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Play, your own way

Updated: 2012-12-19 10:07
By Eric Jou ( China Daily)

Play, your own way

Wang Xiaokang with his Iron Man project, inspired by the superhero action movie. Photos provided to China Daily

Want a toy or replica that can't be found on the store shelf? That's no problem for a generation of Do-It-Yourself wizards, Eric Jou reports.

Sitting at his living room table in a small 76-square-meter loft outside of central Beijing, Wang Xiaokang pores over the Internet. Wang isn't absorbing mindless knowledge as it comes. He's seeking valuable information to help him finish his pet project, a fully mechanized Iron Man suit.

Ever since he saw the 2008 superhero action movie, Iron Man, the 27-year-old has dreamed of owning his own Iron Man suit.

Unfortunately every replica was either a partial, only the helmet, too expensive or unwearable. So the former media designer set out to make his own suit.

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After spending more than two years and countless yuan, Wang recently finished the mechanized helmet made of plastic, fiberglass and metal.

When a trigger is touched, the faceplate lifts, falls into place and the eyes light up just like the Iron Man helmet does in the movie.

Wang's dedication to creating something for himself is one that isn't uniquely his own. Countless other Chinese are working on fulfilling their own dreams and wishes through the Do-It-Yourself movement.

"By no means was this completely and wholly my work. I did a lot of research and reached out to various other DIY prop makers to learn techniques and ideas on how to make my armor," Wang says.

Play, your own way

Ma Che-hung makes figurines based on his own drawings. One of his most popular works is Apexworkbot Double U2 (far left).

"In one of my videos I say that I spent 500 hours learning techniques. It's a lot of learning and the community is very helpful: Someone would know programming, another knows metal work and we all share knowledge."

Through his endeavors on his Iron Man replica, Wang is now trying to create his own series of prop costumes for himself.

Ma Che-hung, 45, has been following and cultivating the DIY movement for quite a while now.

He has his own brand of toys called Apexplorer. The line is so popular that special editions of his works sell for $600 on eBay.

Ma has been helping interested people on how to get started on making their own toys and collectibles.

Play, your own way

Wang Xiaokang's living room is a "dream factory" where he makes his Iron Man suit piece by piece. Provided to China Daily

Ma, a Hong Kong native who is a branding professional, says he spent a lot of time drawing and finally he wanted to see his creations go from 2-D to 3-D.

"I used to draw a lot because of the nature of my work. I had lots of drawings of characters and personas laying around, and it dawned on me that I should make them into something," Ma says.

"I noticed some people creating DIY toys for themselves and I figured, why not take my own designs and have them made 3-D?"

While Wang is looking to make a suit of armor for himself to enjoy because there is no such armor for purchase, Ma is designing his own label of toys and figurines.

Ma says he tends to create figurines and action figures, some of which he sells to fans of his creation.

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"It's not really about profit, it's more about expression," Ma says. "Many of my figurines and action figures are 30-cm figures like GI Joes. I make them to be about social issues and trends."

Social media has played a huge role in the expansion of DIY.

Both Wang and Ma say they scour the Internet for new ideas, new techniques and new friends.

Wang's Iron Man project in particular benefits greatly from being in the social media spotlight. Wang and his suit have been the subject of many Chinese media reports and articles by foreign websites.

Of course creating something from nothing isn't cheap. Ma says he sells his figures to help fund future projects. Wang, in the long run, hopes to be able to start his own costuming and prop studio in Beijing.

Wang takes to social media to post his progress, ideas and plans.

He has videos on popular Chinese sharing websites, such as Youku.com and Tudou.com, showing off how he made his Iron Man suit and the dedication it took to get details correctly. Such posts have given him a following - and inspired some to attempt to "do it" themselves.

In Shenzhen, 29-year-old Shan Baoming says that seeing what Wang and Ma are doing has inspired him to take up DIY projects.

Formerly a concept artist for a domestic video game company, Shan says he's very interested in seeing some of his artwork turned into physical objects.

While Shan wants to do a lot more research first, he says he has many friends in the design circle who are interested in working on a DIY project.

"I've always been fascinated by this DIY culture. When I used to work at a theme park, I had customers making animatronics. I got hooked," he says.

"It's all about taking design and realizing it into the physical. I think it's special because a design could look cool on paper but it can be spectacular in real life."

Contact the writer at ericjou@chinadaily.com.cn.

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