There is a softer side to all kinds of fictitious creatures: from Yetis, aliens, and trolls, to dragons, human-devouring plants, and purple dinosaurs.
Tom Kopian, artist and creator behind Creatures of Delight, a line of specialty, handcrafted monster toys, works with a small team and his 11-year partner, Stewart Buffaloe, to make one-of-a-kind creatures using a variety of molds and his patented latex-fiber blend material.
The creatures are a combination of creepy and cute and appeal to a broad demographic. Though the line is composed mostly of traditionally scary, fictional monsters, their vibrant color palettes and bright-white smiles make them appeal to girls as much as boys. “I think essentially the toys are gender neutral. They are rough and tough monsters, so it can be a boy thing, but girls like some of the cuter pieces like Snarl, Floyd, and the Grudges. It is not definitively a boy or girl thing,” Kopian explains.
The Creatures of Delight are targeted primarily toward teens and young adults ages 12 to 17. “It’s not a toy for preschoolers or young kids. The designs are strong so consumers can appreciate them as they get older, but they aren’t like some of the licensed toys. An older kid can feel cool having it,” says Kopian.
Growing up, Kopian dreamed of doing horror makeup and special effects, but instead, he turned an annual Halloween hobby into a business. He credits horror movies and live-action puppet animation shows from the 1970s, including Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, as the inspiration behind his one-of-a-kind creatures. “I’ve always wanted to do monsters and scary things,” he says.
In business since 1986, Kopian got his start on Creatures of Delight by creating large-scale monsters to decorate the outside of his parents’ home for Halloween. A neighbor, Charles Zadeh, who was the exclusive importer for Playmobil at the time, encouraged Kopian to transform the monsters into soft and squishy toys. It was then that Kopian created his patented Rubber Plush material, which he still uses to craft his creatures today.
A combination of pre-vulcanized latex and fiber, the material is essential to the unique look and feel of the creatures. “It’s evolved over the years, but it’s easy and durable, and it’s funny because we are still the only people who do it,” Kopian says.
All of the Creatures of Delight are considered limited edition because each one is created using original molds. Though each creature comes in a set color pattern, custom orders can be placed as well. However, Kopian explains that they will turn down certain requests, as some color combinations work better than others on certain sculptures.
Though the popularity of the creatures frequently changes, Kopian says the most popular ones are currently Mugsy the Bulldog, the Nonesuch Dragons, and the variety of brightly colored personified clouds. The not-so-traditional circular clouds can hang in the middle of a room as they yawn, smile, or stick their tongues out at on-lookers.
In addition to the keepsake creatures, Kopian and his team also create useful items like backpacks and wine toppers. The backpacks were a spin-off of the original creatures, and have been around for many years. “They are really neat because it’s a toy and it’s a backpack. A lot of people who have them keep them forever,” Kopian explains. Not just for show, the Creatures of Delight team will rubberize canvas, make it into a bag, and then put the creature on the outside of it so consumers can fit a substantial amount of their personal items inside.
According to Kopian, some people send in photos of their creatures that they’ve kept for more than a decade. Though the rubber plush the creatures are made out of is durable and lasting, some consumers who have had theirs for many years will reach out looking to have his or her creature repaired. Kopian and his team are happy to oblige. “We can usually patch it up and repaint it and make it look new. It’s important to people because it really becomes a part of their lives and they take it everywhere,” he says.
The Creatures of Delight are available for purchase at select specialty retailers nationwide and online. Orders can also be placed over the phone. For more information about purchasing a creature, visit www.creaturesofdelight.com.