Toy Stories

Boise artist turns his childhood obsession into grown-up art

Down a bumpy gravel path off Hill Road is a red house with a door in the back that leads into a narrow room. The walls are lined with movie posters, pencil sketches and racks full of resins and paints. Near the door is a desk covered in miniature plastic body parts, squares of sandpaper and a utility knife.

Credenda Studios desk

Credenda's shelf of action figures

This is Credenda Studios — a one-man operation for custom action figures. Or as his fans call them: designer toys.

Beau Greener, a graphic designer by day and owner of Credenda by night, makes the action figures. They’re just as detailed as the ones found in a toy aisle, all the way down to the cardboard packaging.

“I try to mimic that look of something you’d pick up at the store. It’s all in the details … the age requirements, the barcode, even the hole for the hanger.”

But unlike traditional toys, these aren’t meant to be played with. “They’re collectibles, not really made for children. They’re for adults,” says Greener. And he’s built up a following of people waiting to scoop up his next figure.

The process to make a run of a custom figures starts in the toy store or on eBay, where Greener sifts through 70s and 80s action figures as a foundation. Called “kit bashing,” it’s the process of taking existing toys and combining them to create something original.

“I’ll take some arms off of one figure and put them on the body of another and then sculpt (with modeling clay) on top of that.”

When a figure is roughly pieced together, Greener creates molds of the arms, legs and torso out of silicon. Once the molds dry (which can take up to 16 hours), they’re ready for resin to be poured in — the core material of a figure.

Silicon mold of a custom action figure

Credenda owner Beau Greener cleaning up an action figure

“It’s a lot of trial and error. In the beginning I wasted so much resin just trying to figure out the process,” he says. If it dries too quickly, air pockets inside the figure make it more susceptible to breaking. Drying too slowly can mean a longer wait.

With each run, Greener makes 30-40 figures. Each requiring sanding, assembly, cleaning, painting and packaging.

“I’ve done a few runs with 50 figures, and it just gets to be tedious painting one hundred tiny little eyes and eyebrows.

It starts to wear on me.”

For Greener, it’s more than just an toy. “I try to create a story with each figure. It helps me stand out, and buyers like having that kind of back story when they buy a figure.”

Greener creates those stories by teaming up with illustrators, including locals James Lloyd and Steve Willhite, who have provided art for the packaging. “It’s an opportunity for me to meet new artists and collaborate with them. Bring their style into the work.”

Greener’s latest figure, Freddy Fett, is a mashup of the horror movie character Freddy Krueger and Star Wars bounty hunter Boba Fett. “I’m heavily inspired by horror movies, I grew up watching them. And Star Wars too, as any other kid was. I had this idea to mash these two together.”

And like previous figures, buyers were interested.

“It sold out the first night of San Diego Comic-Con (2015),”  he said, and each figure is sold for $60.

More than the money, with every figure Greener makes he sets out to invoke a feeling of nostalgia. To remind them of their childhood, roaming the toy store, trying to find the perfect toy.

“The challenge has been and always will be creating things that people want to buy. Everything I create has to invoke a feeling in somebody.”

Credenda owner Beau Greener cleaning a Freddy Fett figure

Credenda sign

That feeling is what drives him to create new figures and try out new processes. “I want to start getting into doing vinyl toys. It’s a really cool process, but they have to be manufactured overseas.”

His plan for the future? Making Credenda a full-time gig. “I want to wake up in the morning, make toys, go to bed. Wake up and do it all over again.”

Greener’s advice to those who want to start their own project, action figures or otherwise, is simply this:

“Don’t be afraid of failure, because it happens a lot.”

Photography by Mike Kerby