In this edition of “In God’s Image”, we will get to know Rocco Tartamella, a professional sculptor who has worked in the toy industry for over a decade. Rocco and I met at Toy Fair 2008, when I was covering collectibles news, and I ran coverage on several fascinating personal projects on which he was working at the time. We struck a chord to such a degree that he even let me leave the show with a souvenir from his table (and it is excellent).
Years later, for reasons I do not recall, we touched base once again and quickly found that we had common ground well beyond our love of the collecting hobby. We were both Men of Faith, and our connection over values and deeper issues became not only apparent but altogether ingrained in our ongoing conversation.
Today I invite you to get to know Rocco a bit better, as he is in the midst of pursuing a noteworthy project: releasing an Archangel Michael Collectible Action Figure via Kickstarter, in what he hopes will be the first in a line of collectibles featuring Angels and Demons of the Scripture. Truly Rocco displays that he is made in God’s Image, serving as a subcreator in our Created World.
Please join me in reading about Rocco’s work and vision:
1. Define Yourself in one word (Disciple, Writer, Christian, Athlete, American, Man, etc.) and tell us why you chose that term.
I’m an artist through and through. The way I approach most things in life is through these eyes, as a husband, as a father, as a friend. The way I see and appreciate people, the richness in the way I experience the world and the creative ways in which I use my talents to convey what I see in the form of sculpture are all done with the heart and soul of an artist. It’s an interesting question, it makes you think, because before this I don’t think I really thought of myself as an artist per se. I kind of just thought of myself as this guy who really likes sculpting, but yeah, artist… that’s what I am.
2. In two sentences, tell us about your kickstarter project for Archangel Michael—what it is and who you think will enjoy it.
The Archangel Michael Kickstarter project is the first angel in a highly detailed, articulated action figure series called Angels & Demons, depicting the ongoing epic battle between good and evil and brought to life in the artistic arena of ridiculously cool posable collectibles. Though the subject matter is spiritual or supernatural I believe the series will have a broad interest; there are so many that believe in and call on angels for help and protection and having Archangel Michael gracing your home will be a cool, hip, and steadfast reminder of his everlasting vigilance in defending us against lurking evils.
3. What led to the creation of Archangel Michael? Was it a specific event or was it a more general decision to get on Kickstarter?
When my son was about 5 1/2, he would sometimes feel afraid of the dark. So naturally my wife tried to assure him that he had nothing to fear but when my son has an idea in his head it’s really difficult to convince him otherwise and so it began. In addition to our normal nightly routine we tried many different approaches which included several different night lights and finally a flashlight.
Try as we might, none of these things seemed to provide him with any lasting comfort. Finally, Krissie came down stairs with an Archangel Michael medal and handed it to my son. She explained to him that the Archangel Michael has defeated the greatest darkness in the world and that he would come to his aid whenever he felt he couldn’t face his troubles alone. My son got so excited at the notion that there is this super cool, armored angel leading God’s army that he went to bed without a hitch for the first time in weeks.
It must have really left an impression because the following morning he wanted to know all about this magnificent archangel; so we read descriptions from various Scriptures, looked at paintings and bronzed statues adorning churches but a lot of the images didn’t seem to shore up with an angel that is powerful enough to cast the devil himself out of heaven.
Enter the sculptor in the house. I wanted my son to have a truly awesome visual depiction of the most bad-to-the-bone archangel, so I got to work. I sculpted night and day between paying gigs, stopping every now and then as my son peered over my shoulder to check on Michael’s status. When I finally finished, my son was over the moon with excitement and immediately wanted to hold the sculpture and take it off to his room. I had to explain that the materials I use to sculpt with aren’t suitable for that and it would have to be rendered in a harder material. Krissie popped in and said, “why don’t you make it a line of action figures?”
I had just finished sculpting the first line of Street Fighter action figures shown at Toy Fair 2014, and my hands were ready for more but the major hurtle to overcome with action figures is that they can be incredibly expensive to get tooled and produce, especially in smaller numbers.
That’s where Kickstarter comes in as the platform to allow artists like me to potentially produce their work without some of the hang ups that can come up when dealing with certain investors, and of course, the most important part is the support of the good men and women that back projects like mine. Though we have been largely looked over at this point, I just have to say that I am so extremely thankful for all of the people that have backed me to this point and if nothing else, you have reminded me of how wonderful people can be. Thank you!
