Born in LA in 1978, Eaton’s family moved to London when he was eight, relocating to Detroit when he was 16, at a time when the city was famed for high unemployment, escalating crime rates and mounting racial tension. “It all amounted to incredible, crazy influences – graffiti, music, skateboarding,” says Eaton. “I guess I got my start freelancing in Detroit as a teenager. I began designing posters for nightclubs, bands and radio stations and started silk screening them at a shop that did all the famous pop posters, so that’s how I started making a living from art.”
It was during this time that a call from Fisher Price led to Eaton designing toys for the company, an experience that stood him in good stead when, during his studies at the School of Visual Arts in New York, he met the owner of Kidrobot, Paul Budnitz, who introduced him to the crazy world of collectable adult toys. “Everything fell in to place,” he says. “For the next few years that was it – I did graffiti and designed toys. Art toys were already big in Hong Kong and Japan but Kidrobot brought the genre of to the US. Initially we worked with some of the Asian companies, but we had to wait so long for stock that we thought: ‘Fuck it, let’s make our own.’
“That’s when I designed Dunny – it was different to anything else out there, no sharp edges, just a sexy, smooth form and it hit a cultural nerve with a generation of kids who grew up on nerd culture but now had a high disposable income. The appeal can’t really be vocalised – it’s like when you’re a child and you see something that is so cool you just want it. People saw vinyl toys dressed like them with sneakers and funky stuff and there were only 100 of each design made so there was limited-edition appeal. It was a kind of underground culture.
“I started painting motorcycles in New York as well, DMX Ruff Ryders bikes. It was awesome. I studied under one of the best bike painters in the city – Scott Chester of Acid. A lot of my current technique is from those days.”