During the trying times we are going through with Covid, people are trying to maintain as “normal” of a life as possible. Though retail stores remain open, most people have turned to internet shopping. Though I am a user of Amazon, one thing I have found myself looking at more and more is Etsy. Though I can save money on Amazon, buying on Etsy does two things; it gives you the ability to buy things that are original, not found anywhere else and are often one-of-a-kind but you are also supporting artists, who are suffering greatly during the pandemic.
I have always been a casual viewer of Etsy but recently started noticing some artists that were creating some really amazing pieces. I have reached out to some of these artists to discuss what they do and what motivates them. The first one is known as TheDustyTentacle on Etsy. Though he does have a wide-variety of items, it was his sideshow gaffs that drew me in.
For those of you who do not know, sideshow gaffs are creations made to look like real things. Oftentimes, parts of animals will be combined to look like a new species, or in the case of the Fiji Mermaid, the torso of a monkey was originally sewn seamlessly onto the body of a fish. These would then be displayed in the sideshows of old, often for an additional fee. They often featured beautiful artwork and fun stories to add to their realism. Though there are many artists doing similar creations, those from TheDustyTentacle are by far my favorite.
If you do a search on Etsy for “sideshow gaff” you will see a wide variety of offerings. In my opinion though, the ones from TheDustyTentacle stand out above all of the rest. His attention to detail is second to none and his various creations look very authentic and believable. If you have your own Cabinet of Curiosities, then you will definitely want to add his stuff to it!
The piece I received from this artist is his Spidora. This is based on an old sideshow illusion used with mirrors where a giant spider in a web has a human head. This mummified creation looks amazing and you almost expect to smell decay. Being a collector of sideshow gaffs, Spidora’s new home is my Cabinet of Curiosities (see my series on these HERE).
The artist was nice enough to talk to me and answer some questions on the incredible things he makes.
1. I found your store by searching “sideshow gaff” on Etsy and it is no secret that what you create is amazing. How did you get into making gaffs?
I started many years ago making shrunken heads and Fiji mermaids, then it just sort of expanded naturally.
2. Your creations are among some of the best I have ever seen. How do you get your ideas?
I draw a lot of inspiration from old carnival freak shows and cryptozoology.
3. What is your process for designing a new creation?
I usually don’t plan my art out with sketches, I just have an idea and start sculpting. Sometimes it takes on a life of its own and doesn’t look how I imagined.
4. The piece I received was your Spidora, half human half spider creation. How long does it take to put something like that together?
Most of my sideshow attractions take about a week to complete, working on them a little each day until they have the right color and texture.
5. Do you have any new designs coming up?
I always have new ideas waiting to be created. I’m working on a set of mummified gnomes/elves/goblins, so that is my fun project right now.
6. Out of all your designs, past of present, which one is your favorite (and provide a pic if possible) and why?
I was commissioned to make a full size Sloth from Goonies. That was my largest project and probably my favorite since it was so unusual.
I want to thank TheDustyTentacle, not only for his amazing creations but for taking the time to answer a few questions. If you would like to order anything to add to your collection, just click HERE!