BY ROCCO THOMPSON
A fixture at conventions throughout the Midwest, MIKE SKAGGS, purveyor of primo horror dolls (along with masks, magnets, and other various gruesome goodies) is finally making a go at being a full-time artist. Hailing from the small town of Massillon, Ohio, Mike was always drawn to art: doodling skulls and monsters in the margins of his textbooks and dropping a degree in criminal justice for something more artistically-inclined.
After attending his first big convention, he saw a chance to further follow his creative impulses and has since carved a niche for himself in the horror art community. His eye-catching, lanky, hunchbacked slasher figures are gently stylized and lovingly crafted–a perfect bonding of Skaggs’ personal style with the captivating spirit of these icons. Below, he tells us how George A. Romero changed his life, how difficult it can be to balance your passion and a social calendar, and gives us some insight into his creative process.
What’s your artistic background?
I attended The University of Akron and have a bachelor’s degree of fine arts in graphic design. Although I did graduate, I was never deeply devoted to creating art on a computer. I was, however an avid reader of Fangoria Magazine. In the back pages, they always had these ads for model kits you could send away for (Pinhead, Freddy, Jason). I never had the money to purchase them myself, so one day I went to the local art store and bought a block of Super Sculpty. Over the next few days, I built a pretty decent Jason Voorhees statue. From there, I took to customizing action figures into any movie slasher I could think of!
What first drew you to Horror?
When I was younger, I didn’t want to be anywhere near a scary movie! They eventually grew on me thanks to my cousin who had VHS copies of FRIDAY THE 13TH parts 2 and 3 and A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET that he recorded off of the TV. These were shown on a local television affiliate around Halloween and were heavily edited, but I would watch them on a loop.
Was there a moment when you realized you could combine your two loves, art and Horror?
I always sculpted in my spare time, but never had the ability to make molds or produce castings, myself. Luckily, at a local convention several years ago, I met John Pinkerton. John created a bunch of work for Mezco Toys and made these very unique figures. As it turned out, John only lived a short distance from me! He was gracious enough to teach me everything I needed to know in order to create everything I do now.
Who is your Horror muse?
I have a distinct memory of being scarred as a child when my father decided to rent DAWN OF THE DEAD. So, I gladly thank George Romero for implanting the childhood memory that eventually lead to the path that I’m on.
What is your preferred medium?
Super Sculpty and Monster Clay. I’ve been recently working more with Monster Clay because it tends to be a bit more forgiving when having to go back and fix mistakes, but I’ve always enjoyed working with any clay or any sculpting material.
Which piece are you most proud of?
I was commissioned by a rap group from Germany to sculpt a mask for them to wear on stage. The group is called The Zombiez. I was really pleased with how the masks turned out and get a kick out of seeing them perform with them on stage!
What has been your greatest challenge as a maker?
I love to create, but the stuff I make requires a lot of time and effort. Sometimes, I feel as if I’ve been trapped in my basement studio for days! Making sure I get customer orders out on time and produce enough items for shows is time consuming, so trying to have some sort of a social life is a challenge.
Can you describe your art style in three words?
Stylized. Cartoonish. Fun.
Can you tell us a little bit about your creative process?
Honestly, a lot of times, I just grab a hunk of clay and start going at it. I have been pushing myself to sketch more beforehand to get a clear idea to what I want to do with a piece. I always keep a notebook nearby, so I can write down ideas that I can use later.
What’s your next big project?
I always have several dolls in mind that I want to create, but I’m really looking forward to creating some larger scale resin bust kits of some more original designs!
When you’re not creating, how do you like to spend your time?
Traveling! My wife and I always make sure when find time to go to a different location every year for vacation
What’s the best Horror flick you saw recently?
THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE. I love movies that spring from a truly original idea. Those seem to be getting harder and harder to find!
Where can we contact you/buy your stuff/see you next at a convention?
All my stuff is available in my Etsy Store, Shock Studios and you can keep up with me on Instagram! I love being surrounded by like-minded people at Horror conventions! I am always in attendance at HorrorHound Weekend Cincinnati in March, Motor City Nightmares in April, Motor City Comic Con in May, and MaskFest/HorrorHound Weekend Indianapolis in August!