Howling for Asia Eriksen’s Werepuppies!
I first became aware of WerePups over a year ago. After a friend took pics of them at the HORRORFIND convention in Gettysburg, PA, I knew it was something that I wanted to find out more about (plus, of course, I wanted one). Thankfully one of the pics my friend took included the URL for the WerePups website and the rest is history so to speak. Over the past year I came into contact with Asia Eriksen (creator of the WerePups), her husband Anders Eriksen (creator of Nightmare Gloves, the BEST Freddy Krueger gloves available) and of course Eriq Chang, mastermind behind Fable Foundry, who brought everything together.
After talking to all three people the Daves knew that these were artists that we wanted to be involved with and help promote. Everyone involved expressed interest in working with each other and the stars aligned just right so that on the weekend of October 14-16, 2011, we would finally be meeting Asia and Anders at the ROCK & SHOCK convention in Worcester, MA. It was a meeting a year in the making but it was so worth the wait as both artists were genuinely friendly, creative and supportive of what we were doing.
It was great to see the WerePups finally in person and I can say with all honesty that pictures of them do not do them justice! The business of latex collectibles is one that I am all too familiar with. More often than not pictures you see in catalogs or online look 100 times better than what you actually receive. I am thrilled to report that this is not the case with WerePups. They look better than the pics and they were definitely the hit of the ROCK & SHOCK convention! In fact they were such a hit with the Daves that between the two of us we bought three of them!
It was an honor to meet Asia and Anders, two phenomenal artists and people. It was also a great honor, and a lot of fun, to do the following interview with Asia! It is interviews like this that really make doing interviews so much fun! Enjoy!
ME: Talking to you at ROCK & SHOCK you told me that you are a huge werewolf movie fan. What are some of your favorites and why?
ASIA: The one that will always top my list is Stephen King’s SILVER BULLET. Looking back, it was that movie that started my infatuation with lycanthropy, shape-shifters and subhuman creatures. SILVER BULLET is not only one of the films that introduced me to horror, but it’s definitely the first werewolf movie I’ve ever seen. I was only about 8 years old, and I remember making a sort of Halloween tradition with my mom – watching it with the lights out and a cup of tea. The story is just fantastic. The idea of a reverend who is at war with his own illness – lycanthropy – and basically using religion as an excuse for the slaughtering he does while in wolf form.
There was the incredible new experience of seeing such a realistic beast on the screen – the snarling lips and rolling eyes….I mean, back then, as a little kid this was a REAL animal, and it was huge and hulking and it was terrorizing Corey Haim and tossing Gary Busey around the room! It wasn’t just the beast, it was also that I cared so much about these characters….that made the werewolf so much more frightening and fascinating. There are so many amazing horror films, but it’s all too often that you just come to think of the cast as “meat for the monster” and you wait for them to get killed. I think that’s such a vital part of keeping werewolves scary – having these great characters, making them real and likable so that when the beast comes after them, you cringe because you feel like it’s your family he’s after.
The original HOWLING is also absolutely fascinating. I have to say that it gets the award for best looking werewolf design in my book. I could watch it a million times and still get inspired every time, and come away bouncing off the walls wanting to make my own werewolf film.
My other favorites include AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, BAD MOON, WEREWOLF OF LONDON, DOG SOLDIERS, GINGER SNAPS and yes, I am also a big fan of TEEN WOLF. I could talk an hour about every one of those films.
ME: Were you a monster movie fan growing up? What were some of your favorites back then?
ASIA: Oh yeah, I just love monsters. Anything with a creature in it I loved. Really early on I loved watching Universal Studios monsters…FRANKENSTEIN, CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. I thought THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU was just absolutely captivating. I am really fascinated by human/animal hybrids and things like that, also cryptids and the study of undiscovered animals.
ME: How did you get the idea for WerePups?
