Sculptor Mike Seigler does not see things quite like most people. What one may see as a pile of junk, Seigler sees as a pile of potential.
Seigler creates one-of-a-kind costume pieces like never seen under the banner Army of Dorkness.
Their general aesthetic is big, loud, bright and often creepy.
Seigler’s art supplies come in the form of old Halloween decorations, used sports equipment and even the rungs taken from a wooden chair, which he recently turned into wands.
His partner in glorious gaudiness is Lee Grutman, frontman for the Charlotte-based band Your Fuzzy Friends. Your Fuzzy Friends is known in part for extravagant costuming and stage dressing, so the partnership is not hard to fathom.
Seigler and Grutman have been friends for years, and Seigler had impressed him with his creations in the past.
Grutman used to own an art gallery in Charlotte, called Dig Dug’s, and Seigler once contributed to a show Grutman organized called “Punk Flamingos.” Artists were given plastic pink flamingos and told to do whatever they wanted with them.
Grutman says that Seigler’s flamingo was among the most impressive and elaborate.
“It was mutating like The Thing,” Grutman remembers.
Seigler also once reimagined a church pew for a fundraiser that drew some serious attention; too much, in fact.
“It was a fundraiser for the School of (the) Arts. They gave like 30 artists a church pew, and they said we could do anything we wanted to it,” Seigler says. “I cut the pew in half, made it into two pews, put them back to back, built a six foot tall mushroom that was about four feet in diameter on the actual cap, cast in concrete. I did a lot of etching on the wood, and put clocks on it. I did some mosaics on the side. It was on display at Mellow Mushroom, when Mellow Mushroom was in NoDa, and three days after we put it on display, somebody stole it.”
So when Grutman was thinking of what he wanted to wear for the Charlotte Pride parade — he was a part of the Snug Harbor float — he figured he would see if Seigler might be able to whip something up for him.
He found some old football shoulder pads and gave them to Seigler to decorate.
“He said, ‘Just Pride ‘em up,’ that’s what he said,” Seigler recalls. “So I was like, ‘Okay, so I can do whatever I want?’ He’s like, ‘Yep.’ So I just sat down and started painting stripes, and drilling holes; I put lights on one side of it; I knew he liked stuffed animals, so I stuck stuffed animal heads on poles and put them on the other side; just painted it in all the glorious crazy colors that I could think of and just made it for him, and I think that’s where the whole idea came from.”
Grutman saw an opportunity for Seigler, who is in between jobs and suffers from chronic back issues, to make some money while he looked for work. He knew that there would be a market for these creations, both for Halloween and beyond — whether it be for other bands looking to spice up their live show, cosplayers or just collectors of the strange.
The pair began selling them at the Charlotte vintage clothing store Stash Pad, where they were an instant hit.
“The first two sets of pads we brought over (to Stash Pad)…one sold in 12 hours and the other sold within the first few days,” Seigler says.
“We went there (Stash Pad) to put a cape on one of the (mannequins wearing the pads), and Mike was sitting there working on it and the woman (who was there to buy it) came in,” Grutman says.
“Yeah, she said, ‘Boy, I hope you’re not looking to buy those,’” Seigler adds. “I’m like, ‘No,’ and she says, ‘I’d love to talk to the person that made them, I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s me.’”
He was pleased to find out that she had driven in just to purchase the pads, intending to use them for a photo shoot in Arizona after seeing them posted to Stash Pad’s Instagram account.
The pair plan on selling them online in the future, probably on Etsy, once they get Stash Pad stocked up.
Seigler says he can make each piece in roughly two or three days, and with a mind like his and a dedicated friend like Grutman to keep him working, chances are we are only seeing the very tip of their dorky, festooned, brilliant iceberg.