Growing up is an inevitable series of wrestling with one adulthood “curse” after another. They may come in the form of a dead end friendship, a rude (college course) awakening, a sudden disconnect with a childhood hobby, or a total, indescribable feeling of loss. After all, your campus bulletin board’s favorite quote still rings true: Change is the only constant thing in the world.
Like many young folks, Makati City-based artist Maxine Frias was afraid of these waves. But little did she know, the same concept of uncontrollable change would become the ethos of the virtual world she’d soon create. Somewhere on Instagram, there lies Fickle Friends Studios, home of both familiar and strange clay-made creatures.
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While the word “fickle” is commonly used in negative contexts—highlighting the lack of stability—this trinket store finds comfort in it. “Our shop’s primary objective is to encourage individuals to try, explore, and be unlimited, which is derived from the word ‘fickle,’ which means ‘changing frequently,’” the 23-year-old one-woman team says. “I used to be terrified of change, but being able to look into many themes, ideas, and concepts, these made me see that change is not scary after all.”
Change in the Fickle Friends world appears in the reimagination of characters from well-loved pop culture. One moment, Coraline is a doppelganger yarn holder; the next one, Princess Bubblegum and Marceline transform into heart-shaped incense holders. Tomie from the Junji Ito comic ‘verse saying “I’ve got more demons where that came from” gets immortalized in clay, and so does “IGOR” main boy Tyler, the Creator (because why not?).
Other pieces like pots and mirrors exude eerie, playful, and even sometimes gory energies. From aliens to angels, adopting a fickle-minded friend as a bedroom companion sounds like an intriguing idea, especially for a generation that grew up catching Pokemon characters seriously—that’s why almost each piece gets sold fast.
“The characters I frequently feature in my collection are meant to promote the notion of keeping your inner child alive since they make you think of happy, amusing times from your childhood,” she says.
In an exclusive Seen On Scout chat with Maxine, we dive into the making of Fickle Friends.
@ficklefriends_ 10% work, 90% lip sync 😬 #wip #handmade #airdryclay #smallbusiness #fypシ ♬ original sound – • K5✔️🩸
The first time I saw your Instagram page, I instantly noticed how evident the world-building is in your collections. How did you form the concept for Fickle Friends?
At first, I was just looking for a name that starts with the letter “F” because my father’s name begins with it. So, I kept thinking of the most appropriate name that would best capture the essence of my work. Names that came to mind were “Fool Friends” and “Fuzzy Friends.” After contemplating many options, I finally settled with “Fickle Friends” because at that exact moment, I was experiencing a “fickle-minded moment” and like a light bulb, as seen exactly in cartoons, I knew it was the perfect name I wanted.
And by the brand name itself, I would like to incorporate everything I like into my work: Cute things, quirky cartoons, and dark arts, that is why our themes differ from time to time. Evidently you will see that some collections [have] more vibrant colors and friendly faces in it—like the Moo collection, Clowny collection, Planet Icon collection, [and] Tyler, the Creator collection. The rest are just pure gore and grotesque like [the] Junji Ito collection, Maldita collection, Void collection, Strangers in Red, and so on.
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Not too long ago, I bought a Junji Ito-themed trinket from your store (which still sits perfectly on my workspace, by the way). You seem to draw inspiration from the spooky and mysterious, and also the extraterrestrial. What made you want to tap into this kind of territory?
A big part of my inspiration came from watching cartoons and movies. Growing up, I was exposed to a variety of movies and TV shows, [which] included horror, thriller, gore, and even the unexplained yet disturbing ones. When we were younger, my uncle used to watch programs like these in our living room, and I, as always, would surreptitiously take a glimpse from time to time, and I kinda like it.
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But my genuine love for movies like these started in high school when my cousin and I [would] binge-watch classic horror films during weekends—or even weekdays—after school hours. I remember, we would often visit DVD stores after school just to look for more horror films to watch, since online movies were not yet readily accessible at that time. Since then, I have been fascinated by the roller coaster thrill [they] give me.
Now, I have many whimsical fickle friends inspired by horror and thriller characters such as “Carrie,” “The Shining,” “Kill Bill,” “House,” and “It”. Soon, I want to add more touches of classic horror movies like “The Godfather,” “Scream,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Hellraiser,” and more. I also intend to explore Filipino mythology to shed light on the fascinating stories behind each creature.
How long have you been into clay, and what made you dabble into it versus other art forms?
In the midst of the pandemic, I was aiming for candle art pieces since I want to make wonky characters by using colorful wax melts. However, I realized that the process is not feasible for me. So I looked for an alternative medium where I can make my drawings into real life characters and [ended] up with air dry clay.
