KENTVILLE - There are plenty of things that can make someone notice a motorcycle heading down the highway: the roar of the engine, shining chrome, and bright paint jobs are just some. But a pig, cow, or Darth Vader riding the machine are sure to turn a few heads too.
That’s what some people might see in the Annapolis Valley and beyond. It’s the handiwork of Aaron Peerless, who started making custom face masks after getting a bee in his bonnet. Or, more specifically, upside his face.
Peerless got his motorcycle licence about four years ago and was riding when he was hit in the face by a bee.
“I had to pull the bike over, I was like ‘Oh, man did that ever hurt,’” he said. “A few days later I got hit in the face again, so I said ‘I’m tired of this, I’m going to go home and design something and wear it that will deflect these bugs and that I can breathe in.’”
Peerless owns Phantom FX, a special effects and makeup business in Kentville. So a plain mask wasn’t going to cut it.
“I went home and started sculpting,” he said. He used plain, thin masks as a base and started building over them, coming up with his own line of clown, animal and other masks. The first that he made for himself was a pig, complete with tusks and a cigar.
Since then he has refined the process, coming up with lighter, more comfortable materials, moulded foam lining, and even using porcelain teeth. He has made about two dozen of the masks, and says they are now a side part of his business that he works on between theatre and movie productions and other work.
“It’s starting to grow,” he said. He has shipped four to Alberta, and has orders from Boston and California.
He said the appeal of the masks over a full helmet is that people can customize their look.
“If people want something that matches their bike or their personality, then they can come and get a custom mask done,” he said.
One customer wanted a Mafia-like mask — with a big chin and scruffy beard with a cigar hanging out of the mouth — made for her husband.
“It blends so well with his flesh (colour),” Peerless said. “It looks like a Dick Tracy character when he’s cruising on the bike.”
It’s almost like an alter-ego, to the point that when he pulls into a parking lot, friends yell “Yo, Frankie!” Peerless said.
He said it’s amusing when he pulls up behind a car in his new, big-toothed mask, which looks more sinister than the pig with a cigar.
“Kids are looking behind and they’re hiding,” he said. “You can see the panic going on in the vehicles, it’s absolutely hilarious.”
But it’s not just scary masks that he’ll make, citing the cow as an example.
“A lot of people think Phantom FX is just into the gore and the scare effects, but it’s anything,” he said.