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Paul Daniels would give you the shirt off his back if you asked.  He's a happy-go-lucky guy that has latex coursing through his veins.  He got addicted to the rubbery stuff as a customer and decided to take the plunge himself in the mid 90's and started selling them.  Before he knew it, he had a lineup rivaling Death Studios, and it's not too much of  a stretch to say Paul will be the next Jeff Death when Jeff decides to hang up the airbrush and retire the throne.  We were going to fly Paul in on the LMC private jet for an interview, but the jet happened to be in for repairs, so we decided a phone call would be easier.  What follows is a 100 mph trip through the mind of Paul Daniels.  I kept the lingo and language of the interview pretty much as it came out in person because you can't get the essence of Paul any other way.


In Their Words


Paul has more friends in the world of latex then you can shake a stick at.  Let's hear what some of them had to say:

one could not ask for a better mentor or friend. - Jason Zyla

The time and effort that Paul Daniels puts into his work really shows in his finished product. The demon 6 that Paul made for my collection is one of my favorites. - Chris Russell

I'm happy to see that Paul has rolled with the punches over these past few years because all the work is finally starting to pay off in a big way.  - Jeremy Bohr 

Paul is one of those guys whose life is devoted to this industry.  He eats, sleeps, breathes and lives work his his ass off.  He loves the pure adrenaline rush of how is customers feel.  Through many rough spots in the industry, he's come out that much more respected.  I really feel Paul may end up being the next "Jeff Death".  He surely does alot, thus has earned many peoples respect.  I wish Paul all the best and judging from what I've seen  for this season, he will not disappoint. - Darkside Jim

I have to say that there isn't anybody out there in the mask world who has the genuine enthusiasm about what they're doing like Paul does-the guy has to have latex for blood, I swear! This guy is taking on the "big guys" of mask making, and is very successful, but at the same time isn't letting money be the ONLY factor. Quality, and original designs, as well as having a good eye for talented artists (Joe Lester and  Pete Infelise for example) will make Darkside Studios stand above the crowd of wannabees in the future. I remember meeting him at a convention a few years back. He showed me some examples of his work, and at the time the sculpting was not as good as I thought it could have been...(sorry  Paul), but you could see the "fire" that was burning inside him... I knew  good things were about to come in the near future from this mullet- haired Chicago Southsider. We continued to keep in touch since that day, exchanging information about sculpting, materials, techniques, etc...and now I'm working with/for HIM !!! When you first meet Paul, you're always greeted with a big smile, and you'll soon find out how infectious his love of masks really is...and how damned lucky you are to have him as a good 'bud.  - Doug Goins

I've had nothing but outstanding dealings with Paul.  He has a strong commitment to customer satisfaction, offers exceptional quality pieces at a terrific price, and does it all with a great sense of humor.  I look forward to many more years of mask collecting and fun from Paul and Darkside Studio!!!  - Rhonda Underwood

Joe Lester had more than a few choice words for Paul.  Read his tale here.



LMC: When did you get started?

PD:  Started in Ď96 on the internet.  Hell, I was selling stuff out of my yard before that.  I couldnít find anyone to make a website.  Finally a buddy of mine from work made me this site and at the time it was a great site, but shitty to todayís standards.  Jim Harvell was my first customer.  He bought my Dark Shape mask Eric Austin was my 2nd  customer and he also bought a Dark Shape and a Freddy mask.

LMC: What sold big and really got you into mask making?

PD:  My biggest seller at the start were my Shatner Ď99ís.  I got a box from Morris, before they really caught on. I got a boxful and started converting them.  This was my biggest jump.  I didnít know what the Hell I was doing.  Just learning as I go.  I remember painting one with latex paint on top of rubber cement, which is a big no-no.  The paint was just pulling off the damn thing.   Then I tried rubber cement and almost blew up the house, breathing fumes and walking around the house laughing my ass off.  Eventually, I scraped off the rubber cement and used fabric paint.  This was really an eye opener.  I had half the box sold (30 or 40) and I was just starting to convert them.  They were discontinued and people really wanted them.  I was getting in all this money for people to lock in their mask.  I wasnít spending the money, but I was so far behind on these damn things.  Finally, I said ďOh Shit, I gotta catch up!Ē, the orders were coming in, but I couldnít keep up.  Finally, I just buckled down and spent so much time getting them finished.   I made a ton of money off these and this really opened my eyes.  I mean, itís intoxicating when the money rolls in, but you have to really work your ass off.  Itís Hell, I wonít lie, itís absolute Hell over here in October, but Christmas is taken care of.

LMC: So the money is good around Halloween?

PD: I remember this one lady showed up at 3:00pm on Halloween and wanted a mask that night.  Hands me 80 bucks, so shit not gonna turn that down, but after Halloween, you really want to just get the masks out of there.  So sick of looking at them, so Iíll do a sale and move them out.

LMC: So what did you think coming into this business what you would make

PD: Oh Shit, you know.  You dream of making millions.  I mean, I thought I could take a rake out in the yard and just rake it in.  But thatís not the reality.  I mean, itís a dream and at Halloween you just get sooo swamped you never leave the house. When I started, I was a little bummed, I didnít have many sales.  I went out to Jeffís studio and saw all this stuff he had and I was like man, you have a lot.  He said, oh this is all soldÖ Iíve got new stuff in the other room.  I was so bummed that I didnít have sales even close to this.  I drove home all discouraged, but it made me realize that you just canít start this overnight.  You have to pay your dues, build up.  I mean once you really start working at it.  I didnít have advertising; I was just getting most of my sales from Jeffís overflow and word of mouth.  I did some local advertising, but nothing national and the internet started taking off and I pretty much went this way. It really just came down from building the company.  I had just a few pieces and went from there.  Then I met Pete Infelise.  I bought a few of his work and started carrying his pieces.  Peteís a great guy.  Heís doing some HellRaiser pieces that are outstanding.  Pete called me up because he didnít have the facility to work, so he was going to drive down here, pick up the blanks and take them to someplace near his house to paint.  I was like, Pete, come here, take all the time you need and paint them.  Use my studio, itís no problem, you can stay as long as you need, come any time.  So Iím going to do castings and he will come over and paint them.  I want to push Pete to get back into it.  Heís been out of it for a while and heís a phenomenal artist.


