Gargoyles will grace open house Monster maker loves his work NORTHWEST -- Taneytown * Union Bridge * New Windsor * Uniontown

November 19, 1992|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Staff Writer

No one would want to meet one of John Bottomley's creations on a dark night.

"I like gargoyles," he said. "They definitely grow on you."

Mr. Bottomley, who has indulged in the art of making the hideous figures for the last three years, will show how he makes his grotesquely deformed human- and animal-like creations Friday through Sunday during the New Windsor Holiday Open House.

He will be one of five craftsmen demonstrating skills at Customs Last Stand and Rustic Furniture, two Marston craft shops participating in the event.

"I can't tell you how much I enjoy making these things," Mr. Bottomley said.

He doesn't have to. His admiration of the oft-winged, horn-topped brutes is obvious.

To make them more "personable," Mr. Bottomley has given most of his creatures names. There are several "Floyds" in the area, including the two that guard the entrance to Rustic Furniture.

"Floyd is the name of one of the elders in our church. The man is nearly 80 years old," said Mr. Bottomley, looking at one of the many Floyds in the Blue Ridge Summit, Pa. apartment he shares with his wife, Sandra. "He was enthralled by the piece when he saw it."

A gargoyle named Throg went on an interview with his creator.

"I wasn't getting anyone's attention at this concrete company I wanted to work for," Mr. Bottomley said. "So I carried in this 200-pound gargoyle, and someone noticed."

Of course, he got the job. Who could say no a man carrying a creature with a mouth full of pointed teeth and a heart of stone?

Another gargoyle, named Dave, looks thoughtful, with a round, full face resembling Mr. Miyagi, the martial arts instructor in "The Karate Kid" movies. But he's a sickly gray, and has wings and claw-like feet.

Then there's Becky Jane.

"OK, she does have three breasts," said Mr. Bottomley, a graphic artist for Tab Books, an affiliate of McGraw Hill Inc. "I didn't think anyone would buy a gargoyle with three breasts, but I was wrong.

"Both men and women found her intriguing. I don't know why," he said. "I just take the human form usually and sort of mangle it to get my pieces."

On one of his coming works, Mr. Bottomley has used clay to elongate a model of a human skull to give the creature a grossly oversized head.

He hasn't decided what kind of body to give it.

"It sort of has a turtle-shaped head now," he said. "Maybe I'll give it some sort of turtle body, but a little stranger, maybe."

The artist, who learned to make molds from a magazine article, said most people don't understand how difficult the process is.

He begins by making a hand-sized model of brown clay and eventually uses it to create a statue two to three feet high. Then he makes a silicone mold from the larger model and uses the mold to fashion a plaster gargoyle. Once the plaster piece is sanded, polished and smoothed, a fiberglass mold is made from it.

From the new mold, a few dozen cement gargoyles can be made. The process can take months.

"There is a lot that goes into making gargoyles," Mr. Bottomley said. "Once we actually make a mold of the piece, there is no guarantee it will be any good."

Mrs. Bottomley, who has seen the energy her husband puts into his work, agreed.

"People figure the artist just pumps them out," said Mrs. Bottomley, an editor for Tab Books. "What they don't know is that 30 percent of these don't turn out. They become part of the driveway."

The Bottomleys said that doing shows like the one in New Windsor this weekend is the best way to get public exposure. After losing several pieces to clumsy mail handlers, they decided against mail-order sales, Mr. Bottomley said.

"Another benefit of the shows is the people get to see the craftsmen at work," said Mrs. Bottomley. "They watch what's happening and it's like they realize that, no, they couldn't do something like this at home in a day. It really is a talent to create these things."

During last year's open house, Mrs. Bottomley said the members of a local family sat down with their lunches to watch her husband work. They eventually bought a gargoyle.

"There are very few people doing gargoyles out there. It takes a lot of imagination and sense of humor," Mr. Bottomley said. "You'll find that the people that buy the gargoyles have great senses of humor, too."

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