Inside the Customizer's Studio: Hazel Tam, Part 1

I am pleased to announce our third interview in the Inside the Customizer's Studio series today. We will be talking with none other than Hazel Tam, founder and chief designer of the new Amazing Armory Ltd. I'm certain many of you have been aware of Hazel's work over the past few years with his former company. I have personally been in awe of his designs and was greatly honored by his willingness to participate in this session. I must also thank JasBrick who served as the initial conduit between Hazel, John, and I. A big thanks to Jas for helping to make this happen.

I hope to communicate what the past, present and future hold for Hazel and Amazing Armory Ltd. At the end of these sessions, I'm certain you will be excited about what Hazel and company plan on bringing not only to the LEGO minifigure customs community, but also the toy industry in general.

The interview itself happened via correspondence during the time that Hazel was ramping up for the AMA re-launch. We begin the conversation talking about Hazel's design philosophy and minifig customization.

In piecing together your bio I understand that you are originally from Hong Kong but worked in Japan. Were you working in the toy business prior to getting into minifig customization or was it just a hobby?

"I was born in Hong Kong, but I studied in Japan a many years ago. I used to work with a Japanese friend, and he taught me all the skills to customize parts for different uses. We used to use these skills to make plastic models. I was a fashion designer once, about 6 years ago. I started with customize parts around 2007, for hobby at first. Back then, it was just for show.

At the beginning, I didn’t really take it serious, as it was just a hobby. When I thought about turning this into business, I had a vision that I must create a new style so people will remember my products, not just as custom parts for LEGO, but as designer toys. And that was the start of Amazing Armory, and the main concepts of Amazing Armory Ltd. 

We are not only doing custom parts for LEGO, but also have 3D design, Graphic Design and fashion Design. Amazing Armory Ltd. will become a production house with many different products and designs!"

Your designs are very different from other custom houses (i.e. BrickArms, BrickForge, etc.), you even take great care in designing the packaging for your products. How would you describe your design philosophy?

"It’s all about design concept. My job as the chief designer of Amazing Armory Ltd forces me to think about how to produce the best product for our customers. I believe we have to focus more on how a custom part can transform into other toys you buy from a local toystore. We wish to create an image for our standard packing, so our customers could instantly recognize our products. That’s one of the reasons we focus not just on the custom part, but also the packing of our products."

I've read in other interviews that video games have been one source of inspiration for your designs. What are other areas that inspire some of your work?

" I have to admit that video games are one of the major sources of my inspiration. After all, we live in a world surrounded by different kind of media and it seems impossible to escape from them. Movies are another major source of my inspiration.

Yet what I try to do is not only about making them 'LEGO' style, after all that’s not people expecting from us, but to re-create the image inside my mind."

You've mentioned in other interviews designs you've had in the works based on Final Fantasy and Lord of The Rings. Are you looking to do more in the 'fantasy' vs. 'sci-fi' area?

"Final Fantasy custom parts have been a dream of mine for over 6 years, it is a must for me to finish it someday in the future. This is something I have to do, and it is part of the reason I call myself HAZEL-Fantasy.

About Lord of the Rings, I already have some ideas in my mind. Yet, Fantasy area is not HAZEL-Fantasy focus for now; it belongs to Nightmare System. HAZEL-Fantasy is currently too busy working on sci-fi area."

Who do you see as your real competition? Other custom houses? Other toy companies?

"In terms of LEGO, I would say that the real competition is LEGO, LEGO is the ultimate winner in this, and no one can beat it. In terms of Amazing Armory, I would say that HOT TOYS is the focus of our company."

What is your dream project? What are the obstacles that stand in the way of going after it?

"My dream project? It’s hard to say. I believe it is 12” figs. I’ve been a fan of HOT TOYS for a long time and I am really interested to try out what they’ve done. Time has been my obstacle for a long time; I have lots of ideas, but each of them takes a lot of time to perfect."

There are a lot of up and coming customizers who would like to follow in your footsteps and make a career out of minifig customization. What do you believe the biggest challenge is in becoming a professional minifig customizer?

"I believe it is not about following in my footsteps. After all I am not the first one to come up with this idea of working in the customization field; however, I am glad that people see me as a pioneer in this, and I am really excited about all the new customizers. Their stuff is great! You see, the difficulty in customization is hard to understand until you pick up tools and try it by yourself.

Many new minifig customizers appear on the internet these days and it is interesting to look at how people choose their topics. You know, LEGO has been a famous brand for all these years, and it is hard to keep yourself up with that. I’ve been trying to maintain the fresh and modern image of our products, and hopefully to reach something different than the LEGO direction!

I usually think about the question like will the customers still choose to buy our products if LEGO already has something similar? As a customizer, design concept is very important. I believe if a customizer doesn’t have a clear artistic style, then he or she is no different than a designer for LEGO. There is nothing that original about them in that case."

Join us, tomorrow when we finish our interview session by taking about Hazel's previous company and what the future looks like for Amazing Armory Ltd.

1 comment:

  1. I remember his Cloud Strife hair and Buster sword he made, along with Judge Gabranth's helmet. Hope to see more FF stuff from him.