Heaps of discarded toys + one hot glue gun + two innovative girls = MUTANTS!

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Some of Annabel and Elsa’s mutant creations.

A plastic green army man, in crawling position, bears Cinderella’s head. Shrek’s body kneels on the ground, with the face of a kewpie doll who needs a haircut. Tigger of Winnie the Pooh waves, using arms from a Barbie doll while balancing on ice skates.

The mutants are here. And there are many of them.

For 11-year-old girls Elsa Rudolph Swanson and Annabel Dudash, both students at Oakland schools and friends since preschool, modifying toys into Mutants has become a passion.

Asked to describe what a Mutant toy is, Annabel says, frankly, that “it’s a toy that was made out of other toys, so it’s not the same toy.”

Elsa (left) and Annabel (right).

For two years now, the girls have sold their Mutants at the monthly Oakland Art Murmurs; they’ve been featured in magazines; and the Oakland Museum has even lent their support to the girls in creating their toys.

In a short interview, Annabel said that she originally wanted to make party favors for her 9th birthday party and found some old toys that she could re-fashion and give out. “[My friends] loved them, and we didn’t have a hot glue gun, so we used wire,” she said.

Mutant-making at the Oakland Art Murmur.

Since then, the idea took off. These days, Annabel and Elsa use a hot glue gun to hack the toys, and at their recent Art Murmur table, they had twelve glue guns going at once as countless people made their own Mutants.

“We’ve made so much,” Annabel says. Russell, her dad, estimates that they’ve created hundreds of them. “We started pillaging toys from every thrift store we could think of,” he said. “And then when we started going to Art Murmur, people would say, ‘oh great, you’re here!’ and they would just give us heaps of old toys.” Family members would send them, too.

Eventually, Russell struck a sweet deal with Goodwill’s processing plant, and he and the girls have been able to dig through the barrels of discarded toys and take home dozens of pounds of toy parts. They then spend as many hours as they can, barring homework and bedtime constraints, cranking out toys as fast as possible.

Annabel and Elsa have a website, a Flickr page, and have completely sold out their wares — priced from $1-$5 — at various Art Murmurs over the last two years (they used the profits to buy an iPad and an iPod).

What does Annabel want to be when she grows up? “An engineer.” What kind? She shrugs. “That’s as far as I got.”

At the Mini Maker Faire, Annabel and Elsa (with help from their proud parents) will set up tables with Mutants, and everyone will be welcome to make their own Mutant. Check them out! 

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One response to “Heaps of discarded toys + one hot glue gun + two innovative girls = MUTANTS!

  1. These two visited MY booth! I wish I had returned the favor. Next year for sure!

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