Friends With You is a commercial art collective based in Miami, Florida, founded by Sam Borkson and Arturo Sandoval in 2002, that creates designer toys, particularly plush, and modular wood toys, as well as motion graphics, stop motion animation, and art installations that incorporate music. The Friends With You website states that they "make magical toys" that "help the every day person cope with the daily routines of their every day lives."
The work of Friends With You is distinguished by an aesthetic that is at once cute and bizarre, use of non-traditional materials, and a hand-made quality. Pieces are produced in small numbers, and are usually not re-released.
Friends With You toys feature entirely unique character designs, which departs from the plush design tradition of anthropomorphized animals, most notably the Malfi character and its variations. In addition to their names, dolls are given fantastic personas, and their distinctive personalities are described in booklet-style tags included with the dolls.
To date, Friends With You have produced 28 plush dolls, six wooden toys, and a small assortment of miniature figures. Additionally, they have exhibited work at the Hanna Gallery in Tokyo, 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco, and the MOCA Museum of Contemporary Art Miami in Florida, and have been commissioned to create motion graphics for companies such as Sony, MTV, Nike, and Columbia Records.
In October 2006, the German art press Die Gestalten Verlag published a Friends With You monograph titled Friends With You Have Powers!
Plush Series 1Edit
Originally launched in 2002 Friends With You got their initial boom of recognition through this line of plush characters and beings known as "Friends". Featuring eight different "Friends" they are said to be derived from unimaginably small microbes that has been enlarged times one billionth its original size and then some. They live in your breath and under the part of your brain used for wishing. Each of the "Friends" represent an ability or power which is then shared with you when befriending them. These were produced in extremely limited numbers and are now very rare. The original eight Friends included:
Good Wood GangEdit
The Good Wood Gang became the second line of toys created by Friends With You and was released in 2005 and debuted at Kidrobot in Los Angeles on July 7th, 2005 and at Giant Robot in New York on July 8th, 2005. Unlike the plush nature of Plush Series 1 toys Good Wood Gang was structurally built with wood materials. What really made this series unique was that they were peg based modular builds. Each toy came with a large assortment of pieces and accessories that could be put together via small wooden holes and pegs that attached to each other. Much like Lego each character still retained an aesthetic while being entirely customizable. The characters in the Good Wood Gang included:
Plush Series 2Edit
Following the design of Malfi from Plush Series 1 was a second plush line only featuring Malfi with different variants and powers. The most notable changes to the Malfi design were color variations and alternate facial expressions. A reproduction of the regular Malfi design was created for the series. The Malfi toys in this series included:
The Burger BunchEdit
Roughly around the same time as the release of the Malfi based Plush Series 2 a team of toys known as The Burger Bunch was launched. Each of the toys had the distinct ability to have their parts moved around or shared similar to changing out the stacked ingredients in a hamburger sandwich. There were three friends in The Burger Bunch, which included:
Alongside but not part of The Burger Bunch, The Boy was also released.
Wish Come TrueEdit
Friends With You's latest toy line is the appropriately named Wish Come True. Based around the concept of making anyone's wish come true, similar in fashion to what a genie does, all characters are assigned lucky numbers and come packaged blind boxed. One other similarity between all models of toys in this line is that they all have weighted bottoms and built-in bell chimes giving each one a playful rocking motion and a subtle, soothing sound reminiscent of infants' toys. There are six main "Friends", including:
There are also ten other unknown variant characters.