As a wife and proud mother of three, sculptor Nicole Johnson has managed to also craft an entire world of macarbe monsters that have affectionately become known as Mealy Monsters.
As their name suggests, Nicole’s menagerie of glassy-eyed, slack-jacked monsters are often of the “creep, strange and odd” variety that find their unique identities in the painstakingly hand-crafted flaws that Nicole grants each one. Full of bright colors and fun shapes, each monster offers a uniquely twisted vision of horror that channels Shelley’s original concept of Frankenstein’s monster so many years ago.
Let’s begin with an introduction, tell us a little about yourself.
My Name is Nicole Johnson. I live in western New York, Buffalo to be more specific. I went to Buffalo State College and studied printmaking. I have three young children and a husband that occupy lots of my time. When I am not being chased around by my children and husband I create one of a kind monsters and creatures from polymer clay. I humor myself often and seem to think I am funny.
Can you remember who/what first got you so fascinated in monsters?
I loved the movie Night of the Comet. I can not even tell you how many times I watched it as a child. I am really not sure what drew me to it, the cannibalistic zombies or the idea of being able to do whatever you want because almost everyone else is gone. But, I could not get enough of it. That movie set the course of my fascination with spooky, creepy, and strange looking images. I just find slightly off setting art fascinating to look at. From there it was all horror comics, ghost stories, tragic tales, zombie movies, scary novels, and tragic endings. I could not get enough.
So what is Mealy Monster Land exactly and how does one get there?
Mealy Monster Land is the place to go if you are a little awkward and look like you need eye drops to get the red out. It does help if you crave flesh, cat, human, dog, no preference needed, but it is not a requirement. I can’t tell you how to get there and if you were to find yourself there I would be forced to send the zombies out.
What’s you process behind monster making like, does it all start on paper or do you dive right into sculpting?
Once in a while I will make a sketch first. In most cases I have an idea of what I want to make but don’t put it on paper. I get my box of clay out and start with the idea and a lot of times end up with something else. The other day I thought I wanted to make some new monsters but ended up with zombies. The monsters were not pleased.
What materials do you use to make this monster menagerie? Do you use molds or are they all hand crafted?
Each one of my creations is completely one of a kind. I hand sculpt each one out of polymer clay, hand paint them with acrylic paint, add hair and clothing to finish them off. I have never used a mold and don’t have any plans to.
Which Mealy Monster is your favorite and why?
Generally what ever piece I just finished is my favorite. But, if I was to pin point one piece down as maybe my favorite it would probably be my tattooed lady. She was really fun to make, I got to doodle on her for two days. I just carried her around with me and when ever I got a moment, between making the kids lunch, or cleaning up the house I would draw a new tattoo on her. It was fun.
How can our readers get a hold of a Mealy Monster of their very own?
They have a place they call their own online where all available monsters are patiently waiting under available dolls. Once a person decides to give a monster a home I take no responsibility for what the monster will do to the person’s home.
You have three adorable children and a husband. How do they influence your work?
My children influence my work a ton. I tend to not push a piece as far as I would of before I had children and I think this has helped me to develop my work into what it is today, still spooky but maybe a bit humorous too. My children, especially my oldest, really like me to read the little stories and poems I sometimes make up. My oldest also has a few interesting ideas that I may try out at some point.
My husband is a huge support of my work. Not only does he sometimes let me take off to mealy monster land while he is attacked by our real monsters, we also refer to them as our children. But he is great for bouncing ideas off of and he will listen to me prater on about how this zombie has trouble eating because some how his head became detached and now what is he going to do, or the story of the moment.
Many of your creations share an awkward anatomy full of plump lips, slack-jawed faces and buck teeth. Where/how did this style develop?
I really can’t say, It just happened. I don’t make pretty. I just find it more interesting to make awkward creatures with bulging eyes and buck teeth. Plus, who ever met a pretty monster?
You’re currently a part of the 2010 Traveling Doll Project (featured in the May 2010 issue of Doll Collector Magazine) sponsored by Art Dolls Only. Can you tell us more about what that is and how the Mealy Monsters fit in?
This project is a collaboration of artists, all working individually on a group doll. This year we have 26 members participating that have been split into 7 teams.
Each doll will take a journey, starting and ending in the same place with a whole new look and story. A journal travels with each doll that will tell the story from the start, middle, and the end of the dolls adventure. I am participating on two teams this year and will work on a total of 7 dolls. The mealy monsters try to creep into each doll I am working on but part of the challenge with the project is to try something you never have before. Whether it is working in a medium you don’t normally work in or working with a theme you have never worked on before. The dolls change throughout their journey but you still have a story to follow and this can be a challenge. You still need to try and keep the flow of the doll and her story.
How do the creatures of Mealy Monster Land celebrate Halloween?
Well, they wreak havoc on the townsfolk. The pumpkins grow legs, eyes and pointy teeth and run around biting the ankles of unsuspecting trick-or-treaters. The zombies & monsters feel like they really blend in and don’t have to hide in the shadows. Basically they just wander the streets until dawn when they tromp home and go back to the dark corners they came from.
What’s the strangest thing you remember doing as a kid?
I am not going to lie. I remember chewing gum off the road one time. What was wrong with me, was I so sugar deprived I had to resort to that? YUCK!
For more of Nicole’s Mealy Monsters be sure to check out her official site or follow her latest projects on Twitter. Want a monster all you own? Then make sure you also stop by Mealy Monster Land’s Etsy shop.