For a nice guy, Mike Skaggs makes some blood-curdling art.
Skaggs is the owner of Shock Studios, which specializes in products and merchandise based on horror-film characters.
What began as a hobby has grown into a successful business with customer demand from as far away as Australia and the United Arab Emirates.
“I’ve always liked sculpting,” Skaggs said. “And I was always a fan of horror movies. At the time, there were no horror action figures. I started sculpting and redoing my GI Joe dolls.”
As Skaggs developed friends in the industry, he learned the art of casting, sewing and design.
“I pick what I’m interested in,” he said of his creations. “I sculpt the heads, hands and feet of clay. I then cast them in resin. Once the parts are cast and painted, I make the body out of plush with bendable (arms and legs).”
In addition to creating action figures, Skaggs also makes masks, wall art, key chains and does custom orders. His most-requested characters, he said, are Freddy Krueger, the evil character in “Nightmare on Elm Street,” and “Jason,” the hockey mask-wearing serial killer in the “Friday the 13th” film series.
Once the stuff of Halloween and the late, late show, horror films are year-round fare. Variety magazine reports that the genre cracked the $1 billion mark in ticket sales in 2019. Horror also attracts a more diverse and younger crowd compared to other film categories.
Skaggs said he thinks horror has grown in popularity because a market finally was created to satisfy fans’ needs.
Skaggs and his wife, Kristin, also sell his product at horror movie conventions. Prior to the pandemic, they typically went to four to seven a year.
“I started going to horror movie conventions 15 years ago,” he said. “They used to be small gatherings of people—maybe a few hundred. You go to a convention now and it’s shoulder to shoulder. My wife helps out a lot.”
Skaggs said the turning point came when he met Ohio-based artist and toy designer John Pinkerton at a convention, and Pinkerton invited him to do some work at his studio, the Monster Sandbox.
“Ninety percent of what I do now, I learned from John,” he said.
Skaggs launched Shock Studios in 2017 after losing his job of 15 years at a big-box store. He sells his products through Instagram and his Etsy store.
The typical customer, Skaggs said, is 25 to 40 years old.
“Luckily, it’s worked out,” he said. “It’s been able to pay the bills.”
Skaggs said he knows he’s fortunate in that he’s able to do what he loves for a living.
“I don’t have a set schedule,” he said. “I couldn’t see going back to (traditional) retail. It’s definitely been great. I get to travel and meet new people at conventions. It’s been very nice.”
To see more, visit etsy.com/shop/ShockStudios, Shock Studios on Facebook or @skaggsofthelivingdead on Instagram.