James Brosnan on the launch of his new invention studio, Mec ‘N’ Tec Toys

James Brosnan, Mec ‘N’ Tec Toys

James, thanks for making time and congrats on the launch of Mec ‘N’ Tec Toys. First of all, how did you enter the toy industry?
Pre-high school, I was always making toys and games for my two brothers. We didn’t have a whole lot of money growing up – we lost our house at one point during the housing market crisis – and I enjoyed making toys and games for us all. We needed that outlet.

Also, I had neurosurgery when I was 12. Just before, I had walked into this little toy shop in LA and I found the Hexbug Nano. It was really cool and for a second, it made me totally forget I was about to go and have brain surgery. So I had a few moments early on in my life that tied me to a love of toys.

When I got to high school, I got really into ceramic art. It was essentially all I did because I’m dyslexic as the day is long. It was another outlet for me, in the same way that making toys was. Because of my love for making things, industrial design seemed like the best path for me to take. From there, I was on a quest to do a job where I could make something and then find it on the shelves.

And that led you to toys?
While at college, I started going to ChiTAG – now People of Play. Me and a friend were the only two people interested in toys at college and we had a friend who worked at Peggy Brown Creative Consulting. He’s still there actually – Connor Kriha. He was our proof that someone could go from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design into the toy industry!

So I called ChiTAG’s Mary Couzin and said: “I’m in college, I have no money and I really want to go to your event. What can I do to get in?” We worked out a deal and the following year I ended up running a college student programme where I got students from different colleges to show work at ChiTAG.

I also did a little work with Sweet Spot Studio’s Jon Vanderbeek and he gave me a taste of what toy invention really was. He emailed Big Monster Toys’ Brian Kujawski to say ‘Hey, you should hire this guy as an intern.’ And that’s how I got to intern at Big Monster Toys, who then hired me.

Amazing – and further confirmation that Mary Couzin and Jon Vanderbeek are thoroughly good eggs! Now, you were at BMT for almost three years, so what would you say makes it a special place to work?
BMT isn’t special because of the name, or the reputation, or the power to show items, or the amazing building… It’s all about the people. I walked in totally clueless, and within a week, Robert Civettini had taught me how to be proficient in building gear trains and mechanisms and wiring electronics. There’s a lot of brilliantly talented people behind that big yellow door; real unsung heroes.

Let’s move onto your new venture, Mec ‘N’ Tec Toys. Why was now the right time to go solo and launch an invention studio?
Don’t get me wrong, Big Monster Toys is an awesome place, but I knew that I had to do my own thing to become the type of successful that I wanted to be. I was often used as a modelmaker for high priority items, so I knew that – alongside inventing – I’d be able to do modelmaking as a service and source of income. It also enables me to live the lifestyle I want to live. Commuting to the city totally sucks!

What sorts of concepts do you find yourself drawn to inventing? And what design services do you offer?
I work primarily in plastic action games and mechanical pets. I love building mechanisms. A few people have approached me about being a mechanism vendor and that’s something I’d love to do. I also do prototyping, engineering solutions, 3D CAD design, and 3D printing.

And what helps you have ideas?
I have a system where I’ll string my hammock way too high in my yard, so I get above everybody else. I’ll sit in there and try to come up with 10 to 15 prompts that will get me to 100 ideas. Then I’ll boil those down to the ideas I’m willing to work on. Then I’ll likely do three to four iterations of an idea before it gets close to what it ends up being. Ideas do come to me in other ways too, but the high hammock is my main system.

You’re the first person to give me that answer! ‘The High Hammock Method’ – you should write a book!
Yeah, but I shouldn’t call it that. Just in case people assume it’s the ‘high’ hammock method.

Ha! I should point out to readers that you just mimed a ‘suspicious cigarette’ in case that’s lost in translation!
Ha! We’ll call it the ‘Blue Sky Hammock’ instead.

Much better! Now, before I let you go, if there are companies or inventors reading that want to contact you, how can they do so?
Just drop me an email at james@mecntec.com or my site is https://www.mecntec.com.

Fab. Thanks again James!

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