What is a tsurikwawa? Why a bunny tsurikawa? And what is so special about them?

For the past few years one of my leading products has been my Bunny Tsurikawa. But why, you might be asking, is a Bunny Tsurikawa the front of our brand? Well I want to preface, this is the most emotional product I have ever developed. And it is the result of years of highs and lows and why the brand is where it is today.

Some of by original Bunny Tsurikawa made in 2019 at home 

 

What is a Tsurikawa? Well I won’t go into the complete history of tsurikawa because noone can say it better than Jdm Tsurikawa themselves. If you have somehow stumbled upon this blog from google I highly suggest you start there. What I will say is that Tsurikawa are train handles, that would get stolen off of trains and hung on the back on JDM cars - or atleast if you’re based in japan that is. Now they are a staple in the JDM accessory world as a form of self expression on your car. They come in all shapes and colours but this wasn’t always the case.

 


#126 my final hand made Bunny Tsurikawa



One day I was casually talking to a group of brand friends about fun whacky ideas. If you’re not familiar with Drift Bunny, I like to be quirky. The origins of Drift Bunny started in 2012 when I felt like I could never make it anywhere if I wanted to pursue my art. Spoiler alert, I did. Just not how I imagined aha. At the time the only tsurikawa on the market were circles and hearts… and the odd special edition super rare unique shapes. Whenever I would see tsurikawa on peoples cars I would always think to myself ‘that needs to be a bunny’, ‘Bunny ones should exist’. I didn’t think I would end up actually making them. I mentioned this idea to my friends and my friend Anth was like ‘design it and i’ll make the 3d model right now’. So we did. I had a friend with a 3d printer and was just considering making it to see if it worked. I wasn’t exactly picturing myself being able to actually get them manufactured.

 



Some of my handmade Bunny Tsurikawa in our new warehouse with my project Supra


We made the model and I decided to attempt to find a supplier for these. I messaged one and their MOQ was 5000. In one colour. I laughed and was like ‘yeh noway!’. I knew I couldn't just 3d print them if I were to make them a product. That takes many hours and the finish isn’t super quirky or fun. I wanted glitter, I wanted colour!

Somehow I stumbled across resin art, and looked into mold making. At this time information was sparse, I couldn't find anyone actually making these - yet. So i took to instagram, I showed my followers what I was up to. I had made a mold out of a tsurikawa I bought when I was in japan just to test. I started to share more of my process and everyone was getting excited. I hadn’t seen such excitement over my creations before. Like I had amazing support for my designs always but this was an explosion to me.



The first prototype I ever completed



My first few tries were hit and miss. I had spent so much money on materials at a time when I could barely afford it. I had just started Drift Bunny full time after finishing Uni and was figuring out my next steps. I found a fast setting polyurethane resin that would dry white, but I made some fun pastel colours and brought them to WTAC to debut my new products. At this time I had a few people reach out to me to ask about producing their own tsurikawa. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing myself but one of them was my now close friend, Cat. We went through learning how to make these together and ended up combining our knowledge and often voice chatting whilst making them at the same time from opposite sides of the country. This was truly such a special time and I cherish how it grew our friendship. I nagged her to send some to WTAC so I could show them off as well. And they all sold! We were so blown away.

Coming back from wtac we both went into a crazy creation mode. It took some time of R&D, experimentation, alot of sanding and alot of failure. For months I would do releases that would sell out instantly. I felt like I had such a great momentum for the brand. Even though I also was building my print business and working on designs during this time nothing was quite as fun as hands on creativity that the tsurikawa’s provided.

 

My Galaxy inspired Bunny Tsurikawa



Then the pandemic hit. Sending parcels got harder as shipping and flights were halted. I managed to do a release but it had to be done whilst locked down up in the pilbara far north of Western Australia. This is where I was situated to stay with my partner with the unknown closures within our own state. Because of these closures, Japanese brand, Jdm Tsurikawa had just released their Sakura Tsurikawa and were unable to send them. I ordered one myself because I was so hyped to see a new shape being made. I boldly reached out to them to see if I could help them with orders in any way. I knew express couriers like fedex were still shipping so we got their orders sent to me in Perth for the whole of Australia and I dropped them off to Auspost so everyone could get their orders. This is when I asked if they would ever be interested in a collaboration. And they said Yes!



My collaboration with Jdm tsurikawa


I was so excited to get my Bunny’s made into durable plastic and let alone with a Japanese brand. This was during the pandemic so things took a while to get made. I was so excited, but had to keep the secret. This is when drama started happening and it felt like the end of my world.

I never had to look behind my own shoulder before, in the artist community there are rules. We even had a large sticker community where these rules were implemented. Don’t steal designs, Don’t copy paste, Don’t take heavy inspiration. And often this would result in banning within the community. But the internet and space was getting bigger, and people stopped caring and broke the rules anyway. This never happened to me. Besides the odd sticker design being taken, It would make me mad but now its just a laugh and move on kind of thing. Well I felt I had to be on the lookout, with the popularity I had gotten for my Bunny’s some people were starting to make them themselves. But to my horror, someone had posted they were getting ‘plastic bunny tsurikawa’s coming soon’.

Product shoot with my friends Ae86


I freaked out thinking something had gotten stolen from a manufacturer, I remembered the first supplier I spoke to I had sent them the file when asking for a quote. I reached out to them and that’s when I found out that another business had remodeled my Resin Bunny Shape and they were producing them. The two shapes are different, but it’s clear that aspects were from my original Resin mold. The Handle for the strap is thick so the resin doesn't break, the overall shape was squished as if taken from an image of mine slightly tilted to the camera. Ultimately there was nothing I could do but wait for my stunning designed collaboration to hit. The advice I got from Jdm Tsurikawa kept me motivated even though we were both dealing with bootleg products being made. I actually reached out to the bootlegger and asked to buy the products off them. They said no and released them anyway. This made me so mad, but looking back I’m so thankful I didn't let this stop me.

 



Fast forward to now. 126 hand make Tsurikawa sold. Over 1000 sold online. Countless sold at events. Now stocked in 12 different colours. Some of which being sold out. And this isn’t about sales and numbers here, Looking at these stats it’s currently becoming real to me. To think that there are over 1000 car’s out there with my Bunny’s in them. It truly is mind blowing. Especially reflecting to that baby brand 5 years ago unknown to what my future would be. This Bunny is just one part of my journey to where my brand is today. But to me it is such a core influence to me as I am today.

 

My revised 3d model to suit plastic mold injection


If you’ve been along this ride with me I can’t thank you enough, these times have been testing me and every kind word of support has picked me back up. I can’t even begin to share the amount of lows this product has created. I get protective of businesses who have been ripped off and bootlegged - that has had far worse results than my experience. Now you see a majority of businesses in our space selling these products without a clue that they themselves are bootleggers. The few I have spoken with have had no idea and thanked me for bringing it up. Some have felt insulted and sold the goods anyway. It’s really been disheartening as I love to network with brands but Ive had to step back due to this.

 


I don’t want to leave this blog on a negative though. Even though people have tried to bring me down in the journey, I have gained so much positive experiences from it. To my favourite creators enjoying my designs, to me being able to enjoy the cars of my dreams, to build my businesses up to being enjoyed by more people. At heart i’m still a baby creator, just wanting to bring my quirky things to the world. And I thank you for taking the time to listen to my story. I know it’s nowhere near ending. 

- May West