NOTE: You might also check the "BOVINE WISDOM" Section of the Iron-Cow Prod. Forums for a list of additional questions and responses. Articles on many of these topics can be found in the FEATURES section of this website.
 

General ICP Questions

• Who is Iron-Cow?
• Where did you even come up with the name "Iron-Cow"?
• How long has the site been open?
 

Customizing Questions

• Will you make or sell me a figure, and if so how much?
• What’s the best project for a new customizer?
• What materials do I need to start customizing?
• What kinds of paint should I use?
• What is a Dremel?
• What is Hydroshrink?
• What is Magic Sculpt?
• What is Kneadatite?
• Where can I purchase clear vinyl?
• What molding and casting compounds do you use?
• What Spray Primer do you use?
• What is Dullcote?
• How can I add a superhero emblem to my custom figure?
• How did you make the faces on your Minimate customs?
• Why do you refer to some of your custom figures as "Angst?"
 

Professional Questions

• Are the custom toys a hobby or a career. How do you get started?
• I’m a beginning customizer and want to start selling my customs. How much should I charge?
• What was it that brought you into customizing figures in the first place?
• What professional training have you had that prepared you for customizing as a job?
• How did you get involved creating custom figures for ToyFare Magazine?
• How did your work on Art Asylum’s Minimates come about?
• I run a website and would love to interview you. Can I ask you a few questions?
The question you have isn’t listed.

 

Who is Iron-Cow?

Matt ‘Iron-Cow’ Cauley, probably best known for his custom action figure work, formed Iron-Cow Prod. LLC to better serve his illustration, animation, design, and toy production clients. In addition to being a featured contributer to ToyFare Magazine, there are over 50 ICP-designed DC Direct, Battlestar Galactica and Marvel Comics Minimate action figures currently on sale. His artwork is exhibited and published worldwide and he is currently hard at work developing a line of t-shirts for Macys featuring his illustrations.

Matt’s illustration, broadcast, fine art, and toy design portfolios can be seen at the official Iron-Cow Prod. website at https://www.ironcowprod.com

For more information on Matt "Iron-Cow" Cauley, simply click HERE.

Where did you even come up with the name "Iron-Cow"?

The term "Iron-Cow" come from a fictional character I had created way back in the summer of 1987 (give or take).

I had a close circle of friends, and we spent nearly every day hanging out together. Because of the Texas summer heat, we would often pass the time indoors playing various role playing games, particularly one based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Although the gameplay was similar to Dungeons and Dragons in a lot of aspects, your actual character was some wacko radiated mutant animal in the distant future. Sure it was dorky, but it kept us out of trouble, and was certainly a lot of fun.

For my character, I chose to be a cybernetic bounty hunter bovine with a bad habit of getting into bar fights, and an even worse habit of blowing things up. It was this upright cow that would juggrenades, start a brawl, and probablly cause more damage than good, really. Thus was born Iron-Cow, a spoof of both RoboCop, Wolverine, Iron-Man and Boba Fett. Hey, if you’re gonna rip off some pop culture characters, why not rip ’em ALL off?

Anyway, fast forward several years. I needed an online codename and "Iron-Cow" came flooding back. It was only supposed to be a temporary name, but all the cool Star Wars ones were taken

For more information on the Iron-Cow character, simply click HERE.

How long has the site been open?

Iron-Cow Prod. was announced to the public on July 4th, 1999, although I had been experimenting with the site design for a month or so before that. July 4th is the official anniversary date.

To explore the visual history of Iron-Cow Prod., simply click HERE.

Click HERE for a great Michael Crawford interview with Iron-Cow.

Click HERE for a fun JoeCustoms.com interview with Iron-Cow.

Will you make or sell me a figure, and if so how much?

For a time, I was accepting commissions for custom figures. Unfortunately, I found myself with many other projects that required my attention, and now feel it’s best for me to not accept any future commissions for the time being. Still, I have a limited amount of space in the ICP Studio so from time to time you might see certain custom figures offered in the FOR SALE section of this site.

That’s not to say every figure I make will end up for sale, though. The Doctor Who and X-Men Evolution figures are personal favorites of mine, and will most likely never be offered. Still, never say never!

If there is a commission that you might be interested in, whether for a custom figure or for any art-related project, simply use the CONTACT FORM at the bottom of this page to send me an email and perhaps we can figure something out.

What’s the best project for a new customizer?


