Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pheaturing Robert Turk From Goblin Road

Hello, welcome to the Phile for a Sunday, where we continue Artist Month. Thanks for stopping by. Today's Artist is a goblin designer and creator as you probably could tell from the picture above. Give me a meat loaf and I'll show you goblin. Well, did you see the college basketball final games? I don’t really follow college basketball, so when I heard that Duke beat Butler, I thought it must be a scandal at Buckingham Palace. In 2001, a blind American climber reached the summit of Mount Everest. At least that’s what they told him. Kathmandu is very commercialized these days. Do you know what’s on top of Mount Everest? A Starbucks. It doesn’t have a bathroom, but the Starbucks next door to it does. John McCain told Newsweek that he doesn’t really consider himself a “maverick.” What kind of man would call himself a maverick for years and then suddenly say he doesn’t think of himself as a maverick? I’ll tell you what kind — a maverick. The iPad has only been out for a few days and it has revolutionized the publishing industry. You can download books, you can read them and store them, and for religious fundamentalists, there’s a new app that lets you burn them. Have you been watching "American Idol"? I was so excited when Big Mike was about to be kicked off then the judges saved his annoying ass. Anyway, I am a big Beatles fan and it was Beatles night on “American Idol” last week. Some of the worst performers of all time paid tribute to some of the best performers of all time. Having the “Idol” contestants sing Beatles songs is a bad idea. It’s like having spandex night on “Biggest Loser.” Sandra Bullock put out a statement officially denying the rumor of a sex tape of her and her husband, Jesse James. She says there never was a tape and there never will be a tape. I think the “never will be” part goes without saying. Tiger Woods played his first golf tournament in five months, and his first tournament in six years without lipstick on his lucky underwear. Bristol Palin is continuing her campaign about teen pregnancy. It’s funny that she’s going around telling kids not to get pregnant when her mom is telling people, “Drill, baby, drill.” Bristol was a pregnant teen herself. She named her baby “Tripp,” with two p’s, which is reason enough for teens not to have kids. During Artist Month I have been asking people at work to draw me. Here is another drawing of me by Milisa Demoulin.

So, have you heard about this kid named Justin Bieber? He seems to be everywhere. He even has his own brand of condoms. Don't believe me? Check it out.
I don't have any inspirational posters this week to show you, but I do have this great shot of the last night Space Shuttle going flight going up behind Cinderella's Castle. Ooh and ahh.

Anatoly Dobrynin
November 16, 1919 - April 6, 2010

It's Sunday, so I have to bring you another...

This is the 7th book in the Peverett Phile Book Club.

The author Jon David will be on the Phile in a few weeks.

Today's guest is the second Artist for this month. He and his wife Rebecca are the creators and designers of Goblin Road who make goblin dolls and such. Goblin Road will be appearing next at Spoutwood April 30th to May 2nd in Glen Rock, Pa. Please welcome to the Phile... Robert Turk.

Me: Hello, Robert, welcome to the Phile. So, how are you?

Robert: Doing great! Well rested after my Orlando trip and now back to work on getting ready for our next show. I also took a day to polish some stuff on our website and post a bunch of our new products to etsy.

Me: So, how was MegaCon, and did you do anything fun in Orlando?

Robert: MegaCon was the first comic book convention I have ever attended. I loved seeing all the wonderful costumes, meeting a bunch of artists, and having a long discussion with a comic book artist/producer I met named Ralph (wet ink studios) that wants to do a Nose Goblin comic book with us. I have family in Lake Mary and brought my 3 year old daughter down to visit them the week before the convention. And we stopped over in Atlanta on the drive down to visit relatives there. By the time Friday rolled around for the convention, I was exhausted! I will definitely do the trip backwards next time; Get there just in time for the convention and then spend the week after visiting and running around. We did stay an extra day and go to the zoo in Sanford, which she enjoyed because of the elephant and alligator. I wanted to go see the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Islands of Adventure, but of course it wasn't open yet, and my wife said she would kill me if I went without her. Maybe next year!

Me: You and your wife Rebecca, who also welcome here, are very creative and talented. How long have you been making the Goblins?

Robert: Thanks for the compliments. We have been in business as Goblin Road for about 5 years now. We fully intended to go into business making handcrafted soaps and candles at one point, but discovered a really cool event called Faerieworlds out in Eugene, OR and started making other things entirely. The stuffed goblins came about as one of a kind art dolls in February of 2009. Since then they have undergone many changes. The current version of the Nose Goblins we started doing at the Ohio Renaissance Festival last fall. The Mud Goblins are new this year, and we plan on having one other Goblin creature by the fall.