4. How has your sculpting career required you to sacrifice?
We all have sacrifices that we make to pursue our dreams. I worked without pay for eight months at Art Asylum before I worked at McFarlane Toys, I commuted for 6 to 8 hours daily on buses and trains, moved several times, lost friends, fought with family, been threatened with lawsuits, been burned by people I trusted, but I love sculpting.
For as long as I can remember I’ve been one of those people that thinks the right thing to do is the right thing to do, that people and friendships should come first and if you say you’re going to do something then you do it. So it forever puzzles and amazes me when I come into contact with people that are superficial, say one thing and do another. Its one of those things that has cost me greatly in the past, but I’ve come to realize that those people that are trying to bring you down are living in fear and that’s no way to be. Through the passion and love for what I do I have been able to turn any of my sacrifices into blessings. Sacrifice becomes the most loving thing you can do for yourself, the people around you and those they touch.
5. What is your primary goal in sculpting? What about your primary goal for this kickstarter project specifically?
I think as an artist, the primary goal is to push yourself, to test the limits, the boundaries of what you thought you were capable of and ultimately what you could achieve; you do this while life throws you curve balls and you do the best you can with what you have. For me the ultimate goal would be to have my own toy company and this leads me into your question about my primary goal for this Kickstarter project. The Archangel Michael project is the starting point for me. I do plan on more figures in this line up and am excited to help spread a positive message, a reminder that good always wins. That message is ultimately what my art is all about, this talent was put in my hands, put in my heart by something so much larger than me and that is what needs to come through, that is my primary goal.
6. What is your largest hope for your supporters?
I wholeheartedly hope that they know just how much each one of them means to me, not just those who put funding toward this project but also those who sincerely want this to succeed, and those who have helped to promote this project. I want to see those who have backed the project financially to receive the figure in hand knowing that they have helped someone reach their goal, to help someone’s dream come true because doing that, having that as part of your legacy, you become part of that dream, you have made history.
7. What are two key ways in which your sculpting is affecting people today?
That might be one of the most interesting things about being a sculptor, or any type of artist for that matter, is that you never really know how your work is affecting people and what kind of impact it is making on them.
You go through your day-to-day hoping that what you are creating regardless of the subject matter is helping someone, somewhere. I have been fortunate enough to have received many emails and comments over the years where fans have expressed how much my work has inspired them or has been a sentimental reminder of a happy time in their lives. It is truly infinite in the number of ways you can reach and affect people through the arts.
Recently I have sculpted a line of historical busts that some museums are now starting to carry Ben Franklin, Abe Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Edgar Allan Poe, from these I have received a lot of positive feedback as well. The packaging for the bronze version of these busts also has historical facts which many find add to the educational value. I’ve also created the Artist’s Anatomy anatomical model which is currently in use at various visual effects studios and schools and also up for consideration by some museums; here too I have received a lot of very positive feedback where it is helping fellow artists.
To pick out two key ways that my sculpting is affecting people, I guess they have helped to inspire and educate those who have collected my work.
8. Have you seen God’s goodness and faithfulness in your work with collectibles and sculpting? If so, how?
There isn’t a single day that goes by that I don’t either have clay or prototypes in my hands. The Creator has been good to me, allowing me to create something different, something inspiring every day. He allows me without fail, to do what I love, to be with my family, to meet great people who inspire me and keep me going when things seem low. I am reminded of my blessings every time someone purchases my sculptures or contacts me for a project that each one of us is inspired by Him to move toward one another.
9. How can we learn more, support your kickstarter, or partner with you and get involved?
Well the biggest challenge is to get enough eyes on the project; We have everything in place to move forward with all of the phases of pre-production and final production, prototyping, painting, packaging, production manager, etc. we just need the backing at this point and it’s as good as done. So far we have a pretty good ratio of views to people sponsoring so I’m optimistic but we really need the views.
That said, the best way to help would be to spread the word. See how many people can be reached, link it on your Facebook page, Tweet about it, Pin it, blog about it and if you feel that it resonates with you then please become a sponsor. It’s the community that can make this happen, community is the reason anything happens. The focus with this project is creating really cool, dynamic looking figures that the religious communities can also rally around. These figures deserve to have their stories told we just need your support.
There you have it. Know a collector, get him or her this!