Carlos Mendoza III on how the Artisan Social Club is helping budding artists and designers to thrive

Carlos Mendoza III, Artisan Social Club,Carlos, it’s always great to catch up. We’re here to talk about an incredibly exciting initiative that you’ve set up called the Artisan Social Club. For anyone new to it, how do you describe it?
Billy, it’s always great to catch up with you and the Mojo Nation team. Thanks for the opportunity to share news about the Artisan Social Club!

The best way to describe it is that it’s a membership-based community of artists and designers, working or novice, who share a passion for art and the creative process. Our industry professional mentors, help those in need of direction and focus on their creative journey.

ASC actually started in SoCal in 2018, but we paused during the pandemic. ASC 2023 is a non-profit venture that will build on the success of the SoCal experience with east coast activations since that is where I now live and work as an Art Director for Spirit Halloween. West coast sessions will be organised and run by my partner Joe Campos of McHale Designs.

What led you to start this up?
When I was kid in high school, I was heavily involved in the graffiti culture. When I finally got caught, I was put on probation and my probation officer became a mentor to me – that’s a story for another time! He believed in me and provided me with the opportunity to visit Disney Animation Studios and that changed everything for me.

In the years since, I’ve had the opportunity to lead and work with some of the best talent and design teams on projects for brands like Star Wars, Marvel, Nickelodeon and even Disney! Simply put, I felt it was time to give back.

And how is ASC looking to help artists and designers?
Our mission is to provide access to training and mentoring from working professionals for novice artists, students and those with limited access to opportunity. Our vision is to establish strong community connections to serve inner city youth, foster care programs and school districts giving participants a chance to move beyond their current situation – just like my PO gave me.

All creatives with a passion and desire to create should be given a chance to thrive in a creative and supportive environment.

Carlos Mendoza III, Artisan Social Club,

Have you seen it make an impact already?
This is the most rewarding part – I have a couple of examples that really stand out.

Rey was a new father and husband working odd hours and simply struggling to get into art school or even to have the confidence to apply to a studio. He attended a few ASC “night out” events where he met professional artists doing exactly what he dreamed of doing. He gained confidence in his ability to draw and with ASC mentoring he improved his portfolio presentation as he understood what studios would expect to see in his work. He is now enrolled in art school and on his way to working in a professional studio.

Then there was Rob, a veteran with whom I shared a passion for toy design. He was the first ever to attend my first ASC get together – and the only one that showed up!

We would meet at Starbucks to sit and draw together. Soon, more and more attendees joined us. Helping him build confidence and a solid portfolio presentation, along with his hard work, paid off when he landed a job at Skyrocket Toys where he eventually became a designer and lead the charge on a few key projects.

In more recent times we have helped many students currently out of school get the much-needed help with mentoring and creative insight to help them navigate unique creative journey.

Can you talk us through some of the guests, companies, and brands that you’ve already had come and take part in ASC events?
Absolutely! I think this is what makes ASC so special. Our guest mentors represent a wide range of very talented professionals including Jared Krichevsky (MEGAN, GOTG3, King Kong and Godzilla), Christian Gossett (Star Wars franchise and creator of the graphic novel RED STAR, recently directing for Netflix), Geizi Guevera (Jazwares, Illustrator, toy designer) and Kelsie Mitchell (Design Manager for Licensed Costumes at Spirit Halloween).

These are industry influencers; legends in the field of toys, consumer products, games, movies and packaging design. Magic can happen when a connection is made between mentor and member, whether at an in-person event or an online workshop.

We had the pleasure of partnering with Gnomon and Brainstorm School in LA to bring these in person live events. I recently lectured to the students at Savannah College of Art and Design. We have the incredible support from Xencelabs, an amazing new company focused on new digital hardware for creatives. They asked ASC to test drive their new display monitor and demo a live illustration at MOCCA FEST in New York.

This year’s goal is to garner support and develop partnerships with toy and entertainment companies, as well as those developing the “tools of the trade”. We see this as a win-win as we groom and grease the talent pipeline.

We would love to talk to any company or foundation with a shared vision for community outreach and talent development. We’re looking for sponsors to help underwrite the cost of producing live and online events. The in-house workshops we provided at the art schools are easily adapted to toy and entertainment companies to help train junior staff in studio expectations, etiquette, and best practices. This will help them be more confident and efficient in a professional environment.

Carlos Mendoza III, Artisan Social Club,

Why is it so important to nurture the next generation in this way? How do you see it benefiting the toy industry – and beyond?
That’s a great question Billy. We at ASC have seen the true struggle that faces the industry. As an art director for many years, I have seen the disappointment in students after college not being able to land a job. Or the artist stuck in the same studio for many years not moving up or growing. Nothing is more frustrating than investing in yourself with course after course, podcast after podcast, to find no direction on where to go or how to get to a dream career.

School can only give these future artists and designers so much. We want to help them ask the right questions and find their purpose in the industry. This will help with confidence and understanding of how to work efficiently and properly prepare a portfolio for the toy and design industry.

It’s like striking gold when a company can hire confident and prepared designers who are ready to hit the ground running. There is so much untapped potential out there and we see a role for Artisan Social Club to contribute in a way that serves the student and the companies that need a steady pipeline of talent.

On that, if any designers, invention studios or toy companies are reading and want to get involved, how can they support you and be involved?
We welcome all who believes in our mission and vision. We are always looking to partner with studios, toy and entertainment companies, philanthropic foundations and art schools, as well as hardware and software companies for the creative industries.

If you are a working professional with a few years in studio looking for a way to give back, become a mentor and join us at one of our events. Write to me at [email protected]. Or contact us via our website at

Carlos, congrats on what you’ve achieved with it so far. I look forward to seeing what’s next!
Thanks for your support Mojo Nation for helping us get the word out!

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