INTERVIEW: Asia Eriksen On Bringing Werepups To Life

Raised on a diet of horror and art, Asia Eriksen was toying over the idea of her own werewolf baby for years before she finally brought one to life. Now, her creations are in great demand among horror fans who dream of having their very own little monster.

Made to look as realistic as possible, with fur painstakingly hand rooted over their bodies, the WerePups merge cute and creepy in a uniquely fascinating way. As Asia’s craft has developed, the WerePups have become increasingly more realistic and their fanbase has swollen.

We spoke to Asia to find out more about how her creatures have grown and what she hopes for them in the future.

Kirstie: How did you get into art?

Asia: I drew a lot as a kid, as far back as I can remember. I followed my brother, who would draw these spectacular pictures of tigers, ElfQuest characters and other things. My mom got me into arts and crafts, she sewed dolls for me. I wrote a lot of poems and short stories, tried to customize my own action figures. Art usually got the biggest reactions in our household, my mom really encouraged that early on.

Kirstie: Who were your earliest influences?

Asia: I didn’t really know who was doing what in the movies back then, but I was very obsessed with certain horror films. A Nightmare on Elm Street really got to me when I was about 8 years old. There was an unsettling scene where Freddy walks down an alleyway and his arms stretch to an impossible length. I found it very unnerving and that feeling fascinated me.

Shortly after, I found out about a series of vampire films called Subspecies. I fell in love with these movies. At the end of each of the films, there was something called VideoZone. In these clips, you got to see behind the scenes footage, and it was really the first time I saw something like this. At the time, I had no idea what exactly I would do on the set of a movie, but I just thought to myself “I want to do that.”

As I grew, I learned who did what in these flicks, and so the writers/directors from Nightmare (Wes Craven) and Subspecies (Ted Nicolaou) became the gods to me as far as who I’d like to follow. My favourite characters were born in their heads, and they created entire worlds and lives with their minds. I started wanting to write and invent characters.

As far as the creatures that inspired me – definitely all the work of Stan Winston and Jim Henson. I was always in love with their work, just didn’t know who was doing it at the time. I was very young.

Kirstie: Who are your predominant influences now?

Asia: I still look up to those same guys! Still the same favourite movies. I’m still writing, even though I ended up getting into sculpting and FX. I’ve developed a world for the WerePups, and writing a film based on those characters.

We lost Wes Craven and that was a sad day for us. My husband and I wouldn’t even have met if not for his films. The impact on our lives had been huge. Never got to meet Wes, but Ted Nicolaou has become a kind of mentor and continues to influence, so I feel like a big kid who happens to be very lucky.

Kirstie: What is your favourite material to work with?

Asia: Silicone because it’s able to look so lifelike. 

Kirstie: What is the first piece of work you were really proud of?

Asia: My first little 11” latex WerePup. It was the first time I was able to take a step toward really bringing one of my childhood ideas to life.

Kirstie: How have you changed as an artist since then?

Asia: I’ve gotten a lot better at being able to sculpt what I see in my mind. I learned a lot about special FX, and learned how to make everything a bit more lifelike. The first WerePup was more cartoony, and had sculpted hair. I think I’ve gotten much closer to making the WerePups look like real creatures.

Kirstie: How did you first start making WerePups?

Asia: It was an idea I had as a kid that I wanted to have a pet baby werewolf. The movie Silver Bullet got me really fired up about werewolves in general. When I met my husband, he was already into special effects, so he let me play around with his materials. I sculpted the first Pup, he made a mold for me and then it kept growing from there. I was just making myself my dream toy, I really didn’t know anyone else would be into it.

Kirstie: What made you decide to make them so realistic?

Asia: That was really the dream all along. I had this particular idea of how a human/canine hybrid would look as a baby, and I just wanted to bring that into reality somehow. I just keep experimenting and moving forward trying to make improvements so they can look and feel more real to me. I can’t find a real werewolf, so I’ve got to make my own.

Kirstie: What is the most challenging part of the process of creating a WerePup?

Asia: All of the fur! I have to hand root all of the hair, and it’s tedious. There are no short cuts if you want a realistic result and it makes things take forever. Handmaking things and being very particular and hard on myself, and at the same time dealing with whatever life throws at me. I want things to be absolutely right with each one, and I’d rather miss a deadline than sacrifice quality. I had to stop taking custom orders and kind of re-center myself, realize mistakes and how much I can and cannot take on. 

Kirstie: How do you come up with the unique characteristics for each pup?

Asia: Usually the customer would give me a list of details that they want, and I would gather information from their emails, their personality, and then make something I think follows their guidelines but also seems fit for them. Some WerePups are meant to look like people’s dogs, or a loved one. The most fun I have is when I get to have full creative control.

