Episode #65 – Douglas Pryor “If you’re not crackin’ steel, you’re not learnin'”

Douglas Pryor lives in Rockland, California and works as a repousse artist, primarily making armor. When possible, he uses only hand tools to mimic the authentic conditions of ancient  time periods. His main techniques are sculpting, raising, chasing and repousse.  He’s been selected as one of the demonstrators for this year’s ABANA 2016 Conference in Salt Lake City.

Douglas  octopus helmut Skull

What we talked about:

  • Douglas got into armor making because he liked roughhousing as a kid, but found it could be painful. Instead of stopping the activity, he fashioned suits of protection out of gutter sheet metal and catcher helmets. That ultimately led him to look deeper into the topic of armor and he began taking metalworking courses.
  • He went to college for a welding program and was immediately hooked on metalwork. “I knew I wanted to work with metal as I continued to kind of fall in love with the elasticity and how much shape and three-dimensional form you can get into it. It captivated me.” He says he owes much of his success to amazing instructors at Sierra College and access to a lot of good information early in his studies.
  • But it turned out welding was not his passion. “The deeper I got, the more I wanted to NOT weld. The more proficient I got at modern techniques, the more interested I got in traditional techniques.” He began to explore how these arts were performed in the past.
  • Douglas works mostly with 10-12 gauge steel because many of his pieces must be able to hold up to full contact sports. He almost exclusively uses hand hammers and tooling versus pneumatic tools to make the process more historically authentic.
  • Douglas says that he’s able to make a decent living in this line of work selling armor pieces. He mostly works on commissioned items and he usually has up to eight people in cue for projects from all over the world. He estimates he works 40-60 hours per week on these projects.
  • As a side job, Douglas works as an instructor at a parkour gym he helped build. He loves the physical aspect of dynamic human movement and enjoys working with people in a completely different way than he can when doing metalwork. He says it offers him an equally important, but very different perspective.
  • For pricing, Douglas says he has an hourly and a daily rate, but he ultimately charges what a piece is worth. He’s says that open communication and being very transparent with his clients is important.
  • As part of the construction process, Douglas says it can be extremely personal, with people sometimes sending him full body casts for custom work. He describes it as very labor intensive, hence the cost. “You can cut corners with machines, but part of my discipline and part of my practice is doing it traditionally. There’s a lot of appreciation for hand-made goods. I can’t say thank you enough to the people who support me,” he says.
  • With such a unique skill set, Douglas has considered working for Hollywood, but instead prefers the slower paced work he gets with private collectors. He likes time to do research and become engrossed in the project instead of trying to turn out pieces quickly. Douglas says he has done work on some video game projects.
  • So how long does it take to make these pieces? Douglas says it varies wildly depending on the project. He said it could take weeks or even years. As an example, he recently made an Octopus Helmet for a client in Australia. The helmet was forged out of a single plate of steel and has three very unique interchangeable visors. That project took 12 months and he had a documentary film crew following the process.
  • Douglas is starting to offer some workshops and recently did a practice run with instructors from the college he attended. He also offered a free workshop for about 7-8 students. He plans to do another one in Arizona this October.
  • At this summer’s ABANA conference, Douglas is going to be doing a 3-part demonstration on face sculpture. He says he will only have 9 hours to work on a piece that would normally take him more than 20 hours. He will start with hot raising to raise the form into a conical shape. Later, he will do some forging, but most of the process is cold work. He will get into smaller and sharper tools near the end of the project.
  • If Douglas could meet any metalworker, dead or alive, who would it be?  Douglas has a huge interest in early Scandinavian helmets and heard of an old ship burial ground possibly in Sweden where pre-Viking helmets were found. He’d like to travel back in time and learn the history and artistry of these helmets. He’s also interested in a mine in the Alps where pre-iron age jade hand axes were found. Since there was no written language at the time, he’d like to learn more about those.

spine Helmut

Guest Links:

A Big Thank You to today’s sponsor – ABANA 2016 Conference ABANA Conf Poster

If you enjoyed this episode, I would love it if you would support the show by:

Thanks so much for your support!

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.