Behind the facade of a rather ordinary home in
Southwest Michigan, lies an underground space brimming with unexpected sights that could provide the basis for countless stories. A box of witch heads sits next to a grinning jack-o-lantern. A skeleton attempts to climb out of a violin case while a toad tips his
top hat to say "hello." This mysterious space is actually the basement studio of Scott Smith, creator, and mastermind of Rucus Studio.
Halloween and Christmas is a year-round business for Rucus Studio.
Even in the dead of winter, you can find Smith sketching or sculpting new works for the coming year. His shop is an organized sort of chaos; body parts clustered on the work table, bins overflowing with trims and found objects to be added to characters, and old fabrics somewhat sorted by colors. It can be overwhelming for most, but he claims that being amongst all the materials helps to keep the ideas flowing. "I work slow and easily fall prey to getting caught up in the smallest of details. I enjoy the process of revealing the stories behind the characters and couldn't imagine working any other way."
Smith spends countless hours in his studio "playing" with new materials and technique to use in his work. Some of his most successful and unexpected pieces have been created by just letting his imagination run and not over-thinking. Making up stories and giving life to inanimate objects was a childhood pastime for Smith, which has turned into a successful career. He admits to an overactive imagination resulting in a cast of curious creatures featured in several books and magazines.
Though it may sound a bit crazy, his spirited characters have become his day-to-day friends in the studio. Smith no longer views them as relating to a particular season or holiday, but more as just a very diverse group of playmates - some are pushy, while others are shy. Either way, he keeps his eyes peeled, as these eccentric companions are mischievous and can cause quite a "ruckus" in the workplace.
Smith begins each new piece by sketching and then sculpting. The sculpts are generally done with polymer clay to capture details, although he also works directly in paper-mache for one-of-a-kind pieces. Often during the sculpting process, his ideas change and unexpected characters emerge. Once he is satisfied with the sculpt, he creates a mold. "I like using molds because I can cast several pieces in paper-mache and rework them as needed to give each a unique look." His painting is done in many layers of color with subtle washes of acrylics. Next, an armature is constructed from wood and heavy wire. Armatures are wrapped in layers of cotton batting which gives form to the body. The next step is to dress the figure. Smith loves working with antique textiles. Each costume is custom made for each character incorporating trims, embellishments, and found objects help to enhance the character's story.