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Masking over his disappointment

Artist's frightening hobby and business began with an unfortunate twist

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/10/2018 (463 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Most actors are hoping for the lucky break that gets them into the movie business.

For Aaron Nobess, the Winnipeg artist behind The Crypt Skin Project, it was a "lucky break" that got him out.

"I became a mask-maker completely by accident," says Nobess, 32.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p></p><p>Nobess puts a finishing touch on another mask. He'll be at this weekend's Comic Con.</p>


Nobess puts a finishing touch on another mask. He'll be at this weekend's Comic Con.

"I was working as a forklift driver and acting and auditioning on the side when I got an audition for the movie A Dog’s Purpose in 2015."

He won the part and would be needed in Brandon a few weeks later for the shoot. It was an opportunity to work on a film and be on set with actor Dennis Quaid, one of the film’s stars.

"I was pretty excited and really happy, and then the day after, I was dressed up with my dress shoes on, and going out the back door I just slipped and landed right on my tibia bone and broke it," he says.

His agent told him to go to the shoot anyway and see what would happen. He had cut off his cast to give it a go and in the scene took a few steps as directed.

"They said that they couldn’t use me because I needed to walk up the hill," he says.

"I was heartbroken. I was really crushed and I had to drive back to the city that day feeling low in my own little depression."

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Aaron Nobess makes spooky masks for his company, The Crypt Skin Project.</p></p>


Aaron Nobess makes spooky masks for his company, The Crypt Skin Project.

Now off work with nothing to do, he decided to build a mask for himself for Halloween, a holiday he and his wife Erin and their friends typically celebrate in a big way.

"I had seen a picture of these little fake teeth and someone had laid a piece of burlap over it and it just kind of grabbed me," he says.

"I visualized what I could do with the same process: putting burlap over certain forms and shapes. So I bought myself some burlap and a hot glue gun and some cheap paint and I created a scarecrow mask.

Some of Nobess' creations are eerily realistic.</p>

Some of Nobess' creations are eerily realistic.

"The response was just amazing."

With encouragement from his wife, Nobess built a boar mask and put it up for sale on the internet. It was snapped up. And he had found his medium in burlap.

"Working on my artwork that year really opened up a whole new path and a whole new mindset," he says.

Erin encouraged him to quit his job and take the summer to work on his art.

He worked to refine his method, taking his inspiration from the MacFarlane models he used to collect as a kid. (McFarlane Toys are model figurines produced by Canadian Todd McFarlane, the creator of Spawn.)

Nobess gets inspiration from listening to a horror-themed YouTube channel.

Nobess gets inspiration from listening to a horror-themed YouTube channel.

"They are these really detailed figurines of horror movie and all kinds of characters," he says.

"The detail on these little toys was amazing to me, so that’s what I think about when I making my masks or my figurines — I think about the tiniest little detail that will just bring the mask of the figurine to the next level."

When he’s working, Nobess likes to listen to Creepypasta, a scary storytelling channel on YouTube.

"There’s no video — it’s just story where he’s explaining some alien or werewolf, or some monster thing with horns or antlers or something, and I can kind of visualize what this creature would look like, and that gives me the idea of where I can go with the next one."

Nobess is striving not only for something that is striking and unique, he’s also working for a durable end result. He starts with a papier-mâché base.

"After the first few masks, I realized it’s not strong enough so I use the hot glue gun to completely cover the cast," he says.

Figurines are another part of Nobess' business.

Figurines are another part of Nobess' business.

From there he continues adding layers, including a foundation colour of black spray paint and adds the strap to hold it on.

"To get definition in the face, I’ll cut Styrofoam and shave it and melt it to whatever wrinkle in the face or bone structure in the face I want," he says.

From there he adds his burlap layer, working it into every crevice of the face. Next are details like hair.

"For the teeth, I use recycled material like any hard piece of plastic I could find from coffee containers to jars that I may have around the house," he says.

Those bits and pieces are often the add-ons that give his masks their finishing touches.

"I’ll finish it all off with spray paint or some hand-painting, and then to make it stronger, I’ll use a resin to coat the teeth and tongue and things.

If you're going to have the word 'hell' in your name, you're prime pickings for a figurine by Nobess, even if you are a Winnipeg Jet.

If you're going to have the word 'hell' in your name, you're prime pickings for a figurine by Nobess, even if you are a Winnipeg Jet.

Nobess recently added figurines to his offerings at the suggestion of a fellow artist. It gives collectors another option. And he now has an Etsy store (www.etsy.com/ca/shop/CryptSkin) along with items available on his website.

Nobess credits his cousin Kyle Nobess, a film actor and workshop facilitator/leader, with introducing him to acting and opening him to the idea of a life in the arts. But Nobess hasn’t totally given up on the idea of film.

"First of all, I would like to have my own little storefront where I could design and show all my work and to have somewhere where someone could just come in and purchase or get a custom order," he says.

"The Crypt Skin name is getting bigger — people love the name — and I would eventually like to collaborate with two of my cousins in the film industry under the name where I’d like to be behind the scenes making short films using my artwork."

For the immediate future, Nobess is getting ready for this weekend’s Central Canada Comic Con and other shows, which is putting a bit of a crimp in his own Halloween decor.

"Before Crypt Skin, I would love to have my house crazily designed and have all the cool stuff, but I just don’t have the time so we will literally get a pumpkin the day of Halloween, carve it and throw it out with a candle!" he says.

And just a little over four months ago, Nobess and his wife completed a joint project — a baby girl.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Nobess at work making figurines.</p></p>


Nobess at work making figurines.

"This year with Isabelle, we plan to dress her up as something cute and take her around to our family members," he says.

"I want to make her just the creepiest little girl that would be walking around and terrifying people and my wife is like: ‘Yeah, no you’re not,’" he says, laughing.

In the meantime, Nobess says he’s game to build almost anything as creepy or scary as you could want — although he draws the line at anything he calls "demonic."

"I want people to know there’s no ending to what I’m doing, from creepy masks to full-body burlap animals to collectable figurines," says Nobess.

Twitter: @WendyKinginWpg

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