GeekCraft Expo Seattle is just days away--make sure to RSVP for our free, all-ages show December 10 and 11 at the Seattle Center (and stop by our kickoff party December 9 for Hop Valley beer, prizes from Dark Horse Comics, and more)! To further entice you, we'd like to take you on journey into the unknown with exhibitor Tony Hicks of Tinplate Studios. Read on!
GeekCraft Expo: Your work ranges from unusual to . . . disturbing. Can you tell us about your influences?
Tony Hicks: My work combines humor, cryptozoology and cosmic horror with a dash of steampunk. I draw from a number of wells, from the shadowy works of H.P. Lovecraft and other Cthulhu mythos authors to the macabre collections of the past known as Wunderkammeren. I also admire the works of H.R. Giger, Aubrey Beardsley, and Edward Gorey.
GCE: Several of your pieces are based on things people used to see in sideshows or curiosity shops. What draws you to these kinds of pieces?
TH: For me, there's always been something both comforting and unnerving about dark venues filled with mysterious and macabre items. While the groundedness of science speaks to me, the imperfect reality of made monstrosities and misunderstood artifacts with apocryphal histories is a fertile playground for the imagination.
GCE: What are your favorite things to make?
TH: Paintings that take elements from 19th and early 20th century scenes combined with somewhat horrific or peculiar elements. Then there are mummies of creatures that never existed.
GCE: You seem to work in several mediums—what interests you in each?
TH: Polymer clay: When I use it in conjunction with resin, I can simulate wet specimen suspended in a preservative fluid. Super sculpey is moderately translucent, so when it cures, it has the appearance of flesh. It's also very easy to work with.
Papier maché: This is another medium that provides a convincing simulation of real flesh. But this time it's mummified or naturally dessicated flesh that I'm after. If mulberry or rice paper is tea stained and applied to an armature, it's possible to create a convincing specimen that looks as if it's been preserved by prolonged exposure to arid conditions. It can also be used to create leathery hides on cryptids like Feegee (Fiji) mermaids and faux shrunken heads.
GCE: What kinds of reactions do you get from people?
TH: Peculiar folks, similar to myself, are usually appreciative of my efforts and often engage me in conversations about my artwork and Wunderkammeren in general. I'll always discuss technique with other creative or curious folks.
Some people are squeamish, but happily so. And this is never a bad thing! We usually end up having a good laugh over it.
Then there are those who don't get it and are either afraid or offended or both. There was once a smartly dressed elderly woman who had mistakenly stumbled into Mourning Market, where she encountered our booth. She stopped dead in her tracks and looked at the table with bottled creatures, boxed demons, and strange jewelry, mouth agape. Then a look of equal parts horror and outrage twisted her features and she sputtered: "Horrible. Simply horrible." It was our best--or at least our most memorable--review.
GCE: What can GeekCraft Expo shoppers expect to see at your space?
TH: Dark whimsy, jackanapery, smart jewelry, unexpected terrors, lovely pin-a-posies, mummified creatures under glass, and giclee prints of original watercolors.
Thanks for the inside peek, Tony! You can see Oddities & Steampunk and hundreds of other handmade geek crafts this weekend at GeekCraft Expo Seattle--hope to see you there.