In his long art career, Gary Baseman has collaborated with hundreds of artists and designers on projects in fine art, animation, fashion, toy design and beyond. Among his best artistic collaborations in recent years has been with Flat Bonnie, led by Yukari Fujimoto.
For those in the world of collectible designer toys, Flat Bonnie is a well-known brand, originally established to raise awareness of the abundant amount of rabbits in shelters and rescue centers. Inspired by her own bunny named Bonnie Bon-Bon, she created Flat Bonnie, a white flat plush rabbit. While donating a portion of profits, Flat Bonnie also encourages people to adopt bunnies that need a second chance and forever home.
An artist originally from Japan and based in Los Angeles since 1999, Fujimoto has been a long-time collector of plushes herself. With a background in fashion and design, Fujimoto attended Los Angeles Trade Technical College and worked in the fashion industry until she decided to start her own business doing what she loves, while also helping rabbits at local shelters. With 10,000 Instagram followers, she has exhibited her work in Los Angeles-area galleries, and has collaborated with other toy brands and artists. Whether whimsical rabbits, vegetables or even a custom version of your pet, all plushes are handmade to order.
Baseman and Flat Bonnie’s latest collaborations include Flat Toby, a monochromatic version of Baseman’s iconic character Toby, made of cruelty-free vinyl fabric, as well as Groucho Ahwroo, a hand-painted Ahwroo inspired by the early 20th-century comedian Groucho Marx. Baseman comments, “Yukari is really talented. She always surprises me, and creates work better than I could imagine.”
Fujimoto first met Baseman at the Skirball Cultural Center during his retrospective exhibition. Soon after, she created the first vinyl interpretation of Baseman’s art in 2014, with his stylized flowers, a frequently used motif in his paintings, which resemble otherworldly starfish with octopus-like appendages. Displayed in China, New Zealand and the US, these flowers led to other projects, blossoming into multiple transformations of Baseman characters, including Blackie the Cat (The Purr Room, plush and hat), Glam Ahwroo, Goth Ahwroo, plus bespoke outfits for Bosko Baseman.
Fujimoto is like many other viewers of Baseman’s art: she recognized his work and style before she actually knew his name and well before she met him. She says that she connects with Baseman’s characters because of their unique personalities that are deeper and more complex in character than the ubiquitous Hello Kitty and Sanrio’s cast of characters. As a child, Fujimoto was drawn more to Snoopy and Felix, classic characters that also influenced Baseman.
Flat Bonnie and Baseman are aligned in their creative motivations; they both aim is to create artfully-designed and well-crafted sculptures (toys, figures) that aren’t just consumer products. Operating outside of big corporations and anonymous factories is a preference. Baseman says, “The mass production plushes of my characters don’t have the same quality as Yukari’s impeccably hand-made plushes. Her prototypes will always be better than any factory’s samples.”
With a growing list of Baseman x Flat Bonnie collaborations, stay tuned for more in 2022!