Me: What made you create Goblins, opposed to elves, trolls or anything like that?

Robert: Well, our name has been Goblin Road since we started doing festivals five years ago so it just kind of fit. I am fascinated with mythology, role playing games, and fantasy art (especially the work of Brian & Wendy Froud, Tony DiTerlizzi, and Larry MacDougall) with a special fondness for Goblins. Too often they get a bum wrap, and have been very under represented in the Faerie community. I like darker, more primal things so faeries and elves were right out. And Trolls makes me think of the plastic dolls with the frizzy hair. We hadn't seen a Goblin doll, so we decided to make one ourselves.

Me: A long time ago I created these characters called the Nekk. They live in the woods. Do you have any other characters?

Robert: We do! And we have more in the works. We think of the Nose Goblins and the Mud Goblins as species of Goblins, and there is a whole mythology for them still banging around in my head. We did some exclusive Redcap Goblins and Furry Gob Mothers for Faerieworld's Winter Celebration in Oregon back in February, and for many of our shows we take some one of a kind characters that fit the theme of the event. We are also working on a book (and possibly a comic book) that will introduce more of our Goblins world, and we do plan on making some of the characters from that in a plush form as we go forwards. We do have a woodlands Goblin breed or two, they just have not been realized yet.

Me: Are they made kid proof? Or are they more collector's pieces?

Robert: We do both. Our standard Nose Goblin is now tested and approved as required by the State of Ohio, the State of Pennsylvania, and the US government. There are all sorts of laws about what it can and cannot be made of, how it has to be labeled, and when and how it must be tested. We have a young daughter, and we were not happy a few years back with all the recalled toys from China; so we wanted to make sure that when we made our toys that they were safe not only for her, but for anyone that wanted to play with one. So yes, the Nose Goblin (and soon the Mud Goblin) are tested and approved for ages three and up. And by the way, each and every one is handcrafted by Rebecca and myself, nothing imported from China here. We have also discovered that something about our dolls is very appealing to an adult audience, and most people buying our products are not buying them for children. When we started making the Goblins, we were only doing them as one of a kind dolls, and selling to adults. In order to answer that appeal, and fulfill our artistic needs, we still make one of a kind Goblins and pretty much go all out with these creations. We have also started offering accessory packs for our adult customers, so they can dress up their Goblin how they want, since it seems that folks love playing dress up with these creatures.

Me: What is a Goblin anyway?

Robert: To me, a Goblin is the other side of the coin to a Faerie. They are primal, sometimes dark, grounded, gritty, fun, mischievous, often ugly, silly, and completely at ease in their body. They reflect a more down to earth sentiment, and are tied with some of the grosser things that make life real. A goblin eats when he is hungry and doesn't bother with silverware or napkins (unless it is really cool silverware with spikes and edges and messy to use), a goblin sleeps when he is tired but feels free to go dance around a bonfire at 3am if he isn't sleepy yet, a goblin farts when he needs too. You would never hear a fairy fart, they are too pretty and flitty and dignified. I guess Goblins are more low brow, not to say that there aren't educated goblins. I mean, they can be wizards and such if they want to be, but I certainly wouldn't want to be in the same room as Goblin attempting magic. Something is liable to get blown up.

Me: When did you and Rebecca first come up with the idea to make Goblins?

Robert: The Goblins started as a Christmas present for my daughter in 2009. We try to make handmade gifts at the holidays, and as is often the case we both set out making her the same present without talking about it first. I think I was further along in my doll, as Rebecca's was still just a sketch, when she discovered what I was working on and decided to 'fix' it. I am great at doing things in three dimensions, but not so hot in patterning and sewing. That is her strong point, as she is the professional costume designer. So we both ended up working on my version of a Goblin doll, and our daughter loved it. So did our friends who saw it. We weren't doing anything like it at the time, and didn't know anyone who was. So we made up 11 of them to test at our next show, and they pretty much sold out within 2 hours. We made a bunch more for the show after that (Spoutwood Farm's May Day Faerie Festival in Pennsylvania) and they sold out again. It wasn't until the third day of Spoutwood though that we really realized we were on to something. Our author friend Ari Berk came over and spent a while dressing them up and picking out his favorite and then took it back to the guest of honor artists pavilion. The next thing we knew we had Charles Vess, and Holly Black, and pretty much everyone else from the big tent up front standing in line at our booth to buy Goblins. It was surreal. It was also a clear sign that we were now Goblin makers. And since then it has been the Goblins that are our focus.

