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The illustrated story of CardBoy and the journey he takes after developing a cold of the soul


CardBoy and The Cloud is an illustrated book about an ordinary boy. When something unexpected happens, trips him up and knocks him off course, he finds that things are different, his life has changed and it alters the way he views the world. He doesn't understand what's happening to him and why his brain doesn't work the same as it did before.

This is the story about how he deals with, and learns to cope with a cold of the soul.

Over time CardBoy realises that he is constantly being followed by a dark cloud. Sometimes the cloud is big, sometimes small, but it’s always there. And sometimes it can get too much to bear and he doesn’t know how to cope. On the outside he seems ‘fine’, but inside he’s falling apart.

He can’t sleep, and the less he sleeps, the more anxious he gets. And the more anxious he gets, the less he sleeps, and the more he is haunted and stalked by The Gloom. Mysterious demon like figures who appear lurking in the shadows, behind trees, at the end of his bed. But eventually he can take it no more, and after talking to his companion, he realises that he’s not actually losing his mind, and that he is not alone. And that tomorrow is a new day. Over time he embraces the cloud, and learns how to live and cope with it. And eventually he realises that his brain just needed time to heal.

CardBoy is a boy hiding in a metaphorical box. Withdrawn from society, living within his own bizarre, tormented world. The Fragile stamp on his head refers to how delicate the brain is.

A brief history of CardBoy:

In 2002 Mark James developed a character called CardBoy. He was originally homeless living in Cardboard City. This was intended to raises awareness of homelessness. 2003 saw the release of the first series of CardBoy toy figures, and were released to critical acclaim, soon becoming a must-have designer toy. The concept utilised the cardboard packaging to form the head of the character, with the body attached inside. The first edition of CardBoy had a dark cloud floating above his head. A theme that was to continue.  The second series 'Sneakers', with the packaging based on old school sneaker boxes, which also gained a huge following worldwide. The third series, Cartridges, was a set of four figures, C, M, Y and K. The design resembling ink jet printer cartridges. These were chosen by MoMA as part of their Colour Chart exhibition in 2007 and sold in their stores in NYC and Tokyo. 

In 2016, Mark revisited the original concept. Working with his initial ideas, and drawing on personal experience, he tells the story of CardBoy and the Cloud.

“CardBoy is part vinyl and part cardboard, a sort of paper-craft ahead of its time. The packaging of the toy would fold apart, revealing the body and legs of the figure. The collector would then re-fold the packaging to form the head. The first CardBoy series featured shipping container themes, while the second series took the shape of sneaker boxes, riffing off of adidas and Nike designs. Exhibited by MoMA, the third and final CardBoy series was inspired by printer ink cartridges, coming in cyan, magenta, yellow, and black colorways.”

Clutter Magazine 2016

Mark James is an artist, filmmaker and graphic designer. Working in a variety of media, including sculpture, film and print. His conceptual work is inspired by a mix of popular culture and social commentary.

Credits for his art direction and design in the music industry include Super Furry Animals, Gilles Peterson, U2, Karl Hyde, Cian Ciaran, Euros Childs, The Charlatans, Joe Goddard, Florence + The Machine and Stereo MC’s as well as designing interiors for Island Records, Abbey Road Studios and Universal Music.

He first hit the headlines in 2004 when he released ‘Chinpira’, a study of the British football hooligan in the form of a 6” vinyl figure, which caused the FA and the national press to condemn the piece. His next toy project, CardBoy, a small figure that utilises the packaging to become the head of the figure, gained a huge fan base around the world and quickly became the must have designer toy.

In 2014 his controversial (phallic), branding for a fried chicken stall went viral. The DirtyBird logo gained attention globally and making headline news. And in 2016 was featured in The Drum’s ‘Most Controversial Logos Of All Time’.

In 2016, James was approached to be creative consultant for the Cardiff Contemporary Arts Festival. He created a conceptual piece that included music, film, print and sculpture. Entitled ‘A Response’, the concept being that the NASA Voyager Golden Record was being returned to sender. The film, which featured a meteor like object entering the Earth’s atmosphere over Flat Holm Island, South Wales, went viral and made headlines in every major newspaper, online and TV.

In 2007 James released a series of screen prints, entitled ‘Another Soldier’, courting controversy for its anti-war message and bold imagery. Produced in an edition of 171, each to commemorate the life of a British soldier killed in Iraq.

His designer toy project, CardBoy Cartridges, was chosen by the MoMA in New York to accompany their Color Chart exhibition. He has also had his work exhibited around the world, including London, Paris, Tokyo, New York, Oslo, and also featured in publications worldwide.

His first short film, ‘This Dull Ache’, an experimental art piece with original music by Cherrystones, was screened as part of the Adidas 2012 Olympic celebrations in London. Produced in association with Academy Films. The film is released in a 10” sleeve with a 20 page book featuring artwork created to accompany the film, in an edition of 100. 

2012 also saw the release of a new vinyl figure, ‘Dalston Fried Chicken’ is a 6” vinyl figure based on a fictional fried chicken shop mascot. Released in an edition of 200 though Unbox Industries.

At the end of 2013, James opened *Subject To Change, an experimental gallery in his hometown of Cardiff. Co-funded by the Arts Council of Wales. The inaugural exhibition ‘Sorry It’s Not For You’, saw James delve into an extensive archive and choose key pieces from two decade’s worth of personal projects and music-related assignments, alongside new works specially created for the show. From work on paper, to vinyl toys and work made from leather, demonstrating the breadth of his portfolio.

He is also co-owner of Hunting Lodge, a high-end designer store in Oslo, which has been featured in Monocle magazine and the Wallpaper guide to Oslo. Now in it’s tenth year.

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