Paid to Play

Paid to Play
Not Just Another Pretty Face(plate)

Susan Arendt | 22 Jul 2008 09:05
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Creating the Heroes plate took little more than a visit to "a local guy who cuts vinyl stickers for car windows" and creative use of a nickel and spray paint in lieu of an airbrush to create the eclipse, but not all of Webb's designs are so simple. Another Star Wars-themed plate features a hand-carved Sarlaac monster crawling out of the plate, grasping a tiny Boba Fett in one huge tentacle. A clear faceplate crafted to look like a gumball machine is decorated with the crane arm and aliens from Toy Story. Webb's "Indiana Johnny" plate is impressive enough by itself, but comes in a wooden box painted with a "burned" image of the Ark of the Covenant.

Be it complex or basic, the creation of each of Webb's plates follows the same general path. "I take a plate and either mask off the Ring of Light or remove it. I sand down the plate and spray it with a plastic-friendly primer," he explains. "Once that is dry, I spray one color, let it dry, apply the stencil and spray a second color. Then I'll add details by hand, or use other stencils, or what have you. Finally, I spray it with a sealer and reapply the power button once it's all dry."

How long a plate takes to go from concept to completion, however, varies as wildly as the plates themselves. Webb has a number of projects in progress at any given time, but he can complete a relatively simple design in just a week or two. Not all plates go so smoothly, however. "I have plates that are hanging on my wall, half-finished, mocking me because of their difficulty or a creative block or simply dissatisfaction with my ability to 'pull it off.' I literally have plates that were initiated months ago, that have never progressed beyond the concept," sighs Webb.

Given the quality of his work, Webb could undoubtedly charge handsomely for his particular pieces of console personalization, but he asks little more from his customers than to simply cover his costs. "The plates basically pay for themselves, and that's it," he says. Materials such as the girl on his Bathing Beauty plate or the gate on his tribute to Arkham Asylum are usually no further away than the local toy store, but occasionally he must obtain them from online import shops or conventions. Webb is quite resourceful and creative when it comes to getting the tools he needs to complete a project, but there is one resource in particular he has yet to successfully track down.

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"I know that Microsoft uses white faceplates in a 200-count box, because I saw two boxes at Zero Hour for the airbrushed DOA customs, and they used three boxes at the UK launch for the 600 plates that were graffiti painted by the Gorillaz guys. I'm still trying to figure out how to get access to one or two of those boxes," he says.

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