A Key Largo artist says he may have found a way to get ahead in business with his customized rubber party hats.
Scott Walz, who owned an an excavation company in Washington when the economy faltered, said he began focusing on his art shortly thereafter.
That art, which began with sculptures in third grade and expanded to masks when he was older, involves handcrafting hats from molds, a process that takes just a few days. Walz calls his business Party Hats of the Florida Keys.
"Now I can do 50 pieces a day by myself," he said.
Walz hopes to expand his business and bring on a young artist looking to make a living. He currently leases an apartment near Mile Marker 99 and has turned an outdoor garage into a studio.
Lately, Walz has focused his time on making donkey- and elephant-shaped political hats to the delight of local partisans. Also popular are hats shaped like the mascots of college football teams.
"The alumni are crazy," he said.
Walz has recently revamped his website and hopes to further tap into the college football fan market, which he says makes up millions of Americans. He previously sold his hats through eBay, but wanted to move on. Through online sales, Walz said he has picked up customers in Russia, England and Yugoslavia.
Walz is willing to make unique hats for customers who have their own ideas. His base price for most of his hats is $35.
"It's all positive," he said of his business. "Buy American, employ American."
Walz also plans on offering molding and sculpting classes for anyone interested.
"I'd like to start working more with the kids," he said.
Walz said some of his friends question whether party hats are the best way for an artist to make a living, but Walz shrugs that off. He says his hats are interactive.
"These are things you wear or throw around," he said, while contrasting his work with a wall painting.
When not making a new line of party hats, Walz creates sculptures of fish and other things synonymous with the Florida Keys. He has had work displayed in restaurants in Key Largo.
For more information, visit Walz's website at www.scottwalzstudios.com.