How long have you been making your Pokeball art? How did you get into it?
Crayle McDonald: I've been making Pokeball art for 5 years, and selling it for 3 or 4 years. I got inspired by another artist who made two-dimensional art of "what Pokemon are doing in their Pokeballs all day," and thought, "I have always imagined that too! I bet I could make it three-dimensional."
I actually thought I invented the process I use for assembling the Pokeball after I'd bought my supplies and started trying to make them, and then found out early when I stumbled on a YouTube ad that was "Make your own DIY Pokeball diorama" that I didn't invent the concept at all. It stung back then, but now I'm still very proud of the hard work I put into the craft and bringing my own unique designs to the scenes inside.
What are your influences? Who or what inspires you?
Crayle: I'm inspired in two different ways. The first is that the source material, the world of the Pokemon games and shows provides me with lots of challenges. How do I make something look like an electrical attack? How do I differentiate that this scene is in the fall versus one in the spring?
My other inspiration comes from looking at everyday items, many of which would be considered "trash", and asking myself what I can do with those objects. I've used everything from scraps of sticks in my yard to the tubes my dad's vape juice comes in into my dioramas. I like to use things that people would otherwise throw away when I can.
You also cosplay. What can you tell me about that?
Crayle: I am one half of the cosplay duo: Phoenix Sisters Cosplay. We put out monthly large photoshoots, appear both together and separately on podcasts, and do both volunteer and paid work appearing as cast members at conventions. Our currently airing podcasts are Cosplay Cafe (a show in which we interview cosplayers in full costume) and Gilmore Sisters: A Rant Podcast, which is a fan discussion show that goes completely off the rails about the show Gilmore Girls.
We both find the roleplaying aspect of cosplay to be healing, as it gives us a chance to step outside of our own lives for short periods of time, and then come back to the "real world" with a refreshed outlook. We find composing the costumes themselves to be a labor of love (and a sometimes punishing one at that, as we're both so busy that we're often crafting our costumes at less than ideal times). My cosplay partner wouldn't call herself libertarian, but we still have a lot of shared values too, mostly about lifting each other and other individuals up in the hope of making the world a little better of a place, one person or group of hobbyists at a time.
What is your creative process like? What tools and methods do you use to make your Pokémon art?
Crayle: Making Pokeballs, and other dioramas, involves a lot of really varied materials and processes. I have floor-to-ceiling shelves and sets on sets of drawers in my craft room (which is also the biggest enclosed room in our house) full of everything from acrylic DIY Christmas ornament spheres (the shell of the actual Pokeball), to hot glue sticks, to stickers, to aluminum foil, to scrubbing pads. Then long tables full of cups with tall stuff sticking out of them, like faux flowers, real sticks, pieces of plastic packaging, etc. I even have two drawers full of nothing but neat rocks.
The creative process can start a few different ways. I may want to closely recreate a scene from one of the games or show episodes. I may have a customer who has a specific vision that I need to bring to life as closely as I can. I may just think "I have a lot of pink flowers, and they're changing the overall look of my fake flowers bunches. Which Pokemon should I put with those to get some of them out of here?"
The design process changes a bit based on which product I'm making. My most popular item is the Pokeballs, and I start those by building the scene insides. I make a cardboard circle the diameter of the sphere I'm going to fill, and then plan out my scene on top of that cardboard circle. I use licensed figures (because I don't want to knock off the people who own the rights to make those.) The size of the available figure determines what scale other items in the scene can be. Once I've got a plan in place, I paint anything that needs painted first, so that things have time to dry. Then I build things that need to be built, or cut up anything that needs to be made smaller. I have drills, rotary cutters, craft saws, and all kinds of tools. I keep my most-used stuff right on my work desk. The sphere itself gets a pour-paint coat of white on one half, and dries on a rack to the side while I'm making the scene. Once the scene inside is done, I put it in the white half of the sphere with glue, and put the clear part on top, then make the remaining details with electrical tape and foam to give it the signature Pokeball "button."
A lot of my other items are dioramas built inside cool containers I find. So, if it's a mug, I might choose a Pokemon to be having coffee inside the mug. If it's a tilted jar, I have to find a figure that fits inside it well, and then build the scene according to which Pokemon fits. It's a lot of looking at what I have on hand to see what fits together both in terms of physical fit and in terms of what goes together thematically.
At the end, I turn whatever I've made upside down and shake it as hard as I can. I like to make things that are built to last, and can be shipped safely in the mail. If it doesn't hold together, I partially disassemble and start reaffixing things.
How long have you considered yourself a libertarian?
Crayle: I didn't know the world "libertarian" until I was a freshman in college (in 2011), and met a bunch of Young Americans for Liberty members. But I've been libertarian for as long as I've ever had any opinions about government structure. My family and I talked a lot about politics and general philosophy my whole life, and I've always leaned in the direction of self-governance wherever possible. These philosophies intensified as I got involved with various gun rights organizations in my late teens and early twenties. I had been stalked and threatened several times in college, and when you're facing a threat right there in the moment, you're your own first responder, as cliche as that sounds to commit to writing.
What do you think the role of art should be in the libertarian movement?
Crayle: I think the libertarian movement is really diverse, and can sometimes be really exhausting to discuss all the time. Looking at art with libertarian themes, or even art that isn't particularly political, gives us all a break from constantly discussing Friedman or Rand, while still engaging in some common ground.
I've noticed that Libertarians don't have strong party lines the way Democrats and Republicans do, even if you're involved with "the Libertarian Party" too, and as beautiful as I find competition in a marketplace of ideas to be, it does lead to spending a lot of time debating. Consuming and creating art sometimes lets us get out of that confrontational zone.
I will say, as a side note, that libertarian customers for art seem to generally respect that what I do took work and has value, and feel that way about other artists too. It's nice to engage with people who don't think they're entitled to my time for nothing. Many artists are exposed over and over to people who don't view the time it takes to create art as labor, and it's frustrating. I like it when my libertarian peers can support artists with respect even if they can't buy at the moment.
Where can people go to view and purchase your Pokémon artwork?
Crayle: People can view and purchase my Pokemon art at craylevanest.com and if you click around on there, you can also find my cosplay content, links to my podcasts, and a calendar of live events I will be attending for any of those categories.