How Yamer won a contest, a job, and the love of fandom by smuggling furry into the mainstream.

by Patch O'Furr

A Mazda dealership in Fort Wayne, IN, set a trap. Their mascot is a cute sheep-thing… but he isn’t just an ordinary mascot like the Carfax Car Fox. This one has the secret power to set off your Fur-dar. Look at those cute eyes… how can you resist them?

Those susceptible to his gaze can tell he was crafted by furry paws, even if he was smuggled out of fandom under cover of an ordinary ad campaign.  I’d say the difference from other mascots is he isn’t just a general character… he’s a fursona!  Leinado is his name, and he was chosen by an art contest in 2013. He’s been spreading the magic to the public ever since.

In January 2019, the trap sprung on a furry who was just there for ordinary car repair. Sharing the discovery “in the wild” won thousands of likes for Leinado on Twitter. With fur-dar tingling, furries began sniffing around the company website to trace his origin. They found the designer, and then she was revealed as a wielder of furry art magic under the name Yamer.

Yamer’s winning contest design for Leinado became promotional ads and graphics on cars. The dealership loved him so much, that they asked her to make him into a real mascot suit.  It was a natural task because Yamer isn’t just a graphic artist, but gifted with an arsenal of talents like building anime cosplay. So Leinado was born, joining other personal fursuits you can see on her portfolio site.

Yamer was part of a fandom where working artists often aim to be “pro fans” commissioned by other fans. But she didn’t depend on that path. Instead, her talent succeeded on its own terms. It even won her a permanent job at the dealership. So Leinado wasn’t born because she was already on their staff, and they didn’t turn to an ad agency either. Furry art was just the best for the job, and they trusted her original skill.

Marta the River Otter

This goes on a short list of mainstream commissions for furry makers, like the mascot for Schmackos in Australia, the Washington park system mascot Marta, or sports mascots covered by Forbes in late 2018. Mingling with fandom has benefits like talent and attention, but it can cut both ways, as Tony the Tiger knows! It brought a helpful comment from one fan:

Please be respectful of these people and their business. Don’t make them regret their mascot. – Petrichor Squirrel

Rising fandom can bring desirable street cred, but it also has “weird” power from stuff that corporations won’t do. I think that’s part of the success of a DIY/indie subculture and the platforms it built. It can keep outsiders at arms-length, and keeps me unworried about it losing independence when an artist breaks out professionally.

What does Yamer think about all the attention? Could it be super cool but a little scary too? I got in touch to ask more.

Q&A with Yamer

Can you share a little more about yourself?

I love many forms of art. Digital illustration is my passion and that has involved furry art, anime, fan art and all kinds of images. I also love cosplay, photography, graphic design, animation, etc.

Is there anything else cool about the story we haven’t heard?

After winning the contest, O’Daniel was thrilled to have the artwork, but they wanted a suit created. I believe they were unsure of who to contact, and after some of my friends recommended to them to have me make one, they approached me about it. I didn’t have the confidence that I was good enough to create one for them, so I initially turned them down but they approached me again. I’ve only made a few suit commissions for close local friends so I just didn’t consider myself professional enough, but a lot of my friends told me to go for it so I did. I put a lot of love and passion into the creation of Leinado’s suit and I hope that it shows.

Do you wear Leinado, and does he ever get to go outside the dealership?

I have never actually worn Leinado. I was hired to O’Daniel about 6 months after the creation of Leinado as their graphic designer. Earlier on though, we did have a “hump day” where every week we would take Leinado to a local business (with their prior permission) and take photos of him in that location and these would become social media posts to guess “Where’s Leinado?”. A lot of businesses were thrilled with his presence and I was happy to see him out and about. O’Daniel Mazda is very involved with the community so we have also taken him to several events.

How do you feel about the attention?

It actually surprised me that so many people were thrilled that a furry is our mascot. I am just thankful and grateful to have had the opportunity to create Leinado. I’m really happy I could actually use my passion in creating art as something that helped me create a mascot they adored, and later land a job I love still to this day.

What else do you do that’s furry?

I’m a bit everywhere with my fandoms so furry is just one of them. I used to attend Anthrocon and Midwest FurFest, and I have a fursuit I created called “RocketPup”. However if I were to say I have a fursona, it would definitely be my shark girl, Brook. I also have artwork of her on the side of my car lol. So I’m a bit eccentric. (My old Furaffinity account “Yamer” has the few suits I have made.)

What do you think about furry having some mainstream success?

I love seeing positive stories about furries in media. They most often get such a bad rap, when people just need to realize that furries are just openly passionate people who have done a lot of great things.

A furry conspiracy

But wait, you haven’t heard the whole story yet! There wasn’t just a simple contest. An auto-enthusiast furry revealed:

Lol that was my old job. I helped setup that campaign and yes they are a furry friendly dealership. – Jakebunny

Jake Bunny: pro driver, racing coach

I did a quick chat with Jake while he was filling up at a station on the way to some track testing. He told me:

I did work with them through the Mazda Star racing program. And promotional work with their Chrysler branch when I was a factory driver for Chrysler too. Randy O’Daniel is well known around here in the Fort Wayne Area. I have been fairly open about being in the Fandom since 1996, and suggested the use of artists that can help flesh out a mascot. I explained how the fandom would be an EASY source for promos and mascot (fursuit) leads at a good price.

I think it’s funny when it pops up on twitter every few years. They’ve had this for quite some time. Also, not the only furry centric dealer out there! OH! And big fan of your work. Keep it up!

To end this story, Ticklepig said what I was thinking:

Found the next guest of honor for IFC lol @IndyFurCon

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