I get asked this a lot, particularly from the younger crowd. As with learning any new skill, it requires a lot of patience and determination. You can’t expect a masterpiece the first time around, so don’t get frustrated if your first customs aren’t up to the levels you were hoping for.

I always recommend starting with a simple project, such as a headswap or a simple repaint. Perhaps the easiest approach is by making a "Batman Unmasked" piece. You can remove the original masked head, and replace it with one that looks similar to Bruce Wayne. You might also take a figure that has a fairly generic sculpt with minimal details and repaint it into The Flash. It’s these simple projects that will get you going, and as you grow in confidence you can begin experimenting with different and more challenging techniques.

If you’re not sure about a particular approach, then experiment on a ‘junk’ figure to test the results first. A lot of this whole customizing process is learned by making mistakes, so even if one project gets botched, the next one should come out stronger because of it.

To learn a step-by-step approach to making a custom, simply click HERE. This covers all topics for the Beginner as well as the Advanced customizer.

What materials do I need to start customizing?

I personally recommend the following, as they’re the materials I use most frequently.
• Hobby knife, extra-sharp (bandages and gauze optional)
• Super Glue (make sure it’s a fresh batch)
• Disposable latex gloves (found at any local drug store)
• Hobby or craft paint
• Hobby brushes
• Krylon Spray Primer Grey
• Krylon Spray Flat White
• Small sculpting tools
• Fine-Grit Sandpaper
• Testors DullCote

For the advanced customizer, I would recommend these as well:
• Magic Sculpt sculpting compound
• Dremel Variable Speed Rotary Tool (with various cutting and sanding attachments)
• Power drill with drill bits of various sizes
• Wire coat hanger and wire cutters
• Protective eyewear/safety goggles
• Gas mask/Dust mask

There are also a wide variety of molding and casting materials out there as well, which I go into more detail HERE.

For more information on how to properly paint a custom figure, simply click HERE.

What kinds of paint should I use?

Out of all the amazing craft and hobby paints out there, I still find DELTA CERAMCOAT acrylics to be my preferred choice. These are probably the lowest grade of paints out there, but hey… they’ve worked for me. Really, though, Citadel Paints have been getting rave reviews, so you might want to experiment with those.

For more information on how to properly paint a custom figure, simply click HERE.

What is a Dremel?

The Dremel rotary tool offers the precision and control required to complete a wide range of projects–from fine art to home repair. Its variable speed control allows you to set the speed of the tool to match a particular accessory or the task at hand. I personally use a Dremel to slice apart figures, remove large amounts of unwanted detailing on a figure, and to fine-tune my sculpts using their various sanding attachments.

With all the various bits and attachments available, you’ll find the Dremel pays for itself many times over.

You can find more information on Dremels at their official site.

What is Hydroshrink?

Hydroshrink is a casting medium used to resize parts. Generally you can take an object and reduce/enlarge it by a factor of 60%.

The whole step-by-step is actually pretty involved. Click HERE to learn more about the Hydroshrink rescaling process.

What is Magic Sculpt?

Magic Scupt is a fantastic two-part, air-curing compound. My friend Pierre (of AirmaxAnimated fame) recommended this to me, and I’ve had nothing but great experiences working with it. Magic Sculpt looks and works similar to clay. You mix the two compounds in equal amounts, adding just a few drops of water to make it easier to handle. The addition of water allows for a greater control over the material. It’s especially great for smoothing seams and recessed areas. Definitely wear the disposable latex gloves while working with it, though, as you don’t want to transfer unwanted fingerprints to your custom figure.

MagicSculpt can be ordered at: http://www.magicsculpt.com

For more information on how to use MagicSculpt, simply click HERE.

What is Kneadatite?

Kneadatite Blue/Yellow ("Green Stuff") is a two-part epoxy/polyamide sealant/adhesive for interior and exterior maintenance and repair. It has excellent adhesion to stone, ceramic, metal, wood and many plastics, including vinyl. Nicknamed "Green" by sculptors and modelers, Blue/Yellow is well-known for its long worklife, non-grainy texture and ability to hold fine detail.

While I don’t use Kneadatite all that much for detailed sculpting, I find that it’s great for adhering parts together, allowing me to then further refine my sculpt using Magic Sculpt. The main drawback is that it’s extremely tacky when curing, so make sure to wear latex gloves and dip your fingers in water to help reduce tackiness.

Kneadatite can be ordered HERE.

For more information on how to use Kneadatite, simply click HERE.