Me: There's two different kinds, right? What's the difference between a Nose Goblin and a Mud Goblin?

Robert: There will be more than two kinds eventually. But for now we have the Nose Goblins and the Mud Goblins. The Nose Goblins are the first Goblins to wander over into the Human world and look for good homes. They are rather like the guinea pigs of the Goblin Lands; they are soft, easy going, loving, adaptable, and not the smartest or the fiercest of the Goblin tribes. They are also good luck and seem to keep nightmares away. The Mud Goblins are a different breed entirely. They are slow, sad, and pitiful. They live in the swamps, and take great pleasure in squishing mud between their fingers and toes. They were actually inspired by the President's of the USA song 'Lump', as I fully imagine them sitting alone in a boggy marsh. It did take us a lot of sketches and prototypes to get a Mud Goblin we were happy with, in fact you didn't see any at MegaCon because Rebecca was back home working on making them a little more sad.

Me: How long does it create to make one from scrap?

Robert: If we were to start on one Nose Goblin and just make it from start to finish, it would take about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, not counting the time for our artist friend to hand spin the wool into yarn for the hair. A Mud Goblin takes considerably longer, due to the intricate stitching and stuffing to get his frog like toes and fingers. We do not normally sit down and do a single Goblin start to finish though. We each have our own jobs in the process and pass a stack of goblins back and forth till they are complete. I cut out the goblins, then Rebecca reinforces some edges, stitches them up, and puts in the hair and the law labels. She passes back the Goblin 'skins' for me to stuff, and when that is done stitches on the eyes and reinforces the stress points. Depending on who gets to it first, one of us will stitch up the backs and make the scarves. I then put on the hang tags and pack them up to hit the road. This last step usually happens at 2am the night before an event. We both make accessories, depending on whose skill set the accessory calls for, and we do all the one of a kind designs together.

Me: It beats the hell outta Build-A-Bear, doesn't it? Would you ever consider opening a store?
We like it better than that Bear place, for sure. As for a store, we have thought about it. I would love to have something like 'Baby Land General' in Georgia one day (The Cabbage Patch theme store). Our first goal though is moving our studio out of our house, and hiring another artist to help us make the dolls. Right now we have trouble meeting demand, and just barely get enough made for each event we do.

Me: Apart from MegaCon, do you guys do a lot of conventions? You also do fair's I imagine.

Robert: This year we are scheduled for 14 events all over the country. Two of those events are long running Renaissance festivals (6 weekends at Kentucky Ren and 8 weekends at Ohio Ren). We mostly do outdoor Ren festivals and Faerie festivals, but we also have two more indoor conventions this year (Faeriecon and Rencon) as well as a very strange and wonderful convention known as Wicked Winter in NJ that we did in February. Megacon was our first comic book style convention, and we are discussing changes we need to make to our display and product line up so that we can do more conventions of that sort. That said, 14 events is a lot! And we are considering ways to make our schedule more manageable for next year. This is my full time job now though, and I love being at events and meeting all sorts of people.

Me: Do you get a lot of overseas buyers?

Robert: We have had a few oversees customers, but shipping can be a bit expensive when ordering from overseas. We have a lot of companies contacting us wanting to make our product in India and China, but for now we are dedicated to keeping it in house and completely hand made.

Me: Tell me about the one of a kind dolls you make. Do customers get to design and make their own?

Robert: We do the one of a kind dolls a few different ways. For many of the shows we go to, we make several one of a kind art dolls that tie in with the event's theme. For instance, Wicked Winter's theme was a Mad Tea Party, so we made three one of a kind mad hatter goblins: a steampunk hatter, a B-movie mad scientist hatter, and an Opium Den mad hatter. For our next show, Rencon, we are going to do some Shakespeare themed Goblins. All of our one of a kind Goblins are signed by us, come with a certificate of authenticity, and include our pledge that we will never make that particular goblin again. We also have customers asking us all the time to make a special goblin for them. If they give us an idea, we will run with it. This last Christmas we had people request a plaid goblin, a wizard with black hair and a blue cloak, Mal from Firefly, a set of Goblins in the UF team colors, and Gandalf. On our website we have a gallery of past custom designs, and we can really do pretty much any character people may desire - with one exception. We have a lot of people ask us to make the stuffed Firey doll that is sitting on the bookshelf of Sarah's room in the movie Labyrinth. We won't do that one, as it isn't a goblin and we are pretty sure it belongs to the Frouds, who we respect greatly and see at many of our shows.

