This week’s guest on the Toy Photographers podcast, Chris Shaylor, known to thousands of fans for his Empire Toy Works brand, is doing amazing things in Rotgut Station Spaceport, a fully realized, room-filling world he continues to build and evolve above his garage—all while creating incredible customs and shooting unforgettable toy photos on its dingy, dangerous streets, alleyways and terraces.
A lifelong collector of 1:18 scale (3.75-inch) action figures and vehicles—of every brand, line and era you can imagine—Shaylor retired from his family business to pursue making and selling toys full time. Along the way, the now 47-year-old husband and father began taking photographs of his toys, first of the pieces he makes to sell online, and then to capture his many one-of-a-kind custom builds and the ongoing progress as Rotgut Station, its inhabitants and their often colorful ships and speeders took shape.
His sci-fi city is populated by hundreds of action figures and vehicles, which appear in his photos going about their daily lives at Rotgut, taking part in various adventures or reacting to bigger things happening in Shaylor’s expansive world, like a recent attack by an army of Cyberman figures from Doctor Who.
Culminating years of effort, Rotgut Station and all its related spacecrafts, beasts and denizens have earned Shaylor’s @empiretoyworks Instagram account more than 18,000 followers, including numerous companies that donate the toys he alters and photographs, with no directives other than the hope their products will appear in his images, even if they’re altered beyond immediate recognition.
As you might notice in this podcast, I’m a longtime fan of Chris Shaylor and his work, and definitely fanboyed out a bit during our chat. That’s because Chris is truly one of the best in the game, and he’s doing it all—from making toys to sell, to building dioramas, customizing figures and vehicles, and taking pictures—according to his own, unique vision. If you see anything out there that looks similar, it was likely inspired by Shaylor and his creations, and he’s genuinely happy to motivate others, even if the results are a bit derivative.
In Shaylor’s magnanimity, Rotgut Station is for everyone. If only all of us could actually play inside.
NOTES & LINKS
Along with finding Empire Toy Works on Facebook and Instagram (@empiretoyworks), be sure to check out Chris’s toys for sale under empiretoyworks on eBay, and watch his YouTube videos offering an in-depth look at Rotgut Station Spaceport and his process (find all links above).
Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time on the Toy Photographers podcast.