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Odd Jobs: Mask-maker - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Odd Jobs: Mask-maker

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

He's built a reputation in Burlington as the man to see if you need a mask. But passion doesn't always pay the bills. Jennifer Costa checks in with an artist trying to turn his hobby into a successful small business.

He's the master of macabre, turning flesh into fantasy.

"In Western culture we don't play enough," said Eric Roy, mask-maker.

Roy is giving grown-ups an excuse to play dress up.

"I have often been attracted to the darker arts," said Roy.

The morbid and morose, the 34-year-old artist is intrigued by what creeps other people out. 

"By going to the places that scare you, one can find a greater level of empowerment," said Roy. 

He's a self-taught artist. When money was tight, Roy learned to rely on nontraditional materials, a creative solution that led him to leather.

"As soon as I had the medium in my hands, I fell in love," said Roy.

He says hide is more forgiving than other materials. A little moisture and a bit of pressure will erase most mistakes, while creating some pretty dynamic shapes that stand the test of time.

"My pieces are not designed for just one weekend. They're designed for rigorous use," said Roy.

It's a selling point for actors and dancers who need durable masks on tour. He has clients in Hollywood and the Big Apple.

But all this kneading is tough on the joints. Two years ago, arthritis and carpal tunnel threatened to end his career.

"I was actually down to one or two pieces," said Roy.

And each painstaking piece would take an eternity to complete.

"This took me about 120 hours start to finish," said Roy.

In the basement of Memorial Auditorium's Generator Space, technology came to the rescue. Roy now loads his digital designs onto a computer and lets a laser cutter do the hard work. 

The shortcut saved time and money, allowing him to slash his prices, which created a new problem. 

"I have two day jobs and then come to the studio and work. Keeping up with the demand is now a new obstacle and one that I never really prepared for," said Roy. 

Roy is now cranking out masks as fast as his fingers will allow. After all, he's got clients like Nightmare Vermont waiting in the wings.

"I have to paint all of these before I got to bed," said Roy.

As an artist, he knows it's not a bad problem to have, especially as he launches his retail business.

It's an Odd Job trying to entice Halloween shoppers to splurge on killer costumes.

Roy says when selecting a mask; find a feature that strikes you. Then go for comfort. Make sure that mask accents your cheekbones and doesn't interfere with your vision.

His pieces range from $50 for a basic mask to $1,000 for intricate commissioned pieces.

If you have an Odd Job or know someone who does, send us an email to news@wcax.com.

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