ASIA: I’m not sure the exact moment that the idea was hatched, but it was basically just that I wanted a baby werewolf. A real one. If you really had a mixture of a human and dog or wolf,
what would it really look like? It would be kind of puppy-like. I am such a sucker for puppies that it’s totally silly, I mean my brain becomes a pile of mush and ceases to function when I see a cute dog. I kept imagining a baby werewolf with puppy qualities, mixed up with little baby human qualities, but I also don’t want to forget that eventually it may grow up into a 10 foot beast that will eat you! I really just wanted to see that in real life, and I tried a few times years ago but failed miserably. I couldn’t really get anything done except produce a few creepy dolls with badly glued fur on their faces. I toyed with the idea off and on. Finally, after meeting my husband Anders, a door was opened as I was introduced to the world of special FX materials.
One day I picked up a chunk of clay, and asked Anders “Hey, if I sculpt something, could you make a mold of it for me and show me how to cast it in latex?” That’s how the first WerePup was born, just over one year ago now. I had never sculpted a single thing in my life, I just wanted to make a toy for myself. I became so absolutely lunatic over that thing, I mean I carried it from room to room on a little wooden tray, either working on it or staring at it and, when I finally got it cast and painted and assembled, I still carried it everywhere around the house with me, and I’m sure everyone thought I’d really lost it! I couldn’t believe that I had the power to make something I wanted like that, and I just wanted to study it and see what I had done and what I was going to try to do better next time.
Eriq Chang, our good friend, partner and founder of Fable Foundry helped encourage me to do more. I was really inspired by the idea that he liked something that I had made, and I took it to heart because he’s really got an amazing artistic ability himself and he’s really got an eye for all things art. I got so completely hooked on sculpting, because with the first WerePup it was like I opened up to a world that was previously out of reach. Clay is just such a fantastic thing, and I know I’ve got a long way to go before I can act like I know anything… but just to literally manifest my thought into a physical form? It’s just still surreal to me.
ME: What is the process for making these?
ASIA: Every WerePup started as six lumps of clay – head, arms, legs, and body. I started out using chopped up doll parts as internal armatures so that parts fit together, but I’ve gotten more used to the structure of WerePups now. It takes anywhere from a few days to months to complete a new sculpt, it’s really varied and depends on how complicated the sculpt is, how inspired I feel, if I’m trying something a little different, or if I get sidetracked.
I don’t do sketches or anything like that. I guess my version of making a sketch is obsessing over a design in my head for a few days.
Once all six parts of a whole Pup is sculpted, I hand them over to my husband to make molds of the parts. Depending on what type of material I want the Pup to be produced in, the molds are made of plaster or rubber. I’m lucky to be married to Anders, because there’s definitely an art to mold making and it can be tedious and very messy.
Once we have molds, I fill them up with liquid rubber (latex or silicone) and wait anywhere from overnight to 2 days depending on what I’m using. The de-molding process can be horrible or fantastic. There are screw ups, and it can all get frustrating really fast. I’m still learning, but at least I have the benefit of living with an FX artist!
Once Pups are out of the molds, I have to patch up any little flukes, and do my best to remove flash (seam) lines. On a very productive day, I am covered from head to toe in little latex particles!
The fun part finally begins when I can paint the Pups. My favorite thing, along with the initial sculpting is to have a big “litter” of WerePups for an event and just paint them however I want. It’s fun to be allowed creative control over something like that and, usually, colors and personalities just develop. There’s always a favorite, and there’s always one we think is the trouble maker or the little diva, or the goofball. It’s just fun! Even after the Pups are painted I have to stuff them, add reinforcements to the joints, powder any points of friction, assemble them and finally add some glaze to make the eyes, noses and mouths look wet.
ME: I have been a fan of latex masks and props for years and one thing I have always been against is when companies outsource their products to either China or Mexico to cut costs (as well as quality). One of my favorite aspects of WerePups is that they are obviously hand-made as the quality is consistent throughout all of them. Is it your plan to continue making them this way?
ASIA: That’s a really great question and one that I appreciate also. It’s awesome to see support for handmade products, because a lot of people don’t really care about that, they want something less costly. Handmade items have to cost more, and that’s the only thing I don’t like about it, is that some people are disappointed when they can’t afford something they like and I really hate to disappoint anyone who actually is interested in things that I made myself. I feel privileged to have these people checking out my work in the first place.
