make work for the show because of other design work commitments, but I managed to create a few new pieces, all of which sold. I can't be anything other than happy with that result. It's always a pleasure to be invited to be a part of shows, but because of my ever-changing schedule and my slow painting rate, I need as much time as I can get to make work. Gone are the days of having time to work on a custom toy for a week straight, and the level of detail has been reduced as a result, but it has meant that I look to generating designs and illustrations that are crafted well, take a little less time to produce, but still retain their quality.

TOYSREVIL: Congrats on your just launched Sneaky Snow Ball at Kidrobot London! With group shows in the bag, do you have any dreams of a one-woman solo show of your works? We have also seen loads of 3D-work from you, and would assume 2D is your "day-job" – Is that the reason why we do not see 2D paint work from you?

ANNA MULLIN: Perhaps one day I will have a solo show. I've not planned for one this year, but i'd like to host another show sometime soon as I keep receiving requests to do so. I spend a majority of my life behind my computer screen, so I like to do 3D work to get another perspective and have a break. It's physical rather than flat on my screen. I like creating work in both formats but it's fair to say that it's more 90 – 10% in favour of 2d work day-to-day. I think I've moved away from doing paintings on canvas now because I don't enjoy making work in that way anymore. I of course from time to time do, however I much prefer to work digitally or on actual toys. 

[Shown above are customs for her Sneaky Snow Ball show @ KR LDN]

TOYSREVIL: What would you say is Sneaky Raccoon's signature style? What do you look to create in your pieces?

ANNA MULLIN: Ultimately, I want to be happy with the work that I make. It might not be everyones's cup of tea as my designs are quite tame, graphic and essentially, pretty cute, – but I never intended to please everyone. I don't like gore or have a high need for bloodlust, so I don't make characters who have those qualities. I create what I find in my mind to be fun, unique little characters who when i'm finished customizing them, represent closely what I had in created in my imagination. Some people say that I have a style – some can't pin-point it. Either way, my work generally is spurred from ideas, some as simple as a personality trait or how I envisage a characters behaviour to be if they were alive and walking about on my desk. As for the finish of my toys, I try to make them as smooth as possible, with every line and detail as clean and exact. I have a problem with perfectionism so I never let any of my projects out of the door without my final decision as to whether they are as immaculate as can be, and crafted with love and care.

[2011 work for Anyforty / / eatmeonline]

TOYSREVIL: If you had to choose, which particular toy (custom or production) would you say best represents your style? Or rather, which one is your absolute favourite?

ANNA MULLIN: I don't have a clear favourite – perhaps all I can say is that over the past year or so, I feel that I have a better idea about who I am and the work that I create. The russian dolls that I recently did for the 'Codename Babushka' show had a graphical aesthetic to their appearance which I liked and enjoyed making. My dunny designs for Kidrobot where chosen for the graphical quality also, so I guess all in all, I am naturally drawn to producing more graphically led work. 


TOYSREVIL: We've seen custom toys from you, but do you have any designs from yourself you'd like to make into toys? Can we have a look at them?

ANNA MULLIN: I've not really put my mind to it properly. I've been asked about doing resin's but never really gotten round to it. Who knows, one day I might. It would certainly be an interesting process, if nothing else! 

TOYSREVIL: From music-scapes to visual candy? What are your influences? What inspires you? What makes you "tick"?

ANNA MULLIN: I find inspiration in the strangest of places. I don't look to others for inspiration or their work. I just know what I like and what I don't like. There is nothing quite like the power of ones' imagination. I'm not worried about what others are doing, how they are doing it, what they think is cool, or what the latest trends are. I'm not a 'follower of fashion' I guess. I listen to a wide variety of music from drum and bass to classical music. Sometimes the silence is just as nice. There is too much noise out there – it can be hard to think straight. If i'm looking for inspiration for a project, I will do something practical, and away from the subject of what i'm supposed to be doing. Baking, shopping, watching a film or documentary, looking through books, going out with friends, or riding my bike can actually spur ideas that I couldn't get from trawling the internet or others work. 

TOYSREVIL: "Real Life" versus "Toy Life". What is your take on this?

ANNA MULLIN: Toys are brilliant and I love being a part of the world of Vinyl toys, but I never wanted it to be the only thing I ever did, and I knew in my heart it wasn't a career I could make a living from. Holding my own dunny in my hand was an amazing feeling, but I never wanted to be (or would be) as big as some of the other toy artists. I am ever grateful to those individuals who helped me along the way, supported me, and of course to Kidrobot for their love and guidance along this journey. I hope there will be more adventures to come.

Being a graphic designer, art director and illustrator is really what my life is like day-to-day. I'm always busy going from one creative project to the next, working with friends, new clients, and on new challenges. I have days where being the boss is great because I can do anything I want to do creatively, and others where I am so busy I wish I had more arms and legs! 

TOYSREVIL: Why the name "Sneaky Raccoon"?

ANNA MULLIN: After much thinking about this question, as I get asked it a lot, I boiled it right down to one thing. When you are hungry to get something, you will do anything to get what you want. In my case, I am hungry creatively. Animals are no different. A sneaky raccoon will do anything to get into that trash can or cookie tin, even if it means the challenge is great and it requires some creative thinking to get it. I'm the same – plus I love cookies. The name Sneaky Raccoon was officially affirmed when upon meeting Fred Deakin of Lemon Jelly at an animation festival who said that he liked the name. I thought 'Wow. He likes it – and he's done well with a name like Lemon Jelly' which is fun and bouncy. I could say it's worked out well being a small, furry creature. Most people call me Sneaky, Sneak, Sneaks, or The Raccoon. 'Anna' just sounds strange to me now.

TOYSREVIL: Who is Anna Mullin?

ANNA MULLIN: Anna is a very petite lady with big brunette hair who likes to bake and watch films. She has a love of animals and green leafy forests which were ingrained from a young age what with growing up in beautiful areas of Germany. With surrounding countries never far away from her grasp, she travelled a lot, and also many cultural delights and sights were readily available to her. I would say that she was caring, a good friend, and someone who likes hugs and fun. She has little time but always tries to give her time to others. Not a sheep – but almost certainly a raccoon.

TOYSREVIL: What should folks look out for in 2013 from Sneaky Raccoon?

ANNA MULLIN: As for 2013 who knows! I am about to launch a new website in December with updated work and recent projects, as well as my new Sneaky Raccoon logo mark which I have designed and created and an very proud of. I am hoping there will be new challenges and opportunities in the new year and look forward to working on exciting projects and with new people too!