What makes our Art Toys so special?
HiiRagi Army Art Toys are handcrafted using the highest quality materials and an obsessive attention to detail. Sculptured, stitched and lovingly created by HiiRagi, each toy takes a long time to make. There is no getting around that. Hand sewing is a laborious undertaking but this is what gives each toy such character and individuality. They are made using 100% pure wool felt with clothing and accessorises created using found objects and authentic materials.
Each toy is individually signed and numbered, assigning them a specific role and character within the Army. These documents are contained within their own ‘confidential’ dossier.
HiiRagi searched long and hard to find the best quality felt to make our Robot Toys. Our 100% wool felt thrives in the challenges of being a HiiRagi Toy, carrying out numerous dangerous missions, all while maintaining a solid shape and withstanding physical blows. Our toys have faced numerous trials over the years including a dog attack (he did lose an arm but we managed to save the rest - see below) and a wrestling match between a father and his 3 year old son (the toy likened it to being on a medieval stretching rack). All toys survived and were mended if necessary, which adds to the beauty of a well made toy.
One of the most important parts of our toys are the accessories. Our accessories are found everywhere and anywhere: op shops, military surplus, donations to the cause, antique shops, online, even in the street.
The leather is provided as off cuts from leather craftspeople which would normally be thrown away.
Beanies, jumpers, scarfs are all created from second-hand materials such as army jumpers, military scarves and whatever other clothing fits the role. In fact, if you have any old military jumpers or camouflage material you don’t want, send it to us, we want it.
HiiRagi is a big fan of papier mache and, even if easier options exist, insists that the process is used. As a leader of a Robot Army, this perfectly acceptable and encouraged. In some ways it is also easier because each robot is a slightly different size and shape, so helmet is custom made and fits that Robot specifically. If we made generic sizes, they wouldn’t fit properly and that would make HiiRagi unhappy; no one wants that.
Other accessories are made from found objects, particularly commissioned toys. A Radio Controller commissioned toy came with his own AM/FM radio backpack, which was awesome but probably can’t be recreated unless someone else has one to donate or we find another one on our travels.
The rest of the accoutrements (what a great word) are generally sourced online (like our belt buckles), handmade using felt, or occasionally SuperSculpty, as it is nigh impossible to source anything we want to scale or already made. And that’s kinda how we like it. It’s fun to make things. Otherwise why would we do it?
The one question we get asked the most about the toys is “how long does it take to make one?” To be honest we don’t know anymore as we make a volume of prototype toys each time. It would easily take hours to finish each one as they are 95% hand sewn (we only machine sew the side seams and the legs of the Occupational Force and Berserker).
It’s a delight to see the robots come alive before our very eyes as we add in their little eye spark or stand up for the first time or add dirt to their little faces. Each toy is lovingly crafted and we hope that our customers appreciate the time and effort that goes into each one and love them as much as we do.
Many years ago, in what seems like an alternative universe now, HiiRagi found some old rough sketches of robots. These drawings were developed into designs that are now the HiiRagi Army Art Toys.
A pattern was created for the basic main shapes (we cut the hands out without using a pattern) but somehow, despite this, they never turn out in uniform sizes. We have no idea why this is. It took a number of months to refine the design and patterns. It’s all very well to draw an idea but getting your head around making an object three dimensional can be tricky.
Recon Unit: The design is simple. This is to lure in unsuspecting stupid people to their demise. How could something that cute be dangerous? The biggest initial challenge with the Recon Units was getting them to stand up on their own. The very first Recons that we made were all sitting down. They all just sat around being lazy. That really didn’t really work for HiiRagi so we had to go back to the drawing board and start again trialling out internal infrastructure to give them strength. It took a while but it was worth it. There’s nothing better than seeing them all standing to attention in a row waiting for their next mission.
Occupational Force: The design has a similarly simple look but is not simple to make. Their clawed hands and segmented legs have caused much cursing and bleeding of fingertips over time. However, their sharp menacing appearance gives HiiRagi great joy once sewn. Our favourite thing about the Occupational Force design are the words they evoke from us. We describe them as scuttling, skulking, clawing, scratching, ominous, threatening, such great words, we could go on and on. You just know that they mean business.
Berserkers: These guys are a delight to make, from their bendy legs to their oversized teeth, their design is both terrifying and endearing, with a faint nod to the Japanese character DOMO. And yes, we know that they are not really a Robot, they’re our monster from a petri dish and we love them. We are looking at creating more accessories for the Berserkers but with their mouth being so big, it can be challenging to do something that looks suitable and fits. We are working on it though…
The Robot designs have changed over time. Sometimes this is because their story has developed, like Desert Dick, our Desert Survivalist, who always carries two water bottles due to an unfortunate urine incident. Sometimes it’s just a gradual change over time. The Recon Units went through a phase where they had really big feet for some reason. Hand sizes have also fluctuated but we don’t use a pattern for those so it’s to be expected. Another factor when the Robots were designed is we didn’t really think about future accessories or how the proportions would affect accessories. This means that some ideas require more planning or modifications, usually revolving around Occupational Force’s big head.
New designs and commissions are researched and sketched out beforehand but HiiRagi is never sure how they are going to turn out until we’ve started making them. This means that things can change but we generally stick to the original plan.
You can see some examples of commissioned toys here.