I really like to sell my Pups at the lowest price I can while still being able to put hours in and hand-make every single one with love. In the future, I do plan on offering cheaper alternatives. I’m not sure just yet whether that means simply having another source do the casting process so that I can still hand paint, or having some specific models that we reproduce in a factory, but one thing is for sure – I want to continue to hand make WerePups for as long as I am in the game. I love doing it, it’s as close to breeding werewolves as I can get, and I just can’t see how I could get the same sense of fulfillment if fans were loving something that a group of people threw together in a factory for a paycheck and slapped my logo on it. There are so many rewards to hand making, especially when people post pictures up on my Facebook, I see the Pups they have, and I remember making every single one. Sometimes I can tell them a story about when I was making it, or I can tell them that was my pick of the litter this time around. No two are alike, and that’s how it should be – just like buying a puppy. All of those fun factors would be lost if we switched over to mass production.
One of the reasons I became involved with Eriq and Fable Foundry, is that he really shares that vision and knows the value of being able to offer customers something that wasn’t just cranked out of a machine, but handled with love and made by someone who actually cares about the product.
ME: Currently WerePups are only available for adoption at conventions. Any plans to make them available online? If someone would like to buy a WerePup and will not be at any of your
convention appearances, what is the best route they should follow?
ASIA: We’re working on the new www.werepups.com website, and we’re hoping to at least have a way for folks to easily order online. One of the reasons it’s taken so long to get it going is we didn’t really come to a decision on how we want orders to work. The fact that the WerePups are hand-made and all unique makes the ordering process more complex then just pointing at a specific model and ordering an exact copy. Right now, I have been taking custom orders from my Facebook followers at their request. They have full creative control, from eyes to markings. Some even send me pictures of their dogs and have me do a WerePup version. I definitely love offering that service to the fans, and letting them express themselves. They come up with ideas that I don’t, and that’s some of the most fun I get to have.
If anyone wants a WerePup now, I would say find us on Facebook (Facebook.com/werepups) and post or shoot me a message, it all goes directly to me.
ME: One of the hits of ROCK & SHOCK was your new silicone WerePup that was very realistic, not only in its appearance but also in its movement! Tell us about that.
ASIA: Thanks! “Toby” was literally being put together hours before we left for the show. I had never done anything like it before, and we weren’t sure if it was going to work or turn out the way I imagined, but i couldn’t believe the feedback I got. I’m really, incredibly thankful that Toby turned out well and he really paved the way for me to talk about the movie project that we have in works that features “real” WerePups like him. It was a big show for the future of the WerePups film and, because Toby went over so well, we got to give everyone who was interested in supporting the film a first hand look at how audiences react to the idea.
Silicone props can really give the look of living flesh, and I’ve really been awe-struck over some of those doll makers out there, just making regular human infants. I’ve become really inspired by some of them, how the really amazing ones have a tendency to capture that certain newborn look that is cute in one way but kinda gross in another. Newborns are splotchy, crumpled, wrinkly little things. They look like little old men before they reach that cutesy chubby baby stage, but you know it’s the dolls that capture the realistic newborn look that I think are more beautiful. I gazed at some of these things and really wanted to try making a WerePup version.
It took weeks to build Toby, and I had to hand root every single hair on his head, arms and legs. It’s tedious, I’m new to rooting, I broke a bunch of needles and stabbed myself again and again. I actually sat, at one point, brushing my dog and taking the tiny hairs out of the comb and rooting them into Toby’s face. Because of that, and because of the great time I experienced at ROCK & SHOCK, I wouldn’t sell him, even though I got a few generous offers. I really have never been so flattered in my life, and every word everyone said over that weekend meant more than the world to me.
When people were asking me if the doll was real, I was just shocked and so incredibly thankful for the experience. I couldn’t help but feel like, for those few days, I had at least made a tiny little splash in the werewolf world. My face hurt from smiling at the end of the weekend.
ME: Will the new silicone WerePup be available for sale in the same type of variety that the standard WerePups come in?
ASIA: It will, but I have to ask a high price for that kind of work, or else I will go broke! Right now I have taken a few special orders for the next ones, but the amount of time it takes for me to make one is just wild. I love doing it, but it really had me tied up for a few weeks. I wish I could do it faster, and who knows, hopefully as I learn and grow I’ll get better at it.
