It was love at first sight when I first saw Germ Spider Design's grotesque creations at a local horror-themed Christmas art show. As you know, horror films are my security blanket; as comforting as a bowl of warm soup on a cold, rainy day. They envelope me with joy. If you're with me on that we are not alone. Jeremy Spicer is a huge horror nut and makes mixed-media stuffed-animal creations inspired by movie monsters. His dedicated following shows we are not alone.His art still shows that there's a niche market for everything and the importance of breaking out the box and creating something new to be successful.
How did you get the idea for your horror toy creations?
I started with paintings, but decided to try the creepy toys. The first time I showed them I sold the whole table! My mom and I used to stay up late watching horror movies, when my grandma passed I lost myself in them. They take my out of reality.
How long have you been doing this?
About 3 1/2 years. I started at that Christmas horror show, you were there and bought something. I sold out and it took off from there.
What's your favorite horror movie? You work reminds me of one of my favorites, John Carpenter's "The Thing". Can't beat those practical affects!
American Werewolf in London. The special affects hold up today.
That's one of my favorites, too. Incredible special affects, great story and characters. Your toys are very well made and rendered, do you have any formal art training?
I've drawn monsters my whole life but have no formal training. I never painted until my uncle passed five years ago. He had cancer and he did Bob Ross' painting techniques to take his mind off it. After he died I bought his supplies from my aunt. At the start it was very, very rough.
I bought a couple of your creepy bears (I dubbed them "Scare Bears") for my niece and they unexpectedly scared her. Though years later, she now embraces them! What is the usual reaction to your work?
There's no middle ground. People are either over-excited or they say "that's terrible!" Most kids cry or love it.
Cafe workers crowded the window the see the bizarre toys. They attract both smiles and grimaces.
Any memorable reactions to share?
I was set up at the Fire Station during Art Walk. I had turned a "Disco Mickey Mouse" into a zombie. A kid saw Mickey from afar and ran to it. When he saw Mickey all bloody with an eye popped out he ran into the street. His mother was very upset with me. Some people have been so upset they threatened to beat me up, one lady called me a "child murderer," but the reactions are mainly good. There's "crazy" ones both bad and good.
A year ago Gary Barnidge of the Cleveland Browns contacted me years ago and bought 10-12 items and commissions a 6.5 foot tall teddy bear.
How about your family's reactions?
My family knew I was weird. The paintings were one thing but the toys were harder to accept. But now even my straight-laced dad enjoys them. Only my immediate family knows about them. The rest don't and it's for the best. My brother is a lil' weirded out.
Oh yes, I think every maker has to deal with family "reactions." My family doesn't understand exactly how I "support myself" but they are mostly encouraging and understanding of their weird daughter/sister. Were you able to leave the day job selling your wonderful toys?
Aetna laid off a decent percentage of us. I was doing okay at art shows and that gave me time to make more. I do a show a week and people contact me to travel to do more. I have slow months but for the most part I do well.
Congratulations! Do you have any tips for artists starting out?
Keep at it. Practice every day. Keep going and do your own thing. Do what feels right and don't change your work for one person's opinion. Don't copy. Stick to it. A lot of people don't make money from a show, but keep on showing. You never know who will spread the word. The first year I sold nothing. Now I usually do really well. As long as one person grabs a card I did well. I have plenty of months I do terrible but you don't go into art for the money.
Very true advice. Failure is inevitable, you learn from it, brush yourself off and go again. How about any advice for mixed media artists in particular?
Trial and error. See what works and have fun with it. See what you can turn into something else. Be original- that's the best take away.
Any favorite supplies?
Other than the teddies to work from, poly clay, primo and other chemicals for teeth. I try something new for every toy. There's a lot of trial and error.
You seem to finish your toys up fast.
For the most part. I can knock out 10 "biters" a night without a prob.
"I'm not going out there with that thing!" said a patron of the nearby nail shop.
Do you get a lot of requests?
Oh yeah. Especially with Christmas around the corner. Mostly cool, original ideas.
How about any best-sellers?
My "broke hearts" do well around valentines day. Anything with Care Bears or Hello Kitty. I can't keep my "little biters" on the shelves.
Do you have any favorite pieces?
One of the 1st toys I made was a clown baby doll. People have offered crazy amounts for him but I can't let him go. He's my mascot now and even has his own stroller. I also had a beast of a tall bear. I could have crawled inside him!
Where do you hunt down your supplies? I suspect lots of thrifting?
Thrift stores, I get lots of donations. I don't normally find what I'm looking for but I find other things to work with.
Ha, yep, that's how the lottery that is thrifting goes! Any future projects?
"Mystery boxes" you can order with random infected toys. More jewelry like tooth and bear-face necklaces, paintings, hats. Shirts. I like to stay on my toes!
Thank you for sharing all of the information Jeremy. Like all horror producers (veterans Wes Craven, John Landis and George Romero come to mind) Jeremy is kind and calm. For us lovers of the macabre, it's a relaxing and comforting pastime. Nostalgic, even. I'm glad Jeremy has a large following of others that embrace "the weird". To us, these creations are absolutely normal and beautiful.
You can chat with Jeremy, check out his work and updates or request custom orders via his Facebook.
* Also thank you Bold Bean Coffee Roasters for letting me snap kitschy photos. I love how people are looking away. I imagine a scenario where the toys are all in your (the image viewer's) head like creepy specters! Boo!