Lucas Richards, creator of the Horndribbles, is ready to take his project to the next level. Initially, each Horndribble functioned like a unique soft sculpture; now Richards hopes to cut down on the labor involved in this labor of love in order to introduce the toys to a new generation.
Westword caught up with Richards in advance of Return of the Horndribbles, an event slated for April 15 at the Children's Museum, where he and his partner, Devon Braun of Explorer's Playground, will debut a story book and a line of Horndribbles manufactured for sale as toys. An RSVP is requested, as space is limited; visit the Facebook event page to let them know you're coming.
Westword: Westword was around to cover the inception of the Horndribbles, but how has the concept grown since 2006?
Lucas Richards: Initially what happened is, I sat down with a sketchbook and started drawing these monsters, then my wife and I would sew up these pieces together, picking them out from my sketchbook. We were doing that, and I got a show at Watercourse, back when it was on 13th. We showed there and sold out. People loved it.... That was kind of the beginning of the Horndribbles, and ever since then it's been going really strong.
How has the staff expanded or changed since you first started?
While the Horndribbles has always been a collaborative project, my collaborators have changed with each show. Now Devon Braun, who's based out of LA, we formed Explorer's Playground together. It's not as if another company came and took over the Horndribbles. It's a complete partnership. He had the ability and the know-how to get these things manufactured, and I had the creative side. We picked four designs, and I mean, I've designed almost 400 different plush sculptures, which I like to call them, and we took four of our favorites that were distinct and different from each other and we had those manufactured. So now we have these four plushes and a forty-page book for sale.
How did the upcoming event at the Children's Museum come together?
I took two years off to work on this project, and in that two years, people kind of forgot about the Horndribbles. Now I'm almost having to re-introduce myself, which is interesting because it shows how quick-paced the world is, you know? The Children's Museum, though, is the beginning of this whole new process. It's kind of introducing us back to Denver and saying, "Now we're ready." It's definitely the next chapter. The event is sponsored by Watercourse and Great Divide brewery, there's going to be food, drinks, a puppet show and a kid's band. It's like all my favorite things together. It's going to be a really good time. We'll also have everything for sale.
Continue reading for more from Lucas Richards.
Would you say your target audience is children or nostalgic adults?
The Horndribbles started out as a fine arts project. For hipsters. That's who the market demographic was. We had showings at CIty, O' City, Thin Man, Andenken Gallery and Fancy Tiger, and the people who bought these were people like us, who thought the sculptures were awesome and were willing to throw down sixty or seventy bucks for a piece because they knew I was hand-making them.... As great as it is that hipsters have them, I mean, they end up going on their shelves, almost like decor. The people who would really love them are kids. That's what plush toys are for. That's where these pieces would really come to life. People who were buying my stuff seven years ago are now having kids of their own, and I want them to be able to get something cool without having go to Target or whatever. Toys made by a local artist.
How have your characters and the fantastical world they live changed since you began?
They've always been more than just plush toys. There's a whole back story to them. In fact, the Horndribble world got so big it was almost unmarketable, because I just kept making hundreds of characters, each with unique back stories, and I guess the analogy would be Tolkien, who created this whole world but then had to focus on one story within that world so people could understand it. You gotta tell a story that still has the world around it, and that ultimately became the book Zapp and the Oogah Oogah Nut, where there's a map and the book's characters are almost like a narrator to the whole Horndribbles world.
Are people more willing to acknowledge what you're doing as an art form than when you started? Is there a much of a dichotomy remaining between art and toys?
I've always tried to veer away from traditional fine art. I've only had one show in the Santa Fe arts district. I've always wanted art to be affordable and accessible. At a gallery, they charge like 50 percent commission, so you have to jack your prices up to make money, and you only get the First Friday crowds, anyway. I've just never wanted to be a gallery artist. I want regular people to be able to buy it, so it was easy to transition into making toys. It's a false dichotomy between art and toys, anyway; if you look at like to collectibles market, people have a greater appreciation for that sense of quality that we've kind of lost. You can see the love and the art form in old toys. I've always thought of artwork as a more utilitarian thing. I've seen amazing paintings that I love, but after seeing them five or six times, they just become part of the wall. I recently started experimenting with more utilitarian art, making Horndribble lamps and ornaments, and toys are the most utilitarian thing I can imagine. Kids carry stuffed animals everywhere.
How do you think the Horndribbles fit into the Denver art scene?
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This has always been the curse of Denver: It's a bubble. I've always done well in Denver, Denver has been amazing to me, allowing me to keep doing shows and sell my artwork, but not much leaves Denver. My next step is trying to figure out how to reach people outside of Denver. I'll be going to trade shows and stuff like that to try and get the word out there.... The Horndribbles really are about Denver, though. Just like any art, it can't exist without the audience, and the response from Denver is really the reason I've kept up with this project for all these years. If not for Denver, I would have probably moved on to something else. Being able to take the Horndribbles to the next level is something that Denver should be proud of, too. We wouldn't have had the confidence to expand beyond Denver without the support of the community. It's easy to get good shows here... I've put myself out to Denver, now it's time to put myself out to the whole world."