Kirstie: What’s the most unusual detail a customer has asked for on their WerePup?

Asia: Surprisingly, nothing has been very odd to me. I made one look like Leonardo DiCaprio for a really lovely young lady and that was a lot of fun for me. Another one looked like Jacob Dylan, he ended up being one of my favourites and I got to spend the day at Disney with his momma. Punk rock red hair with piercings but that was just really cool. I’m always waiting for that really bizarre request.

Kirstie: What drew you to werewolves over other fantasy and horror creatures?

Asia: I grew up in a horror loving household. I can’t remember a time when we didn’t love the genre. I fell into Nightmare on Elm Street by myself and followed all of Robert Englund’s movies, but my mom and my brother were always into something spooky as far back as I can remember. Graveyards and vampires. Big brother introduced me to Phantasm, Evil Dead, Rocky Horror. Mom and I loved to watch Silver Bullet, Tales from the Crypt, and the Twilight Zone together. She introduced me to the Wolfman. Mom fell in love with Subspecies before I even got to watch it! She woke me up ranting and raving one morning about how I’ve just got to look at this beautiful vampire. I guess I was born into it. I’m glad I was.

Kirstie: If you could create the creature effects for any movie, which would you choose? What would your designs be like?

Asia: Subspecies. This great little cult following of fans have been screaming for them to make one more film in that series for about twenty years, me included! The fans still keep hoping for it. If I could work on anything in the world, it would be that.

I would bring back the makeup and bloodstone designs from the second and third films. Maybe use some of the advanced materials and FX we have nowadays to make subtle changes, but I like the designs as they were then.

Asia with the Subspecies cast. Left to right: Actress Denice Duff, Asia’s husband Anders Eriksen, her niece Paige, Actor Anders Hove, writer/director Ted Nicolaou, her daughter Ember and Asia.

Kirstie: How did you get involved with The Busey Zone?

Asia: Oh wow, that was funny! There was this wild period of time that we were paling around with Gary Busey – about four years – after running into him at some conventions we were working at. We were pretty good friends for a while, and he actually inspired me to start coming up with a film idea in the WerePups world – the first spark of a mad scientist character being involved came from Gary. It was all pretty new back then.

We were all doing a lot of shows together, so we’d hang out every night after we were done working. Someone he got involved with started making these crazy video clips called The Busey Zone, and Gary knew we did props so he called us. We ended up making him a hobbit foot because he was ranting about hobbits in one of the videos, and then he requested what he called a “peenie sheath.” That was excruciatingly funny.

I haven’t seen him in a long time, but he’s actually an incredibly sweet and fun person. Not what the reality shows sometimes portray him as. He does go to 11 though!

Kirstie: Tell us about the work you do with Robert Englund.

Asia: Robert and his wife Nancy have taken on a very parental role for both my husband and I. They have been mentors and oftentimes the voice of reason. They supported us and our work from day one and we wouldn’t be where we are today without them. They help push us in the right direction.

When WerePups started to gain a little following on Facebook, Robert jumped in and suggested I do a photo shoot with him and the Pups. I’ll never forget it. The likes on Facebook climbed from the 100s to the 1,000s, and the photos of him are still being shared around. They’ve always endorsed my husband’s Nightmare Gloves as well, and will hire us for work when they need something we can provide.

We’ve done graphic work for them, a Valentine’s day card in their online shop recently. Robert is writing the forward for the WerePups children’s book. We love them very much.

Kirstie: What are your plans for the future? Where do you see your art taking you?

Asia: My main goal is to get the WerePups film finished. I want my loved ones to work on it with me and I want to work alongside my heroes. We’ve already got great people involved. Ted Nicolaou is directing, the brilliant Danish actor Anders Hove is playing the main character, Robert wants to get involved and wants me to see this thing through.

I want to make something that combines as many of the people and things that I grew up loving as possible, and then I want to dedicate it to my father’s memory. I want to make the people who have followed me from the start and put up with the highs and lows proud. From there, who knows? Hopefully more films, but I’ll keep making WerePups forever.

Kirstie: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

Asia: Stick with your passion, no matter what it is and don’t give up. People are going to tell you you’re crazy and maybe you should be going in a different direction, but I think the most important thing about art is that it really comes from your heart. It can be hard to try and make a career out of something so personal – a good workday can depend on how inspired you are – but it’s possible. If I can do it, believe me, so can you.

We’d like to offer a huge thank you to Asia for taking the time to talk to us! We can’t wait to see the WerePups come to life in film! If you want to keep up with her work, you can check out her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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