By Jaimz Dillman
Everyone tried something new during the pandemic, right? Bread making, binge-watching whole seasons of shows in one sitting (guilty), that kind of stuff. But did you pivot and learn an entirely new skill that's now become a new career? Well, that's exactly what sculptor and artist Jeff Jones did and he hasn't slowed down.
Native Floridian Jones graduated from UCF with a degree in Political Science "which I've never used" he laughs. After college, he moved into marketing adding some pretty major names to his resume like Hard Rock Cafe, Watermark, and House of Blues to name a few. After friends gave him a gift certificate for stand-up comedy classes, Jones gave it a go for a bit on stage, "I traveled the circuit a bit. That led to Fringe."
Pretty well known in the Orlando International Fringe Festival circle, Jones' first show was Welcome to Hell. To date, he has no less than 7 credits to his name for either writing, directing, or acting for shows in the fest- some being all three. "Animatronicons was mine from concept to full show," said Jones of the wildly popular 2016 show lampooning what happens in the lives of theme-park animatronics after they've been retired. So much so, a follow-up sequel was another sold-out run in 2019.
Once that small lockdown a few years ago took away our live audiences, Jones channeled his energies into clay, paint, and wigs. "I'm a Disney Villain collector. I wanted to make some bases for masks I already had and it went from there. And thus, Got Caricature was born. I really liked working with the clay and finding my style." Bringing a well-known and loved character from pop culture or horror films to life has been rewarding, especially when at the final touch of the faces, "My favorite part is finding the personality, moving the clay, and then it's during the painting phase the color brings it to life. And glass eyes give a little more life than if I painted them on, makes such a difference."
It takes about 2 weeks from start to finish - and a lot of patience. Jones says he has about 5 busts in different stages of completion. "there's a lot of waiting for stuff to dry." Quickly building a reputation with his sculptures after selling them at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center and House of Mouse Event, he's had people recognize him from Mega Con and then order a custom commission. "I prefer commissions so they're not sitting at the house too long." Jones has found a pretty good spot in among excited horror fans. "It's been interesting to see what sells and to who. Finding out what the different groups like. Horror faces are just fun. I like to make them a little goofy, make them a little different, I think people like that."
His client base is mostly 40-50 year-olds who like to buy merch of characters and icons they don't see very often. He does have a couple he won't part with though. "I try not to get too attached. I tell myself I can always make more. My first Clark Griswold, I probably won't sell him. I've made a few, he's one of the biggest sellers."
Yep! Don't see something on the website or one of the shows the caricature characters are on display? You can contact Jones and order your very own. When asked the strangest request he's received so far, Jones said "Bill Murray's character from the Life Aquatic. Just cause I really didn't know it. I do want to take a stab at the deer, moose, and bison from Country Bear Jamboree, just for myself."
After a super successful weekend at a recent Halloween event, Jones is back to building up his inventory for upcoming shows. "I like clay. Resins are the biggest challenge cause you have to work so fast. It's not very forgiving. I like learning skills along the way."
You can find him and his creations at Spookala in Tampa this October as well as at Spooky Empire in Orlando. And always online at https://www.jeffjonescomedy.com Says Jones, "If it keeps me busy, I'll keep doing it."