Growing up in Jacksonville, Jeremy Spicer was obsessed with all things horror and clowns.
As an adult, Spicer gets to embody those obsessions as The Toymaker.
Bright, smudged clown facepaint and his black top hat with a doll clown head mounted just above the brim are synonymous with his art business Germ Spider Designs. The persona has helped to sell his horror paintings and sculptures. But nothing has built up his notoriety as an artist more than his infected toys.
The creepy stuffed animals — their mouths replaced with large, bloody teeth and button eyes replaced with realistic-looking bloody eyeballs — originally were a part of Spicer’s role in a horror-themed holiday show six years ago. The two that he made and used for the show were bought soon after the performance. He made a couple more and put them up for sale with his other artwork online and those also quickly sold out.
Now they take up the majority of space on his table at art shows and pop culture or horror conventions in and outside Florida. He hand-sculpts all the teeth and eyeballs out of clay and fits them to stuffed animals. He’s added his personal touches to a six-foot teddy bear for football player Gary Barnidge, and is currently working on a seven-foot bear for a customer in North Carolina.
He’s wholeheartedly embraced The Toymaker persona and the popularity of his infected toys, and said he has been happily surprised by the popularity of the horror genre in recent years. Spicer said that he’s become more in-demand as an artist for local events and conventions in the past three years, and has recently gotten more requests to be a vendor at out-of-state conventions.
“I remember growing up and in school I would get in trouble for bringing in Fangoria magazine,” said Spicer. “It wasn’t socially accepted to be that obsessed with horror movies, but it is an art form. You have acting and you have all this time and effort with makeup and elements like that. I love that people are taking it into cosplay and everything. That’s great.”
Any movie across the horror genre is likely to be an inspiration for his work, but “The Thing” and “Killer Clowns From Outer Space” are two movies that have influenced his art work overall.
Self-taught mask designer Tyler Pasquale was inspired to create his own monster masks after watching a music video by the heavy metal band Gwar when he was 11 years old. When he discovered that the band made all the masks and costumes for their horror-inspired characters, he wanted to learn how to make his own masks, too.
The next 10 years were a journey of trial and error for Pasquale. He learned the process of making masks from YouTube videos, but had to figure out clay sculpting on his own.
It can take between a few hours to a few days to make a clay mask mold sculpture, depending on how detailed the design is of the sculpture. Skulls are often an inspiration and starting point for his designs. Sometimes other characters give him ideas for his original designs, while other times he simply works on a ball of clay until he’s happy with the design.
“For every sculpture that you see completed, there’s probably five or six destroyed before I completed one,” said Pasquale.
Once a design is complete, he goes through a detailed process to turn the clay sculpture into a mold to make masks.
He started Wicked Corpse Designs in 2011 as an avenue to share and sell his work. While the business was a lot of work for Pasquale, it allowed him to collaborate with other artists and create masks for the band In This Moment and WWE wrestler Alicia Fox.
He closed the business earlier this year to work with 3D printing and cosplay company Make Me Designs and make full Batman suits for Gotham City FX, which makes costumes and props for film and television.
His goal is to follow in the footsteps of Gwar and mass-produce durable monster costumes and masks for cosplayers and haunted-house actors. He also plans to branch his work out further than horror genre costumes and masks.
“A lot of the stuff that I want to make is very much like a lot of stuff that Gwar does,” said Pasquale. “I like their full costumes and I like that they bring these full characters to life.”
Tiffanie Reynolds writes about nerd culture twice a month. Reach her at email@example.com. You can also reach Nerd in the Know on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @nerdknowjax.