Where can I purchase clear vinyl?

Raw vinyl can usually be found at most fabric stores for dirt cheap. Look for spools of the clear plastic-looking stuff and buy only a yard or so, as a little goes a long long way. I’ve seen it come in 2 thicknesses, although that might vary from your purchase location.

Anyway, the stuff is clear and bonds amazingly well with plastic using just a drop of SuperGlue. Whenever I need to add a belt to a custom, I’ll use clear vinyl. It’s also good for adding certain surface details and capes.

For more information on Clear Vinyl, simply click HERE.

What molding and casting compounds do you use?

For molding and casting parts, I now use Oomoo 25 Liquid Rubber and Smooth-Cast 320 Liquid Plastic, both produced by Smooth-On.

Both products are similar to most other epoxies in that they each have 2 component parts. You mix the two epoxies in equal amounts, stirring quickly but gently to eliminate air bubbles, and pour the mixture into a mold.

The Oomoo 25 is great in that it cures incredibly fast. Although the rubber cures in 75 minutes, I let it sit for at a couple of hours before I proceed to the next step.

The Smooth-On Liquid Plastic will solidify in about three minutes. After it cures, the casting has a consistency very much like manufactured plastic that can be easily sanded and painted.

I use the Liquid Plastic primarily for casting various parts, which is fantastic if you need multiples of a particular part. Also, if there’s a part I need that’s of an unstable material (soft rubber goods, for example), I will mold the part and re-cast it using Smooth-On. I now have a perfectly useful plastic part that won’t degrade over time.

To learn more about the various Smooth-On products, please visit http://www.smooth-on.com/

For more information on how to mold and cast parts, simply click HERE.

Which spray primer do you use?

After you’re done sculpting a custom with all its various details, you will then want to prep it for the painting stage.

Without a doubt, you will always want to prime your sculpts before painting them. I personally use Krylon Spray Primer Grey, which available most everywhere. In my experience, it reacts well with most plastic figure and is a great base for applying acrylics. You can also use Plasti-Kote’s White Vinyl Spray paint, which bonds amazingly well with most plastics as well. My friend Jeremy (SpyMagician) uses this, and the results are amazing. Either approach works, but as always, experiment on a junk figure first to ensure the desired results!

For more information on how to properly paint a custom figure, simply click HERE.

What is Dullcote?

Dullcote is easily the most important ingredient when completing a custom figure project. It’s a matte spray sealer produced by Testors, the company that various model kits you’ll find in hobby stores. After a few coatingss of Dullcote, your figure will have a smooth, even finish. Dullcote is great for bringing paints of the same color but different luster into line with each other. It can even make a shiny ‘cheap’ figure look better but knocking off all the reflections. Most hobby stores that carry Testors products will carry it, as well as Wal-Mart, Michaels, etc.

I do get asked about other finishing sealers as well. While I’m sure there are other materials that will work, I have had nothing but the best experience with Testors DullCote. The only spray finish I would recommend avoiding is Krylon’s Crystal Clear spray. While that does have a wide variety of arts and crafts uses, it never looks right on a finished custom figure.

You can also learn more about Dullcote via the Testors site. http://www.testors.com/

For more information on how to properly paint a custom figure, simply click HERE.

How can I add a superhero emblem to my custom figure?

This is a process known as decoupage, the art of decorating an object by adhering pieces of paper and other flat elements to it. As far as custom figures go, if you’ve got a superhero project in the works, you’ll almost always need to add his emblem to the chest of the figure.

Anyway, start off by creating the emblem digitally using Photoshop or some other graphics software. Make emblems of various sizes and print them out using a laser printer if at all possible as Ink Jet printers tend to bleed when you get the emblem wet. Before adding any adhesive to your masterpiece custom, use a duplicate emblem and experiment with a spare figure first. If the process works, then great! If not, then print a new emblem and and try a different technique. This way, once you find a method that reacts well with your toner, you won’t run the risk of messing up the final custom.

I would suggest first spraying a few, light coats of Testors DullCote on the printout. You don’t want to soak the
paper, though, so keep the coats light. Then, once this dries, use a decoupage medium applied to only the underside of the emblem. When you apply it to the figure, a little bit of the decoupage medium will probably ooze out. Using your finger, rub this around the edge of the emblem to help seal it in. If this doesn’t work, you can try a matte gel medium. It’s slightly thicker material, but will probably react better to the toner.

