Matt “Lunartik” Jones is a British born, Berlin based multi-media artist, painter, illustrator, curator, and character – and toy designer, successfully blurring the lines between art and design. He is best known for his signature collectible toy “Lunartik in a cup of Tea” and his ongoing work for Titan Merchandise.
The son of a photographer, Matt (born in Haroldwood, UK, in 1977), enjoyed as normal a childhood as any British boy during the Thatcher administration could hope for. Blessed with a creative mind, he had always been partial to expressing himself through art – dabbling with sketches, painting and colour-in books ever since he was old enough to hold a pen. Matt’s first claim to creative fame arrived while he was still in school, winning a Games Workshop design competition for their fan-favorite Warhammer 2000 AD series. And despite not really caring much for what is considered pop-culture, the accompanying confirmation of his talent firmly set him on his artistic path.
Matt then began experimenting with different art styles, whilst using his free time to finish school at the age of 17 and then graduate from Birmingham University with a BA in Industrial Design. Once he had emerged into the open market, he could finally devote more time to pursuing his creative urges, with the added benefit of now getting paid for it. Over the next few years, while still working as a part time tutor at Birmingham University, Jones’s design work for several companies – from product design to illustration to visual FX – earned him the reputation of a quirky design prodigy amongst his fellow designers.
Having honed his skills with several years of successful work experience, a chance meeting with influential British product designer Graham Powell (in a night club, of all places) led to Jones taking the step from freelancing to self-employment in 2002. Joining forces with Powell as FLI Ltd, they produced stickers and other quirky little items, resulting in their famed Northern Line Project, a guerilla sticker campaign, which saw them place thousands of stickers on the tube line of choice for London’s creative community to wide acclaim.
Continuing his tradition of unconventional meeting places, Jones befriended well known British artist Phil Corbett in a swimming pool in 2004. What happened in that pool may never drift to the surface, but soon thereafter, Corbett and Jones established their own painting studio, creatively named “Corbett and Jones.” It was also Corbett who introduced Jones to what would soon be his passion, bread and butter: the collectible toy industry. Quickly becoming enamored with the potential for almost unlimited quirkiness, Jones threw himself into toy design. His winning submission to toy industry pioneer Toy2R’s “Design a Qee” competition in 2004 won him not only the favor of the judges and fans, but also his first produced original toy design. Matt even got to design its packaging, which both he and Toy2R saw as an unexpected but welcome bonus.
Riding the wave of fame from his fan-favorite Qee design, Matt’s creative toy design endeavors culminated in 2006, when he combined two of his design concepts, “Lunartik” and “For the love of Tea” into his first original collectible toy, the “Lunartik in a cup of Tea”. The fully self-produced, resin-cast collectible instantly captured the hearts of the international collectors community, and while Jones kept the figure’s origin story (and its legs) steeped in tea-flavored mystery, its cute looks, big eyes and quintessential British quirkiness earned him a quickly growing fan base.
Despite his toy making success, Jones still had his brush dipped in the Birmingham independent art scene, and partnered with fellow artist and friend Ian White to realize the “Non-Permanent” Event Exhibition in 2007. Hosted and curated by Jones himself, the huge exhibition, held in Birmingham’s Custard Factory, aimed to “document the moment art was made – and then taken away”. It featured over 400 artists – among them pop-art and underground celebrities like Jon Burgerman, Ian Stevenson, Kid Acne, Chu and Pete Fowler – painting, drawing and spraying on a stretch of 1000 meters of blank picture canvasses in front of a live audience.
While toy design became his passion, Jones still offered his talents as a freelancer, injecting his unique brand of quirk into designs and concepts for GMTV (British Morning television show), Forbidden Planet, Sachii, Pictoplasma, Nookart and even Toyota. Most notably, Matt’s influence transformed fledgling British novelty company Spinning Hat into a successful (and of course, quirky) contender on the British gift market in 2007.
2008 saw another milestone in Jones’s toy design career, as the first line of “Lunartik in a Cup of Tea” 8-inch vinyl figures were released. Self-funded and produced, the by-now iconic figures quickly became a sought after collector’s item. However the production and release took their toll on Jones. Taking a well deserved break to refill his quirky reserves in 2009, he then expanded both his geographic and artistic horizons and moved to Berlin, Germany, in early 2010.
