Devil’s Workshop Interview

Devil’s Workshop Interview

The Haunted Cinema (THC) -Welcome to The Haunted Cinema, Pete, I am glad to have the opportunity to talk with you about your art, and to let others know a little more about you. Can you give us some background on who you are, how you got doing what you’re doing, and what motivates you?

Pete – Thanks for having me! I am a 43-year old mask maker who lives just outside of Chicago in Berwyn IL. I have a super-creative and ultra-cool wife, two-year old twin daughters, and two pugs. I have been making masks for 23 years now. I learned the craft by ordering a how-to VHS tape from the back of a horror magazine back in 1995. I am motivated by an intense love for monsters and monster masks.

THC -How did you come to the horror genre? What age were you introduced to it? What movies, magazines, or comics had the biggest impact on you as an artist?

Pete – My love of horror was cultivated at a very young age watching Son of Svengoolie broadcasts on UHF television on Saturday afternoons. I’ll never forget watching the Creature from the Black Lagoon for the first time. Seeing an actor decked out in a full-sized rubber monster suit really blew my young mind away! Another big moment that influenced my love for horror was the first time I opened a Famous Monster of Filmland magazine. It was the Oct 1982 Fearbook. The cover featured colorful renditions of the Wolfman, the Frankenstein monster, and Dracula. My Mom bought it for me off the magazine rack on the grocery store. This was a game changer. I spent untold hours staring at the pages of that publication. Vintage Creepy comics were another endless source of inspiration.

THC – If you could have coffee with a Director, actor, creature, or artist from the horror genre (past thru today) who would that be, and what would you like to talk about?

Pete – I would love to sit with Rich Koz, who is the man behind long time horror-host Svengoolie, and have a long conversation. He is the reason I do what I do. I’d like a chance to show my gratitude and hear him tell some stories about his life.

THC – What made you decide to focus on making Monster Masks?

Pete – It was pretty easy for me, I’ve had a real passion and love for masks from an early age. Masks are unlike any other art form. First off, they are life-sized. A model or toy of a monster is cool, but it’s just not as impressive as staring in the eyes of a life-size monster. It almost feels like its staring back. Second, a mask can be worn. You can put it on and actually become a monster. There is something very primal about this. Mask making is one of the earliest forms of art. It’s engrained in the evolution of mankind.

THC – Tell us about the first mask you ever made. What was the character, does it still exist, what did you learn in its creation?

Pete – I was taking a ceramics class in college back in 1995 and we had a specific assignment to make a mask. To set the scene, let me first explain that this class was mostly full of elderly white-haired women, and then there was me, a long haired, heavy metal loving 19-year old. These women mostly sculpted beautiful tribal style masks. I sculpted a zombie. It was first time ever sculpting and it came pretty naturally to me. Not to say that it was good, but it showed some promise. My first ever latex rubber mask was made about one year later. It was an alien character called “Centurian”. Unfortunately, I don’t have either piece any longer.

THC – Your style is unique. The creations that you sculpt have a bit of whimsy, lots of color, and an “old school” horror comic vibe. How do you decide on the next project? What are your inspirations?

Pete – Thanks! Old-school is what most excites me, and I try to bring that same vibe into my work. For the past ten years or so, I have really focused on making the type of monster masks that I would want in my own collection. Fortunately, that style tends to resonate with other collectors too. I tend to make only 2-4 new characters a year and I have certain categories that I try to work with. For example, every year I try to do a “cover-project”. For this, I will sculpt a piece based off of the artwork on a cover from a vintage comic or monster magazine cover. I also make one original design every year. Otherwise, I have a lot of fun with monster mash-ups, or tribute pieces (re-working an old classic mask from the 50s or 60s). I have a to-do list that I’m always adding to. It always seems to get longer no matter how many pieces I cross off over the years.