Either way, it’s probably a good idea to wait 24 hours after printing the emblem, just to make sure the toner is thoroughly dry. Once it’s dry, seal it using Testors Dullcote and you’ll be amazed with the results.

For more information on applying an emblem to a custom figure, simply click HERE.

How did you make the faces on your Minimate customs?

Do you have access to Photoshop or Illustrator? Basically I create the faces in Photoshop (although Illustrator will print better), and once I was happy with the art, I copied it into a new document, duplicating the piece a dozen times, each one slightly smaller than the previous. You’ll end up with the face getting ever so smaller on the prints. When I printed it out, I could then see which size worked best for the Minimate. Also, I went ahead and printed the face inside a flesh-colored rectangle. I then cut out the rectangle and wrapped it around the head, taping it in the back. The hair pieces usually need to be hollowed out slightly, but then they will slide over the printout without any problem.

For other stuff, like the chest emblem, I use the same technique, except I used Decoupage Medium to apply it. Once that dried, I used Testors DullCote finishing spray to help seal it in, and even out all the lusters.

You can also try MicroMark’s printable decal paper. I use this stuff ALL the time. The clear paper is great for line art (tattoes, zebra stripes, etc), but the regular stuff works great too (although you have a white edge around the decal which you have to touch up).

The main thing is, experiment first. Depending on the type of printer you’re using, you might run into the color bleeding when you apply it, so you’ll need to seal the print first. Crystal Clear works great to help remedy this.

Why do you refer to some of your custom figures as "Angst?"

Back when I first began to really explore the hobby of customizing action figures, I really wanted to have a set of ultra-detailed, comic book-inspired Batman figures on my shelf. At the time, the only figure line that was available was that of the Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight line from Hasbro. The character designs of this line leaned towards the nightmarish, dark and gritty. The comics themselves at the time showcased a brooding and grim Batman. He and his fellow crime-fighters often wore expressions of anger and angst, and in the Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight line this aspect was really played up.

Anyway, I coined the term "Angst" partially to poke fun at the OVERLY DRAMATIC moods of my initial custom figures and to help distinguish them from other artistic styles I was experimenting with.

I now produce custom figures in a wide variety of scales and styles and although the nightmare aspect has long since been abandoned, the term "Angst" remained. Again, that’s just me and nostalgia, but it’s what I continue to use it to refer to any custom figure of mine in the 6-7 inch scale, regardless of their mental stability.

To view the Angst and other Custom Figure Galleries, simply click HERE.

Are the custom toys a hobby or a career. How do you get started?

As far as the custom figures go, that definitely started off purely as a hobby/obsession. I went to school for Illustration, but the customs were a fun, creative side project. Luckily, though, a lot of people took notice and it led to freelance projects with ToyFare and Art Asylum. Those don’t necessarily pay the bills, but it’s a great opportunity and great exposure.

I definitely have no interest in designing toys full time, though. My heart’s more into the illustration side of the field. But that’s just my personal preference. Ultimately, though, you might want to consider developing a few different skills. I can only speak from personal experience, but I regularly juggle animation, graphic design, illustration, and video production projects in addition to the toy work. It’s all mostly creative assignments, but it keeps my interest and each project feels fresh. I’ve found that if I’m working too much on any particular project for an extended time, I tend to go through burnout. That’s why you might see a flood of customs from me at one point and then none for a few months.

Everybody has a different approach, though, so you’ve gotta go with what your dream is. Definitely get those drawing skills developed, as that’s key in landing any good design position.

I’m a beginning customizer and want to start selling my customs. How much should I charge?

Basically, just ask yourself how much is your time worth… As with any job or commission, your time is valuable. You need to ask yourself how much is it worth it to you to devote yourself and your talents to a project for someone else. You don’t want to find yourself in the position where you’re slaving away on projects just to get a few bucks. That’s not healthy for yourself, and it will breed resentment towards your work.

But, if you can find that happy medium where you find just how valuable your time is, that will give you an idea on how much to charge for a figure. In a nutshell, ask yourself "how much should I charge so that I feel no guilt whatsoever about taking on a project, and that I’ll have no regrets doing it once it’s done…" and tack on an extra 10%. You’ll never regret it!

For more information on how to properly paint a custom figure, simply click HERE.

What was it that brought you into customizing action figures in the first place? And what is it that keeps you going now?