As soon as I got home from ROCK & SHOCK, I couldn’t wait to sculpt an alternate head, so I did, and it’s actually just come out of the mold a few minutes ago. I’ll be working on new head sculpts all this week, and an alternate set of legs and arms as well. The response to Toby was so absolutely inspiring to me that I actually feel like I’m going to go nuts if I don’t make new ones and see how they look in a variety of fur colors. That’s why I am so thankful for feedback like that, it’s fuel and now I’m right back to where I was when I was obsessing over the very first latex WerePup. Honestly, I make so many things that I’m unsatisfied with, and sometimes other people like them but I can’t stop being annoyed by the flaws and things I should have done better. Then, once in awhile…once in a great while, I look at something and I actually think I did good. Toby is only the third time I was really, completely happy with something I made and the first one was my daughter, Ember.
ME: You mentioned at ROCK & SHOCK that there are plans for a possible WerePups movie. What can you tell us about that?
ASIA: ROCK & SHOCK was a really important time for the future of WerePups. We were there tying up the ends to really get the film – entitled CAVE CANEM – in motion. We were sharing a table with Glenn Ciano, producer Chad Verdi, and their crew and they were actually doing the world premiere of their film INKUBUS which is Glenn’s directorial debut. He is the man who has taken on my screenplay and is going to be directing the WerePups movie. All around wise-man Robert Englund actually introduced us to him and, from the moment we started talking we knew that he’s the guy that can really bring the story to life. He has more passion for what he does than any artist I’ve met so far, and we really meet some amazing people.
We were really psyched to support Glenn and be there for that incredible, once in a lifetime moment when these guys get to watch the audiences react to their film for the first time. It was
fantastic, and you couldn’t help but be excited because you just know when you’re witnessing history. There’s no doubt that Glenn Ciano is a name that’s going to be heard throughout the horror genre for years to come, and just to follow his excitement and energy throughout the weekend was unreal.
During ROCK & SHOCK we gave away a small run of Cave Canem comic books, which me and Anders collaborated on as sort of a treatment and sneak peek at what the movie is going to be like. They were really well received and we were happy to be able to share them with horror fans.
Glenn and I got to sit down and really talk about the project with Gary Busey who, if not for him I wouldn’t have written the film, and he’s just brilliant. Gary just leaves this incredible trail of energy everywhere he goes and I really want to get the opportunity to capture that energy to breathe life into the character of Dr. Baxter. There’s also this amazingly emotional side of his acting that I’m always inspired by. If you watch his performances in films like HIDER IN THE HOUSE, LOST HIGHWAY, DIARY OF A SERIAL KILLER, MANEATER….he really has this intense ability to capture pain and conflicting emotions and that’s what I’d love to remind the audience, and what I’d love to see with this character.
I’ve been infatuated with werewolves since I was a little girl and It’s led me to do the things I do today. Completing this film, for me, would not only give me the honor of playing a small part in the werewolf movie genre, but having an actor who was originally tossed around by the werewolf in the film that introduced me to it all? That would really bring it all full circle for me. Just give me the chance to earn it.
ME: You now have the standard and silicone WerePups available. Do you have plans for other WerePup products in the future?
ASIA: Absolutely. I have some smaller figurines in the works, as well as comics that tell stories in the world of Cave Canem and WerePups. I’m still so new to all of this, so I really hope that I get better as I go along and can do more. I would love to work on bigger things, larger werewolves at different stages of life would be a lot of fun.
I can’t tell you how great it’s been to sit down and get a chance to talk about all this! My mind is really bubbling nonstop because I’m still on a natural high from ROCK & SHOCK. Thank you so much for all of your support, for your interest in what we’re doing and just for doing what you do!
The gray werepuppy would later be given to National Horror Host, Svengoolie, and is now a permanent occupant of his set! He pops out every time Sven shows a werewolf related film and made his debut here…
All in all the ROCK & SHOCK experience for us was amazing, largely due in part to the awesome people we met and Asia and Anders are at the top of that list! If you are going to a convention and they are there, make sure to stop by and say hello! I would also recommend buying a WerePup early on because they almost always sell out! You’ll be glad you did! We are!
To adopt your own werepup go to the official website HERE and click on the e-mail tab!