I have a habit of prowling the forums for interesting things to share with you, and sometimes, I'm lucky enough to be granted an interview with the most fascinating folks in the haunt world. Today's interview is one of those great strokes of luck in that the fascinating person came to me.
Erich Lubatti is the proprietor of Lubatti Designs Unlimited, and he gets to make masks for a living! Erich, 41, lives in Rancho Cucamonga, California, with his wife,two kids, and a dog and cat. Aside from being amazingly talented in the design and fabrication of masks, Erich also lucked out in marrying a fellow Halloween fanatic.
Erich has been making his own rubber monsters for twenty years, mostly for the Halloween and film industries. He also does special effects.
Erich was put on the haunter's path at a young age. Influenced (as most of us were) by Boris Karloff in Frankenstein, Erich also had a mom who loved horror movies.
"She encouraged me as a little kid to play Frankenstein, the Wolfman, Dracula, etc. My father didn't object, either. By three years of age, I was acting out scenes from all of the classic Universal horror films! That tiny spark of interest continued to grow naturally as I grew. Halloween was always a major holiday in our house growing up. Around 10, I started decorating the front porch and front yard of the family home."
I asked Erich how he got started in the mask-making field.
"It just seemed like a natural progression from what I was doing strictly for fun as a kid. I learned that there was a market for my skills. So, I just gravitated toward it. I've done what is referred to as "Lab Work" for a few special makeup effects shops. That's where a person performs some of the more menial tasks like mold-making, casting, etc., etc. Some of the films I've directly worked on include: "The Beer Creatures", "Nightwalkers", "Dead Things", "The Road Virus Heads North", "ZMF". And, there are two other films in pre-production right now."
"We also supply a large number of custom masks for numerous actors at Knott's Halloween Haunt every year. A lot of my masks come from what I would like to have seen as a kid. I don't really have a lot of nightmares that provide me with a bunch of potential masks or props. So, I try to stay on top of whatever the current market trends may be. Zombies are a constant. I try not to make many replicas from movie characters. The ones that I do make of popular characters are mainly commissioned by private collectors.""Good old Red Jack [above] is our signature mask. Red Jack is a Burton-esque character with a large, messed up top hat and a wicked grin on his face. He's our mascot, so to speak. He's one of the first original masks I sculpted under the name Lubatti Designs Unlimited."
Erich started his company in 1997, after he stopped working for another company in the same business.
"I wanted to branch out on my own and give the public something different. I hadn't become aware of the Internet, at that time, so I was relatively clueless that there were entire online communities dedicated to collecting high-end monster masks. It's been an amazing journey ever since! Selling mainly direct to the public. "Erich and his family still manage to decorate for Halloween, though they, like some of us, have seen a dropoff in trick-or-treaters.
"We decorate our home every year for Halloween. But, we haven't made the jump into a full-fledged home haunt, yet. We'd really like to, though! Usually, by the time comes around, all of our energies have been spent trying to get all orders out in time to reach the customers. For us, October is an awful lot like December at Santa's Workshop -- CRUNCH TIME!!!"
"We saw a MAJOR decline in TOTs last year. It was sad, actually. We took our own kids into a different neighborhood and there were HUNDREDS of people (children, teens and adults) out on the streets! It was the wildest thing."
His neighbors don't seem to mind his masks or his decorating, and he hasn't received any negative feedback from them. "Or they're too afraid to say anything!" he quips.
He keeps his hand in other parts of the haunt world, as well.
"Aside from HauntSpace, I am part of the HHVA (Halloween & Haunt Vendors Association). It's a forum put together by Kevin Alvey, of Gore Galore, for vendors like Lubatti Designs Unlimited, Mr. Skeleton and Gore Galore (among many, many others) to support each other and discuss issues within our industry. Sort of like a union....but not."
Erich is having a sale on his website now through June 21, so if you're looking for a cool mask, now might be the time to pony up for it.
I am working on that stirring witch project... Hmmm.
5 years ago