Skaters are an eclectic bunch, with interests as varied as their trick selection and you’d be hard pressed to find a skateboarder with as wide a range of hobbies/professions as OG Bones Brigader, and namesake to the Vans Half Cab, as our own Renaissance man, Steve Caballero. Steve is clearly and undeniably regarded as one of the greatest to ever ride a skateboard but through skating Steve has been able to branch out into music, art and now toy design. That’s right. We said it: toy design.
Back in August, just before the Paris Downtown Showdown, Cab went out to Hong Kong for an art show with friend Jahan Loh and the release of his first Cab Dragon toy based off the drawing Steve did for his 20th anniversary Half Cab. We caught up with Steve to discuss his trip, the Cab Dragon, toy collecting and to get the inside scoop on his latest toy collaboration.
Your trip to Hong Kong looked like a lot of fun. What were you out there for and what was your experience like?
The reason I went out to Hong Kong was to introduce my very first Cab Dragon toy that was made from a piece of artwork that I had designed for Vans for my 20 year Half Cab Anniversary for 2012. I had a friend who I met through the Internet, who had done some collabs with Vans before, named Jahan Loh; he approached me and said, “I really liked that image you did for your 20 year anniversary. What would you think about me sculpting it and making a toy out of it?” I said, “Yeah! That would be awesome!” That’s kind of an artist’s dream to have a piece of your artwork come to life in a form that you can touch, with some dimension to it. He researched how to do it and we went ahead and then we decided to release the toy and also do an art show connected to it for the launch with his art and my art. The name, Double Dragon, came up for the art show because I was born in the year of the dragon and he was born ten years after me, also year of the dragon. I basically went out there and planned it out with him and this clothing company called Sub Crew and they decided to produce it at their new art gallery. It was a huge success. The toy came out really cool and we were able to do a lot of cool artwork for the show and most of it sold out the night before the opening at the pre-sale.
I had never been to Hong Kong but I had been to Beijing, China about 1994 with Danny Wainwright and we ended up skating the Great Wall of China. I always wanted to go to Hong Kong because Bruce Lee is from Hong Kong and he is one of my idols from back in the day that I looked up to and I wanted to see his hometown and how he grew up.
Also a lot of toys come from China and are produced there and they have some markets that are dedicated to toyshops and collectibles and there is even a bootleg toy area.
You’re a big toy collector. What was the raddest stuff you came across over there?
As far as toys from Asia I’ve always been a fan of Ultraman. I know a lot of the toys that are sold in Japan come from China and I know there’s a lot of bootlegs and rare figures and I knew at the collectible shops in Hong Kong there would be a lot of them in the that have been preserved. I never really wanted to collect the really rare stuff because it was so expensive but I got some really good deals when I was there. And because I sold a lot of paintings it kind of justified the purchases of all the toys. I was able to find some really cool, rare, original vinyl Ultraman toys from the 70s. There was one that was a 3’ tall bootleg at a really good price and there was some Ultraman figures I’d never seen before as well so I grab some of those; I had a full range of stuff including some for my kids too because they’re into it. Coming home I had an entire duffle bag of just vinyl toys. Some were so big that my friends from Sub Crew actually were kind enough to ship them back to me because they wouldn’t fit in my bag.
Being a toy collector and being into toys for so long it was really exciting to go to a place that actually produces them. A lot of sellers were really excited to speak to me because some of these pieces were sitting for decades, waiting for a buyer and the sellers shared a lot of knowledge with me of what years things were made and how rare they were.
Aside from Ultraman, what toys are you into collecting?
I’m into Planet of the Apes original movie stuff. Evel Knievel was a huge inspiration for me back in the day. Then there were these toys from this company called Mego that were produced in the 70s and were some of the first action figures from various TV shows and movies from the 70s; I have a huge collection of those. I’m into Nightmare before Christmas also. But when you collect toys what you run into is that you run out of space. Once you’re collecting stuff and it starts to go on top of the case you basically have to tell yourself to stop because there’s no room to even display it. There’s no reason to collect something if you can’t display it.
Do you let your kids play with your collectible toys?
I do. When my son first started getting into Ultraman he would look at my case all the time and ask me if he could play some of my toys and I would let him take out one toy a day so he could respect them and not get spoiled about it. Then I would bring stuff back from Japan and we’d go to the collectible store and get him his own Ultraman toys. He knows which ones are collectibles and which aren’t but I let him play with them all, I just tell him to be really gentle with the rarer, more expensive ones.
What’s your favorite, most prized toy?
I don’t know if I have a favorite. When it comes to collecting the newest purchase you got is always your favorite. It’s hard to say, I have so many different collections it’s hard to put one over the other. I don’t want to say, “This is my most expensive, so this is my favorite.” Honestly though, I would have to say the Cab Dragon toy that I produced is probably my favorite because it’s my own toy and it’s something that I had come up with on my own and made it a reality.
What was the process of making that Cab Dragon toy?
The process really was based around collaborating with the artist, Jahan, and going over ideas of how it’s going to look and what colorway we were going to do first. What I learned about toy making in China is you have to have the toy made in three or four different places because if you have it made in one shop they will bootleg it and backdoor it and it will lose its value and rarity. What you have to do in China is have the sculpt made one place and have it painted somewhere else, you have to have the packaging made somewhere else and then you have it assembled somewhere else to avoid it getting bootlegged. We decided to only make 300 of the first run and there are still some still available from Sub Crew.
You mentioned a really cool meeting you had in SF recently for another toy.
I got approached by this company in San Francisco called Super 7 and they have a store called Secret Base and they do a lot of collabs with Kaiju Vinyls and they wanted to meet and go over a Cab Dragon toy based on my first Powell Peralta pro model. I always thought it would be cool to produce something like that so I’m going to meet with them and discuss the licensing with Powell Peralta. I think that would be a fun project. The toy thing is a unique area that I hadn’t really tapped into; I’ve obviously tapped into music and skating and art but making toys is so much fun and it’s a cool transition from my artwork.
I’m glad you mentioned the artwork. Since we spoke last year you’ve been doing a bunch of art shows. How much time have you been dedicating to painting and shows? What are you working on next? Where can people get prints?
Half my time, aside from taking care of my kids, is dedicated to doing artwork. I’ve been doing a lot of shows since we spoke and a lot of shows connected to skate events as well. This year I went to China and Japan just for art, which is really cool because I never thought I’d get to that level as an artist. In 2005 I just decided to I wanted to be an aspiring artist and one that shows in galleries and so I’ve been following that dream and putting in the work and it’s starting to pay off and have people interested in what I’m doing besides skating.
I have a bunch of art shows coming up. I have a show November 2nd in Santa Cruz at the Boardroom with Board Rescue to raise money for under privileged kids that don’t have skateboards. I like to do a lot of shows like that to give back to the skate community.
People can buy prints and art by contacting me through my Instagram @steviecab or on Facebook.