LMC: How much you think you are pulling in?

PD: I pull in a good amount of cash on these masks :-), but you really have to work your ass off.  I mean, if I didnít have an assistant, Iíd be screwed.

LMC: So you work a regular job, have kids and do masks too, how do you do all this?                                 

PD: Lots and lots of drugs.  Just kidding, I drink a lot of caffeine and really just sleep when I drop during the busy season.  I just kind of collapse and then wake up and go at it again.  Itís crazy.  Every day I say Iím going to quit my other job, but it pays the bills and helps out in the off season and of course the insurance, so Iím kind of stuck.  You know, itís guaranteed money.

LMC: How does Jeff do it?

PD: His volume is about 60% on top of mine, so he gets a good amount.  I do runs of probably 5 or 6 masks at a time whereas Jeff will do 15 or so at a time, so I try and get a good inventory built up.  Heís got April and some others helping out.  He works like a madman too.

LMC: When did you meet Jeff Death?

PD: I met Jeff a while before I sold masks.  I was one of his biggest customers.  He used to have a website through the Monster Makers website.  He would take orders off that site.  I remember going to Monster Makers website and seeing DeathStudio pictures.  That was the best thing in the world.  Then Jeff opened his own site and it took off from there.

LMC: How did Jeff help you get started.  

PD: It goes back to Fango and me ordering masks from him.  I literally had at least  one mask on order for 3 years straight from Death Studios.  Get one and order another.  Jeff knew me as a really good customer.  We talked now and again about new masks.  So I talked to him about opening a studio.  I showed him some stuff I had sculpted and he said ďnice, niceĒ, but not much more than that.  Finally, after about the 3rd or 4th sculpt he started to show some interest.  I went out to his studio for him to paint a copy of this mask I did called socket.  I get out there and as Iím in the mold room, I get a call that my son just broke his leg while in school.  I was about an hour away and had to leave right away.  He broke his femur and had to have a body cast up to his chest and down to his toes.  He was 7 at the time.  I have twin boys that are a pain in the ass, but I love em to death.  Jeff realized I was serious at that point.  I would show him my paint jobs and he would give me suggestions.  Try this, try that and help guide me along.  One day he said, bring out a few pulls and Iíll paint them.    Thatís like  ďThe Nature BoyĒ Ric Flair showing you how to wrestle.  I sat there for hours and right away I knew what I was doing wrong.  I practiced for hours and hours to get it right.  Then my painting really started to pick up.  Soon after that Jeff asked if I wanted to carry some of his discontinued pieces and I was like ďShit, yeah!Ē  He didnít see it as competition; he saw it more as helping the business in general.  I mean, it helps to grow the hobby. 

LMC: Whereíd the name come from?         

PD:  I was  coming up with a name and I turned to my wife and said I want something that is the darkside of me.  So I thought Darkside studio.  My wife said thatís weird I was thinking on that same level.   Damn, if you are thinking on the same level as someone as crazy as my wife.  Just kidding!  Sheíll smack me for saying that.  Then I realized it was Darkside like Star Wars, so it fit good.   Harry Inman I think was a little upset about that since he runs Dark Studios, but it was in no way copying him.  BTW, I would love to get one of his aliens.  You know, those 5 foot things.  Those are unreal.  I think he casts that thing around a wooden frame.  Heís another phenomenal artist.  But, no Iím not about copying someoneís site.  But I was thinking of running a site called Latex Mask Central Park.  Gotcha!


LMC: Talk about Joe Lester and his work for you

PD: Heís doing 3 new ones this year.  He can sculpt his ass off and have something that will surprise the shit out of you in a week or less.  I mean all the texture he did was done by hand on the Jester and Smilin Jack.

LMC: Jeremy Bohr

PD: Jeremy must be on the same drugs I am.  Just kidding.  He can sculpt so fast, it blows me away. Iím finally moving to WED for the speed. 

LMC: Jeff Wehenkel and Jim Kessler

PD: I was thinking of opening a mask site and talking to my wife about it and I mentioned it to Jim.  Next thing I know, I see Jim and Jeff's newsletter and itís announcing my new mask company.  I was like, Whoa I was just thinking of it.  But you know, it got me some clients and really pushed me to get moving with it so I really appreciate it.

LMC: Howíd you get started with Pete Infelise?

PD: I sent him a letter a while back asking about masks. He then later asked if I would like to carry some of his stuff  I was like shit yeah, then the next year he had more.  Peteís the greatest.  Heís nice incarnate.  He went and worked for Universal Studios, but they found out he wasnít formally trained so they started giving him shit about it. So he took off and started his own thing.

LMC: Any dream artists you would like to carry sculpts?

PD: Oh man, I tell you.  I would love to get some of the Gods sculpting for me.  Henry Alvarez for one.  Don Lanning is unreal.  Of course Steve Wang.  I really want to carry Jeff's Wang pieces that he discontinued.  Unreal!  I don't even have a copy of Wang's stuff.  I haven't approached anyone like this.  I don't know if I can do them justice.  Lanning's WaveRipper.. Good Lord!





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