Mar 28, 2016
Douglas Pryor lives in Rockland, California and works as a
repousse artist, primarily making armor. When possible, he uses
only hand tools to mimic the authentic conditions of ancient
time periods. His main techniques are sculpting, raising,
chasing and repousse. Douglas also moonlights as a parkour
instructor. He’s been selected as one of the demonstrators for this
year’s ABANA Conference in Salt Lake City.
What we talked about:
- Douglas got into armor making because he liked roughhousing as
a kid, but found it could be painful. Instead of stopping the
activity, he fashioned suits of protection out of gutter sheet
metal and catcher helmets. That ultimately led him to look deeper
into the topic of armor and he began taking metalworking
- He went to college for a welding program and was immediately
hooked on metalwork. “I knew I wanted to work with metal as I
continued to kind of fall in love with the elasticity and how much
shape and three-dimensional form you can get into it. It captivated
me.” He says he owes much of his success to amazing instructors at
Sierra College and access to a lot of good information early in his
- But it turned out welding was not his passion. “The deeper I
got, the more I wanted to NOT weld. The more proficient I got at
modern techniques, the more interested I got in traditional
techniques.” He began to explore how these arts were performed in
- Douglas works mostly with 10-12 gauge steel because many of his
pieces must be able to hold up to full contact sports. He almost
exclusively uses hand hammers and tooling versus pneumatic tools to
make the process more historically authentic.
- Douglas says that he’s able to make a decent living in this
line of work selling armor pieces. He mostly works on commissioned
items and he usually has up to eight people in cue for projects
from all over the world. He estimates he works 40-60 hours per week
on these projects.
- As a side job, Douglas works as an instructor at a parkour gym
he helped build. He loves the physical aspect of dynamic human
movement and enjoys working with people in a completely different
way than he can when doing metalwork. He says it offers him an
equally important, but very different perspective.
- For pricing, Douglas says he has an hourly and a daily rate,
but he ultimately charges what a piece is worth. He’s says that
open communication and being very transparent with his clients is
- As part of the construction process, Douglas says it can be
extremely personal, with people sometimes sending him full body
casts for custom work. He describes it as very labor intensive,
hence the cost. “You can cut corners with machines, but part of my
discipline and part of my practice is doing it traditionally.
There’s a lot of appreciation for hand-made goods. I can’t say
thank you enough to the people who support me,” he says.
- With such a unique skill set, Douglas has considered working
for Hollywood, but instead prefers the slower paced work he gets
with private collectors. He likes time to do research and become
engrossed in the project instead of trying to turn out pieces
quickly. Douglas says he has done work on some video game
- So how long does it take to make these pieces? Douglas says it
varies wildly depending on the project. He said it could take weeks
or even years. As an example, he recently made an Octopus Helmet
for a client in Australia. The helmet was forged out of a single
plate of steel and has three very unique interchangeable visors.
That project took 12 months and he had a documentary film crew
following the process.
- Douglas is starting to offer some workshops and recently did a
practice run with instructors from the college he attended. He also
offered a free workshop for about 7-8 students. He plans to do
another one in Arizona this October.
- At this summer’s ABANA conference, Douglas is going to be doing
a 3-part demonstration on face sculpture. He says he will only have
9 hours to work on a piece that would normally take him more than
20 hours. He will start with hot raising to raise the form into a
conical shape. Later, he will do some forging, but most of the
process is cold work. He will get into smaller and sharper tools
near the end of the project.
- If Douglas could meet any metalworker, dead or alive, who would
it be? Douglas has a huge interest in early Scandinavian
helmets and heard of an old ship burial ground possibly in Sweden
where pre-Viking helmets were found. He’d like to travel back in
time and learn the history and artistry of these helmets. He’s also
interested in a mine in the Alps where pre-iron age jade hand axes
were found. Since there was no written language at the time, he’d
like to learn more about those.
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