Metro mask-maker building business of fantasy using leather as primary component

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Halloween is less than two weeks out.

The arrival of the scariest season is helping business boom for one local artist, and his handmade leather masks, which he's creating at a frightening pace.

William Rockwell, owner and designer at Rockwell Masks, is building a worldwide reputation as his work is finding its way into TV shows and movies.

Fantasy and make-believe are a passion in his basement studio, which sits only a few miles from the Truman Sports Complex.

Rockwell, who originally hails from Colorado, puts in 80 hours per week inventing imagination in his creative headquarters. The former corporate project manager has made hundreds of his detailed leather masks and sold them to customers in 35 countries.

Rockwell Masks

Rockwell's hard work never stops. The 29-year old designer said it can take weeks to perfect a customer-ordered mask.

He believes it's the leather than makes the difference. The detail on his masks is noticeable. It's the product of a nine-step process that begins with concept drawings and continues through a painstaking design regimen.

"I like to think we produce the highest quality leather masks available," Rockwell told FOX4.

"You can do so many things with it that you can't with other materials. You can emboss it and carve it and sculpt it. You can do so many art styles in one medium," he said.

The lifelong artist said he used to work in corporate America until the stress of a former position left him with an ulcer. Memories of more trying times, which convinced him to strike out on his own, make him feel grateful for his present success.

"I absolutely love this," Rockwell said with a smile. "To wake up and come down here every day and work on masks as a living is the dream."

Rockwell's masks have turned up in movies, TV shows such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and in professional wrestling, where World Wrestling Entertainment star Alexa Bliss has been seen wearing his designs.

Amanda America, one of Rockwell's colleagues in Kansas City's art community, is also one of his customers. America recently purchased one of Rockwell's masks to wear at an event.

"I got big reactions," America said. "I was drawn to the masks for their high quality and craftsmanship. They drew my attention immediately. I wasn't looking for a mask, but it just called my name."

The masks are rooted in make-believe, but Rockwell said his thrill is real. He gets the ultimate satisfaction when a customer calls back, sharing their love for his work with leather.

Rockwell said he plans to branch out and create mother garments and costumes in the near future, but he's certain his use of leather won't change since he's so fond of its versatility.

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