Wooden SUPER Robots: JUST TOYS OR A NEW ART FORM?
Updated: Aug 29
If you think robot toys are just in plastic or die-cast format, think again. I recently met a gentleman named Wilfred Arowana who makes wooden robot toys from hand. And these aren’t just simple robot toys either. These are recreations of Super Robots from the 1970s and 1980s. Super Robots are Japanese mecha anime and manga featuring giant, superpowered robots and powered exoskeletons.
I had a chance to sit down with Wilfred Arowana and talk about his work.
Based in Manila, Philippines, Wilfred Arowana is a family man first and a collector second. His robot building all started as his hobby as a toy collector. A father of four, Arowana started collecting robot toys since he was a kid, and just never stopped.
“These toys bring back my childhood memories, my mother and father,” says Arowana. “I love collecting toys, especially toys I didn’t have when I was young.”
While most people would consider sitting down and carving a robot out of wood difficult, tedious, and almost impossible, for Arowana, it is a piece of cake.
” I always say, that making a robot is easy. Anybody can do one. The challenge is when you start gathering ideas to make the best version… when you innovate to make your own design. It takes almost a month to finish a wooden robot, while you consume lesser time when you use plastic or resin. “
As stated earlier, the robots that Arowana creates are all Japanese robots from the 1970s and 1980s that he grew up with. These include different version of Voltes V , Ugon bat . Tetsujin 28, Johnny Sokko Super Robot Combatler V, Boss Burot , Red Baron Gundam , Mekanda , Grandizer , Great Mazinet z , Aphrodite , Gaiking , and BioRobot.
Just looking at a robot, you can hardly tell it’s made of wood. Since each piece is intricately painted. Unless you held it in your hand, you might not ever know that it was hand carved and not made in a factory.
I asked Arowana whether he felt he was a toy maker or artist, because in reality, I think he’s both. I could see his pieces not only in a toy or geek convention somewhere in the States, but very much in a respectable high class art gallery too.
According to Arowana, “I am a combination of an artist and a toymaker. I am an innovator. I usually feed my fantasy. My creation is a mixture of arts and toys. I used my skills to make one. I designed these to entertain myself and my kids.”
As far as the future of his robots, although his work is definitely for sale, to Arowana, the robots he creates are a form of his legacy. Arowana states, “I am looking forward that whenever my loved ones glance at my robots, they will recapture our good moments, and they will care for it as my heirloom.”
For those interested in learning more about his work, you can contact Arowana via Facebook using Wilfred Arowana or on his page.