Matt reemerged onto the scene in 2010, coming back strong with the founding of his own design company “Lunartik Ltd” and several big projects. While the “Lunartik Mini Tea” series kept the toy community’s cup full of original Jonesian quirk, Matt also came to the attention of Forbidden Planet’s licensing arm Titan Merchandise. Intrigued by his work, and helped along by that Good Ol’ British solidarity, Jones was offered a chance to try his hand at creating franchise collectibles – and, even if he’s is still somewhat shy talking about it, has ever since been exclusively designing the Titan Toys’ lines of vinyl figures for some of the biggest and most beloved franchises in pop-culture history. To date, he designed and prototyped the Titan Toys collectible figures for Star Trek, Doctor Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Beatles, Uncharted, Mass Effect, Ghostbusters, Breaking Bad and many more. His experience, ever growing reputation and professional acumen also earned him a spot on the juror’s board of the annual Designer Toy Awards – but despite having been on the jury every year to this day, for some reasons of his own never saw it fit to let himself win.
With the impending birth of his son, and possibly the financial responsibilities every child brings along, Jones’s focus on his creative work intensified even more, resulting in the “Mini-Tea Tour” of 2011, where Jones collaborated on a curated exhibition series with over 80 artists around the world. Not only did his reinvigorated dedication earn him a Cover Story in Design Week and a part in a Toyota US ad campaign, it allowed him to fulfill a childhood dream, when Jones won over Taito for the license of beloved Arcade video game Bubble Bobble, and designed and prototyped a series of collectible toy figures, plush toys and other merchandise.
But with his reputation as an artist, illustrator and designer constantly growing, Jones was no longer content simply being “a thinker, a tinkerer, a maker and a doer, a tea drinking, beer cheering, artisty kind of a guy”, and added tutoring and teaching to his already impressive resume.
The 2011 release of “Plastik Surgery”, Matt’s hand-drawn, cartoon-style How-To guide, revealing the secrets to successful model casting, was met with universal acclaim and has become the go-to “how to do to resin whatever you want to do” bible for toy-making professionals and new-comers alike. The books’ success soon led to Matt hosting his first (of many) “Plastik Surgery – from concept to completion” workshop, where he helped to bring over 20 art creations to 3D life, as well as being invited to Pictoplasma, the world’s biggest conference for character driven art, to talk about his “Lunartiks” in front of an audience of over 1000 fans, professionals and artists. Continuing his relationship with Pictoplasma, Matt has regularly acted as a guest lecturer at the renowned Pictoplasma Academy for Character Design, while also offering his expertise, experience and delightful British manner in workshops at both universities and collectible conventions.
With “Lunartik in a Cup of Tea” continuing to grow Matt’s following all over the world, he was also actively contributing to Berlin’s emerging independent pop-art and design scene with everything from murals to concrete castings to book covers. A now two time father, Jones divided his work time between the completion of a new series of Lunartik figures – and over 30 original paintings, drawings, illustrations and sculptures – his work for Titan Toys, and further engaging himself to promote not only the Berlin scene, but independent artists from all over Europe. While 2015 saw the release of what might be his last Lunartik Mini-Teas, ever (but never say never), the Lunartik 10 year anniversary “Year of the Tea” series, he also established the OsloKaffe ArtSpace, a “café gallery” in the heart of Berlin. Acting as both artist and curator, he added exemplary independent art to hipster barista culture, presenting monthly exhibitions with local and foreign artists, counting luminary graffiti artist The Toaster and pop-art phenomenon Sr Mu among its guests.
Showing their appreciation for both his work and his teaching, companies like PolyForm (Super Sculpy) and Uniball (Posca Pens) have been supporting and sponsoring Jones in his endeavors for several years, making him probably one of the most widely recognized “unknown quantities” of the international art and design market.
Today, Jones lives in Berlin with his girlfriend and their two kids Indy and Anna. Next to his work for Titan Toys, his latest projects involve a self-proclaimed “life-long” guerilla campaign of Mosquito illustrations in various forms of life and death (patterned on the 3R concept: Repeat, Remember, Respect).
He likes tea, plants and little quirky things that make him and the rest of the world smile. He is still very partial to stickers, post-its and everything else that sticks and can hold a message. He makes art every day. His mother calls him a “Whirlwind”. He is ludicrously tall, but determined to keep growing – because, as he puts it: “We know something, but we don’t know everything.”
And he continues his work to bridge the gap between art and design. He is, after all, the original “Des-Artist” (or “Arti-Sign”, if you will). And yes, he knows that those are not real words. But they could be.
If you want, you can meet him at Toycon.UK every year, where he will sign your favorite Jonesian toy.
Because he just loves signing stuff. Really. He does.
Written 2016 by Florian Eberhorn
Talk with Lunartik e-mail: Matt@Lunartik.com
Plastik Surgery Handbook 2015 – The art of Toy Making.
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Plastik surgery Handbook
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