My clay journey started in Oct. 2020 when I did an experimental project as a hobby since I wanted to find another way to make use of my time and to ease my anxiety while preparing for the board examination.
@ficklefriends_ bunny yarn holder 🐰💗 #yarnholder #bunnygirl #crochet #clayart #clayideas ♬ Life Goes On – Oliver Tree
[As someone who likes DIY], it was also a way to make handmade gifts for Christmas, but in Nov. 2020, I suddenly felt the urge to start a business. With zero knowledge about how clay works, I was lucky enough to trust the process and learn more tricks as I explored and experimented more designs.
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When it comes to your creative process, what has been your favorite part in making a fickle-minded friend?
Most likely it would be the brainstorming part, since I get to explore most of the things that I love and look for other elements and inspirations related to it.
I am a very visual person, so I absolutely love looking at photos and videos for artistic inspiration. Aside from the internet, sometimes I would go to vintage stores to look for interesting elements that would capture my interest for my future pieces. For film-inspired pieces, I watch or rewatch movies that I want to recreate and take note of the components that I want to incorporate in my collection.
I would also like to emphasize the stressful part which is sculpting and painting. It can be very frustrating at times, but I really enjoy the process because it’s like building my own Frankenstein baby. It is indeed exciting to watch how my ideas slowly take shape. One of the most fulfilling moments for me, simply euphoric, I would say.
@ficklefriends_ this is why it takes so long to finish every piece 😅 #clayart ♬ Hoodie – Lunadira & Reddi Rocket
How about the most challenging part?
Dealing with creative burnout and imposter syndrome is definitely one of the many challenging creative processes I have encountered. I often feel the burnout when I push myself to create art without enough time to digest the concept that I really want, thus leaving me with unfinished or abandoned clay pieces.
@ficklefriends_ cheers to our most crammed collection #watchmecramaanothercollection ♬ original sound – Andrew Pattenaude
From your collections, which is your personal favorite and why?
I would say the Me and You collection since I really like the concept of “opposites attract” and the separation of pastel and dark colors really captured my fickle personality. I put a lot of time and effort into reminiscing and coordinating a big chunk of my childhood in this collection just to make my favorite opposite duos come to life. Here, you will see pieces inspired by Starfire and Raven, Kuromi and My Melody, Princess Bubblegum and Marceline, [and] Claire and Allison from “The Breakfast Club”. These are the characters that [carry] the memories of my childhood so it’s the collection dear to [my] heart. It was also released on a very special date: 2/22/22.
My personal choice would also be the Junji [Ito] collection because it is my most challenging when it comes to sculpting, drawing, and painting. It was like taking a leap of faith since I did not have the self-assurance to say that my clay pieces will turn out nicely.
The fact that the original references are impressively detailed, I needed to have the guts and the guidance from the painting gods to help me be consistent and strategic on how I will create my own Junji clay pieces. It was also my most crammed collection so it was very chaotic yet so fulfilling since I received a lot of heartwarming feedback and support from it.
Sometimes, creatives are often advised not to turn their hobby into a career or business, because there’s a chance we might eventually hate it in the long run. I’m curious, was this ever a challenge for you? Did treating your products as actual “friends” help in your process?
Luckily, art is one of my major ways of relaxing and serves as an outlet whenever anxiety and stress arise. As someone who loves “me time,” creating art makes me more aware, because it gives me a chance to know myself better when it comes to self-expression, perspective, and capabilities.
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I must admit, creating art can be very challenging and frustrating sometimes, but at the end of the day, the fulfillment I get from knowing that I am fortunate enough to be able to pursue my passion while having a full-time job, and other responsibilities is something I would not trade for anything else.
Yes, the main reason why I call my clay art “friends” is because behind each piece has its own personality, story, and inspiration. Seeing them in my room reminds me of the wonderful memories that I have incorporated while I was making them. They are literally my lip sync, midnight snack, and work buddies that is why every fickle friend is special.
Is there anything you’d like to explore soon?
I am planning to tap into more charity projects as a way of giving back to the community. I want to continue my previous side hustle where I used to draw commissioned illustrations and donated half of the profit to my chosen charities. I am also aiming to have more future collaborations with the talented artists that I have met during my Fickle Friends journey who also became my friends.
My biggest appreciation to Gel, Anton, Maricon, Cawi, Dani, Celine, and everyone who supports our shop for giving Fickle Friends the best memories. Always and beyond grateful for the love and support that everyone is giving us.
Photos and videos courtesy of Maxine Frias
Art by Yel Sayo