Well, it depends on whom you ask, but I’ve been ‘customizing’ projects for over 20 years now. Of course, the first 10 years of my life involved me, my toys, and a black magic marker. I was obsessed with giving my Star Wars toys ‘battle damage.’ There was this one time, though, that my older brother was talking to me about all the Star Wars figures he wished they had produced. I was maybe 10 or so at the time, and Return of the Jedi had just released its last wave of figures. He mentioned really wanting to see a Tarkin figure, and pointed out to me that there were multiple ‘Weequays’ at Jabba’s palace, along with multiple droids that never got produced.

So, I figured, I’d make my own. I spray painted a C-3PO solid white to simulate a Hoth Protocol Droid and then I took an extra Weequay and repainted his shirt a dark grey. The problem was, I never knew you were supposed to use primer, so my Weequay got all sticky and was quickly covered in dust and grit. Nasty stuff. But as a kid I got to have more figures to play with by making my own. I still have both of those figures, actually. They’re set up amongst my other vintage Star Wars figures.

Fast forward to 1994. I had moved up to New York and was having a similar conversation with a friend of mine about the lack of female figures for the Batman Animated line. That sort of sparked the obsession once again and I gave it a shot at making an Animated Batgirl. The only problem was I decided to use a Star Trek Dr. Crusher figure as a base. It turned out pretty awful. Still, it was so fun I wanted to try customizing again. And again. And again. Now I can’t imagine NOT doing customs. I keep trying to get back into more Illustration work, but the customs are so fun that it’s a big stress relief.

What education or professional training have you had that best prepared you for customizing as a job?

Well, I attended Parsons School of Design and majored in Illustration. That really helped me focus my drawing skills. I’ve been in the Graphic Design field for the past 15 years, taking as many classes as I could here and there. Even though the work was mostly 2-D in nature, it allowed me the opportunity to explore all sorts of design and modeling programs. When it comes down to the toy stuff, though, you just pull from various bits of your own experience and interests. A lot of it was trial and error, experimenting with repaints, headswaps, that sort of thing. What started off as a personal hobby turned into a personal obsession, and I found the more I customized, the more I enjoyed it and the pieces themselves got better and better.

It was really the launch of the Iron-Cow Prod. website that helped get the work noticed. That’s when the ball really started rolling. Word of mouth helped tremendously, as the more I became familiar with the work of other customizers, the more we all fed off each other for inspiration and new approaches.

How did you get involved creating custom figures for ToyFare Magazine?

I’m really not sure how the ToyFare guys got my name, to be quite honest. I know we all haunt a lot of the same message boards, so maybe they’d been following my work for awhile. Anyway, they approached me back in 2005, wanting to commission an artist-specific INVINCIBLE custom. I had a blast working on it, and they seemed really happy with the results, so it immediately blossomed into a fantastic working relationship. I’ve got several more projects in the works with them currently, so keep checking out their issues for the new works. The ToyFare guys are fantastic to work with.

How did your work on Art Asylum’s Battlestar Galactica Minimates come about?

That was a total fluke! I was accompanying the guys from Millionaire Playboy, helping them cover Toy Fair back in February of 2005. We were in the Art Asylum studio, and while the MPb guys were asking the questions, I was handling the photography duties. As we began wrapping up, everyone shook hands and exchanged business cards. I handed Art Asylum VP Adam Unger my card. He paused for a moment and did this crazy double-take, saying "YOU’RE Iron-Cow?!?" He then took my hand and gave me this crazy handshake. Apparently he was really impressed with the Minimate designs I had contributed to the SubCultures: Art of the Action Figure exhibit, and had even opened a file on my work. It was incredibly flattering, I have to say. Anyway, he introduced me to the other staff members and designs and told me then and there he wanted to bring me in to work on some projects for them. It took a few months for the right project to come along, but they took a chance on me with the Galactica line, and things kept going from there.

It should be noted, though, that while I developed the Classic and Modern (Toaster) Cylon Minimate figures, the human characters were handled by other designers at Art Asylum. Still, that Retro Cylon is a personal favorite of mine!

I run a website and would love to interview you. Can I ask you a few questions?

I would be happy to help out however possible! Although I am sometimes (mostly) bad about returning emails, feel free to prepare a list of questions and I will so to it that I answer them as best I can. If there’s anything specific you would like me to provide, as far as photos, etc, I can arrange for that as well.

The question you have isn’t listed…

Did I leave anything out? Is there a topic you would like to see me discuss in further detail? Click HERE to drop me a line. Thanks!


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