PeteThanks! Old-school is what most excites me, and I try to bring that same vibe into my work. For the past ten years or so, I have really focused on making the type of monster masks that I would want in my own collection. Fortunately, that style tends to resonate with other collectors too. I tend to make only 2-4 new characters a year and I have certain categories that I try to work with. For example, every year I try to do a “cover-project”. For this, I will sculpt a piece based off of the artwork on a cover from a vintage comic or monster magazine cover. I also make one original design every year. Otherwise, I have a lot of fun with monster mash-ups, or tribute pieces (re-working an old classic mask from the 50s or 60s). I have a to-do list that I’m always adding to. It always seems to get longer no matter how many pieces I cross off over the years.

THC – Your masks are truly collectible art, many created in limited runs. Will you take on a custom project for a customer? If so how what is the process for that.

Pete – I used to do several dozen custom projects a year. However, it has been several years since I’ve taken on a custom project. I’ve grown a bit stubborn as I grow older. I like to make what I want to make, and custom projects tend to pull me away from that. It had go to the point 4 or 5 years ago, that I did so much custom work that I wasn’t able to create anything new. I’m grateful that I had so many folks that wanted me to do custom painting for them, but I have a different focus now.

THC – The archives on your website showcase some amazing creatures. What was your favorite project? What project gave you fits?

Pete – Oh, good question! The project that gave me the most fits would be the Curse of the Demon mask. It took me twice as long to sculpt as I thought it would. The mold for the mask is enormous and heavy too. In addition, it’s a pain in the ass to apply the hair. With that being said, it is one of my favorite masks that I’ve made, and definitely my most popular in terms of sales. Really though, my favorite masks tend to be my most recent. Right now, that’s the Rat Fink mask. It’s been on the to-do list for over twenty years! It felt good to cross it off the list.

THC – Do you have a dream project?

Pete – I just wrapped up my dream project. It took me over two years to complete. It’s going to debut at Maskfest, and it’s a surprise until then 😉

Pete – Oh, good question! The project that gave me the most fits would be the Curse of the Demon mask. It took me twice as long to sculpt as I thought it would. The mold for the mask is enormous and heavy too. In addition, it’s a pain in the ass to apply the hair. With that being said, it is one of my favorite masks that I’ve made, and definitely my most popular in terms of sales. Really though, my favorite masks tend to be my most recent. Right now, that’s the Rat Fink mask. It’s been on the to-do list for over twenty years! It felt good to cross it off the list.

THC – I know that you are getting ready for Mask Fest. How important is Mask Fest to the community? What other conventions do you like to attend?

Pete – Maskfest! Man, I get excited just thinking about it. It’s my favorite weekend of the calendar year. Because it’s the only mask-only convention, it’s a big deal within the community, both for collectors and mask makers. It is such an amazing group of talent and passion that gathers every year for the convention. It’s really hard to put into words the feeling that I get each year as it nears. Maskfest is the only convention that I attend as a dealer. I am a big fan of the Monsterpalooza convention also. It has been a few years since I have attended that con. I’ve taken the past few off, as my wife and I have two-year old twin daughters that keep us plenty busy. But, I’m looking forward to making the trip out to California again soon.

THC – Who are some of the mask artists that inspire you, both past and present?

Pete – There are SO many mask artists that inspire me presently. Here are a few that come to mind: Justin Mabry is such an amazing mask maker. I don’t know of anyone who has matched his output over the past several years. His work is perfect on every level.  Casey Love, and Jordu Schell are artists that have elevated the art of mask making to a whole different level. In addition, Norman Cabrera, Mikey Rotella, Aaron Lewis, Pat Giehart, Josh Waslink, Mario Chiodo, and Bill Ystrom are other artists that come to mind that I have intense respect for, and inspire me constantly.  

THC – Other than masks, does your creativity have other outlets such as painting?

Pete – Professionally, I am a web designer and motion graphics artist. I am also screen-printer.

THC – How can people find you? What’s the current project that you want people to know about?

Pete – People can find me on my website: www.devils-workshop.com. I also post regularly on Instagram @the_devils_workshop. Currently, I am wrapping up several orders and then it’s time to gear up for Maskfest!