Me: Where is Goblin Road based, Robert?

Robert: Lancaster, Ohio. But right now we travel to shows in Oregon, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Kentucky, Illinois and Ohio. We have lived in Florida, Oregon, and Ohio, and want to move again to the Appalachian mountains (though I do miss the swampy trees and Spanish Moss in Florida). Really, Goblin Road lives in our hearts and minds, and we will go wherever it takes us.

Me: How much would an average Goblin be? What about a Phile Goblin?

Robert: The standard tested and approved for ages 3 and up handmade Goblin is $45. Handcrafted accessory packs range right now from $12 to $25. Custom goblins start at $55 and go upwards depending on how much time and materials will be going into the artistic creation. We always give a quote up front and that is what the customer pays, even when we go crazy and spend more than we should on making it. As for a Phile Goblin, I am not sure how well your filing cabinet logo will translate to a Goblin. But a harried Sci-Fi interviewer could be a fun challenge.

Me: Your wife Rebecca was part of the Orlando Shakespeare Festival, is that right? Did you live in Orlando as well?

Robert: Yes, we actually met while working at the Orlando Shakespeare Festival. I went to high school in Niceville, FL and moved down to Orlando to live with my father and pursue a theatre degree at UCF. I was doing my internship at the Shakespeare Festival and Rebecca came down in the spring as a costumer. I ended up staying on after that for 4 or 5years as the Production Stage manager and a resident Sound Designer and did a bunch of shows with them. Rebecca went to Illinois for a miserable year apart to work for a university and ended up coming back to the Shakespeare Festival to run their costume shop. We also ran the design/tech side of their Young Company (a summer program for high school students) for several years. At some point we decided to move on and find new challenges, and wound up in Oregon. After being in Oregon for two years we moved to Ohio, where Rebecca is now the Costume Director for Ballet Met.

Me: I read that you also make something called Mythagos. What is that?

Robert: Wow, you really did some digging. We used to be focused on our amazing leather corset ensembles that we made and sold at the Faerie Festivals. We did these as custom fit garments, and handmade them to fit the individual. We had two design lines: Elementals (Fire, Wood, and Air - we never finished our Water design) and the mythical creature based Mythagos (Dragoness, Succubus - and an angelic one was in the works). These were difficult, expensive, and time consuming to make and doing custom garments for people has its own world of issues, especially when you only see your customer once to take their measurements. Thankfully, we came up with the Goblins and they have been a surprising success. We still take our corsets to one show a year, and we will make them if our schedule allows and we can meet the customer in person, but they take so much energy away from our main focus now that we don't really promote them anymore.

Me: Do you make anything else?

Robert: Yes! We also make one of a kind leather masks, and leather crowns. And we now have a book in the early stages (as in I have a composition book with notes and a bunch of Rebecca's sketches). We used to make all sorts of things: Cloaks, Corsets, Wings, shamanic rattles, felted wool purses, decorative bottles, clothing, and soaps and candles. We are now focused pretty much on the dolls and the masks. I really want to make some traditional rod puppets in a goblin theme and some Jester sticks with Goblin heads, but I never seem to find the time. We have a large skill set, and are always trying new creative endeavors, so occasionally some oddity we made on a whim will end up at an event or on our etsy page.

Me: Robert, thanks so much for taking part in Artist Month on the Phile. Go ahead and plug your website and anything else you want to. Good luck and continued success.

Robert: Thanks Jason, this was fun! Our website is, and you can get a list of our upcoming shows on the front page of our site. We also like to support Plant-It 2020 ( because more trees in the world is always a good thing. Many thanks to those of you who stopped by to visit at Megacon, and we hope to meet more of your readers at the various shows we do around the country.

Well, that's it for the Phile today, kids. We are going to my niece's birthday party so I didn't have time do to ... In History. Anyway, thanks to Robert Turk for a great interview. His Goblin's would make great gifts. I have to work out if he can make a Phile Goblin. Okay, the next entry of the Phile will be on Saturday as I am working overtime next week, and Saturday Jen is going to the Bon Jobi concert. Next week's guest will be Artist Kenny Durkin. Spread the word, not the turd. Bye love you bye.

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