Jay Bellicchi is the artist and designer behind the brilliant company, GRAFF TOYZ. This idea stems from back in 1992, when Jay started using computer programs to create graffiti style lettering. He began his search for cool, creative toys for his son to enjoy, which eventually led him to create a product line of toys and art objects that kids and parents can both enjoy. In the interview below, Jay shares with us a little bit about his background and company.
What made you leave Colorado for Miami? Was that a bit of a culture shock?
I actually left Colorado for Tempe, Arizona, where I had enrolled in design school. I was there for about two years before I moved to Miami. Miami was definitely a culture shock initially, but it has become home.
We read that your art is influenced by graffiti and graphic design. The first is obvious; tell us about the latter.
I come from a creative family, on both sides. I’ve been drawing and making things for as long as I can remember. My father was an artist and graphic designer. As a kid I can remember being mesmerized by him working in his studio. I was always trying to hang out and use his tools to create stuff. So its no wonder that I have an affinity for graphic design and the principles therein.
Love the piece that was featured in Architectural Digest. Do you do projects like that often?
Thank you, that was a really fun project. I’m one third of a three-man artist collective called “Odd Jobs”. We’ve been painting private and corporate commissioned work for a couple of years now. That particular job was done by myself and one other member, Ed Mendieta. It was painted in a penthouse stairwell for Jorge Perez, a prominent South Florida building developer.
Give us some examples of other places where we might find your work.
All over South Florida, Wynwood, Palm Beach, Hallandale, the list goes on. Last summer our collective completed a six story building in Baton Rouge, it was for a magnet school in downtown, our largest mural yet.
What gave you the idea to create graffiti-inspired toys and home decor?
Graff Toyz was an idea I’ve had since the early 90s. It wasn’t until I had my first son James in 2000 that I thought it was time to give the project some real time and effort. I wanted to create a line of creative and interactive products that children and adults alike could enjoy equally.
The website for Graff Toyz tells us that these items are only carried by “select” retailers. Who are the lucky chosen ones, and if we don’t live nearby, how can we purchase them?
Truth be told, the project has been put on the back burner. I’ve become so busy with painting murals and working on my SPRAYSKULL series that I don’t really have the time these days to focus on Graff Toyz. Not to worry though, there are some new limited edition Toyz in the works slated to be released this fall for your holiday shopping pleasure. They will be available on-line only at Grafftoyz.com
What about Alt Space? What was the driving factor behind that collaboration?
Alt Space was a right place right time scenario. This amazing retail space sort of just fell into our laps. We were originally planning to use the space for just a long weekend, during the Coconut Grove Art Fair. Things went so well that weekend we decided to keep the space long term. It became a six artist collective / co-op. We ran the place together, manning the gallery and planning and putting on shows. It was a great learning experience for me, as well as a proper introduction to the growing Miami art scene at the time.
Tell us about your SPRAYSKULL series and how that came about.
SPRAYSKULL is a sculptural series that primarily incorporates used and discarded spray cans and caps. The idea started back in 2013 when I decided to start saving my empty spray cans instead of adding them to the preverbal trash heap. I had no solid plans to create specific artwork at the time, I just knew I would eventually find something creative to do with them. As the collection of empty cans in my studio grew, so did the pressure to find a purpose for them. After much investigation I discovered that the inside of an empty can looked to me like an eye socket. From there I had the idea to make a skull, thus the name SPRAYSKULL was born. Since then I’ve created a variety of different works with them, from polygon mosaics to crystal clear cast resin skulls filled with used spray caps. And many more ideas in line to be created.
How can people get in touch with you if they’d like to learn more about your work or discuss their own ideas for a future project?