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Interview With The Devil

By Mary Harker

Dog? Check. 

Leash? Check. 

Little bags for… you know, check. 

Surrendering yourself to another mundane exercise in fulfilling your obligation as a dog owner. Check.

Seeing the same houses, same rock gardens with pithy engraved sayings and annoyingly perfect yards. Check.

Who has time for that nonsense anyway?! I digress. 

So you decide to change it up a bit and go left with Sparky instead of right and then it happens. 

The same dang thing… rock garden, check. 

Perfect yard, check. 

Guy carving a human skull, ch- WHAT?!

You stop abruptly (Sparky doesn’t appreciate that) and triple take as the whining of the drill stops. That IS a human skull... craaaaaap and now the guy in breathing mask is waving at you. You instinctually wave back and nervously ask “Is that… is that a skull?” He removes his mask and responds “Which one?” as you look, you realize the garage is actually a workshop and has skulls in various stages of being painted or drying in front of fans. 

This is basically an everyday occurrence for Zane Wylie, although more so on the weekends and when the weather is more temperate.

According to Zane, most of his interactions with neighbors or folks at conventions are positive although he does get the odd “You’re the devil” or “Psychopath” comment every once in a while.

When asked how he addresses those negative comments:

“I try to use humor deal with comments like that. Last time I was accused of being The Devil I just said “If I was “THE Devil” I’d be making more money.” And the Psychopath comment well less funny to them, but hilarious for me. I said “I prefer “High Functioning Pathological Narcissist.” I think I might even make that a t-shirt.”

So, if you’re reading this article you probably have two questions:

1) Where does one acquire real human skulls?

2) How did he get started carving real human skulls?

And when I asked those questions, he laughed and said:

“Not only, do I ALWAYS get asked those questions BUT your first question is nearly ALWAYS phrased that way, “How does one acquire…” So to answer the first one, I’ll address the second one. In my previous career, I worked for a counter terrorism group, whose job was to be imbedded with armed units in high value target areas, looking for body language and micro facial expressions that would indicate signs of violent intent. People who look like they’re looking to hurt people. In doing that, I was trained to know the muscles attached to the human skull used to form emotional responses.”

“So I decided It would enhance my ability to do so if I actually HAD a real human skull to help visualize it… but I really just thought It’d be cool to own a real skull. SO the first place I looked… Ebay. Since then, they’ve changed their policy on human remains.”

“I order to raise money to buy my first one, it was suggested by an Ebay seller that I sell “tribal” decorated animal skulls. So I gave it a shot, I had some old deer skulls in my garage that I found in the woods, bought a little engraver, some paint and went at it.” 

“I sold my first two very quickly and for much more than I was expecting, I continued to carve, continued to upgrade my equipment and continued to get better.”

“At some point I had enough buy a couple real skulls and at the urging of the seller, I carved on a real human skull. I listed it, sold it in minutes. Listed another, sold it for more and in the same amount of time.” “After that I was blessed to meet an amazing artist, Chris Erney, that has a studio in Old Town Alexandria (Virginia) located inside the Torpedo Factory. We became fast friends when we started talking about skulls. He taught me how to make molds so I wasn’t resigned to creating and selling only originals.” 

“So now I’ll take a replica of a real skull, carve on it, make a mold of it, and then sell the replicas. About 99% of the work I do is on replicas now. It’s easier, faster and it smells better.”

“The other question I’ll sometimes get is “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever been asked to carve?” not always but question usually makes it’s rounds in groups and at comicons. I’m not sure about crazy. Considering my resume’ reads like a madman’s journal, nothing is too crazy as far as I’m concerned. Let’s face it, carving on human skulls is crazy enough, but the first time I was asked about doing a skull for the show Constantine was pretty crazy. The initial email was kind of vague. As to not give too many details about the show, the network etc. I thought it would be one of those “do it for exposure” gigs. Thankfully I followed up and it became my first TV Prop screen gig, that then lead to thirteen skulls for the show Preacher, Locke and Key and the canceled show Ghost Rider.”

What do you mean about your resume’? 

"Well, let’s see… chronologically I was and usher at a movie theater, office manager, waiter at a pizza joint, published a comic book, armed guard, private investigator, armed guard to a King from Togo, exiled King from Rwanda, owned a doughnut machine, ran a catering truck or roach coach as I like to call it. The horn even played la cucaracha, then I had one of my toes chopped off so I took a break from the truck, learned stage hypnosis in Las Vegas, then became head of internal investigations at a major department store, left the department store and worked the counter intelligence job and now I carve skulls.”

Sounds perfectly normal to me… if you were on a TV show of your own.

“Yeah! Skull Dynasty… that would be funny. It wouldn’t be the first time someone has suggested it. I had a couple offers already but that’s a lot to ask of my family to participate in. They ranged from opportunities will come later after the 1st season to the production company will need the rights to everything you carve. I’m not opposed to the idea, I guess the right offer hasn’t come along.” 

“Thanks for taking the time to talk with me… (long pause) this is where I get the idea for the beginning of the article because Zane starts talking to a curious neighbor. Pity I didn’t get to hear the “you are the devil” conversation.”

We talked sometime after that and I could definitely write more, but for my word limit of 1200. 

If you haven’t seen his work your missing out

His pieces are definitely conversation starters.

A Look Inside Skull Carving:
It takes anywhere from 20 to 220 hours to carve the designs you see on our skulls. 

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