I have been enamored by the work of Chris Shaylor of Empire Toy Works for quite some time now. His intricacy, detail, colors, and so much more, intrigue me. I am so excited to share this interview with you. I hope you enjoy learning more about him, or maybe being newly introduced to him. Let us know your thoughts in a comment below!
How long have you been building your wooden miniature playsets? What led you to the medium of wood, the miniature scale, the business?
I started building wood based playsets sporadically over 20 years ago. It was mostly just random scenes/settings inspired by vintage playsets from the 70’s and 80’s. Fast-forward maybe 10 years later and I started getting this itch to one day create an entire functionally playable city. The idea was there but it wasn’t until I was constantly watching Deadwood while also playing Borderlands that the idea really grew into sort of a mission to prove to myself that it could actually be done. I toyed around with the notion of making a sci-fi version of a roadside carnival. Complete with rickety rides and alien carnies but I eventually decided on a full city sized spaceport as it would give me tons of individual play venues to build the city up. I knew if I kept the universe it’s based in generic or rather vague that could have it inspired by ALL the sci-fi movies and TV shows I grew up watching. As a kid, I would jump from watching Blade Runner on VHS to Sanford & Son to Battlestar Galactica to One Day At A Time to Star Wars to Laverne & Shirley and instead of watching them as individual movies or shows, in my head, I would mish-mash it all together. Alien families trying to pay rent or old cyborg junk dealers being chased by an evil empire. So I wanted to create a gritty sci-fi dystopian complex that still had everyday life settings within it. So instead of ‘climatic hero scenes’ I have details like porta-potties and a med clinic with waiting room magazines and coloring books. It’s those little things that you know probably exist in those big cinematic universes but you aren’t going to see them on the big screen. I took a dollhouse approach to its design so there are countless accessibly open venues to play in. My intention was to make it as detailed as possible but structurally hands-on for actual play. It was after I was halfway done with the city, I named Rotgut Station, that I eventually posted a few pics on several toy collector forums. Requests started pouring in for me to create similar structures as commissioned orders and I started making playsets as a side job. Which eventually led into a full time business.Continue reading “Empire Toy Works”