For rising Australian artist Andy Firth, the sheer joy of “transforming a handful of clay into a physical idea,” keeps him busy at work as Jack Of The Dust. Thanks to Firth’s alias, he has kept largely undercover for the past decade. But with a current social following of over 3 million, the self- taught sculpture artist is ready to reveal the man behind the many masks.
With no formal training, Andy says that he has “always been artistic” and from a young age, was building LEGO creations, making art and generally enjoying working with his hands. As he grew older, Andy discovered his love for detailed artistry through the painting and design of Warhammer pieces, a type of tabletop gaming miniatures.
With creating art always at the helm of his mind, Firth worked long hours as a boat builder for twelve years, eventually taking on an additional part-time job as a video clerk while also continuing to explore his artistic side. After being unable to find a decorated human skull available for purchase, Firth decided to fill this unique niche in the art world.
With whatever spare hours he could cobble together after working over seventy hours a week, Andy began to pursue his passion for creating replica skulls as sculptures as a “side hustle” around 2011.
After two years spent making mad dashes to the postal office to ship off his completed projects (which were growing in demand), Firth knew it was time to move his side gig to his full-time position. In 2013, Andy adopted the moniker, Jack Of The Dust, and jumped into full-time art using his favorite blank canvas: the human skull.
When asked what is the meaning behind Jack Of The Dust, Andy shared the unlikely source of inspiration: a book of naval terminology. While flipping through the book of 1800s Royal Navy terms, Andy randomly landed in the J’s, and his eyes were drawn to the term, Jack Of The Dust. In the world of 19th-century seamen, the name was used to describe any storekeeper assigned to be in charge of dry goods, such as flour. The environment created a dusty atmosphere, hence the name.
But for Firth, the name was the perfect descriptor for his line of work. With the human skull as his main medium, the idea of “going from dust to dust” fits with the term. Additionally, the name Jack has a similar function as John Doe, meant to describe any man, which felt befitting for an artist who derives inspiration from the very building blocks of humanity. Andy knows that skulls are an unusual, but “perfect canvas” as he finds himself drawn to the face.
“It’s where everything happens,” he explains. “We see, perceive the world, everything at the head.”
For Firth, everything really does happen at the head as his repertoire includes over “a couple of hundred different types” of sculpted pieces. From Samurai-inspired skulls, Rick & Morty characters, a unique spin on Andy Warhol, and more traditional offerings like the Day of the Dead skull, Jack Of The Dust seems to offer a piece of art for everyone.
Andy credits social media with helping to spread the word about his art, recalling how he started his Jack Of The Dust Instagram account in 2013, really as “more of an art sharing page.” As Andy began to share his own completed skulls with his following and document the creation process on his YouTube channel, his notoriety took off and he was soon looking at a backlog of orders to fill.
With celebrities like Jason Momoa, Joe Rogan, and Slash counted among his customers, Jack Of The Dust’s business today looks far different than it did back in 2013. Currently, Andy operates out of two warehouses, spanning a total of over 7,000 square feet on Australia’s Gold Coast. Due to his massive following, Firth now employs fifteen other full- time artists to help create each handmade piece. Andy describes Jack Of The Dust’s headquarters as “operating as a special FX shop” with sculptors and artists utilizing unconventional materials on the sculptures. Using mixed media of clay, acrylic, and resin, Andy and his team are able to push the boundaries of what other sculpture artists may have thought possible. While Firth laughingly admits that out of hundreds of tools, a butter knife or his hands are his favorite options, his final creations are anything but rudimentary.
The entire process takes about four months from idea to final creation, with Andy describing the process as the “first month is sculpting, second is mold-making, third is casting, and fourth is painting.” When asked what his favorite part of the artistic process was, Firth answers, “sculpting because it’s when I slowly start to see it come into reality,” but really, he “loves them all.”
As a self-taught artist, Firth knows what it means to have to learn lessons the hard way. But it was his very personal struggle to learn how to sculpt that he credits as a vital part of his journey to success. “Give it a shot. Don’t be afraid to fail,” he encourages. “It’s such an important part to get comfortable with failing; it’s almost necessary for anything even to happen.”
Due to the sheer number of requests, Jack Of The Dust’s global followers are only able to purchase Firth’s art pieces through weekly drops throughout the year, announced to those who sign up to the mailing list. While Jack Of The Dust can no longer accept commissions, Andy shared that he “always pays attention to the ideas and suggestions” left on his social media for future ideas and inspiration.
Focusing on the future, Firth has his sights set on wall-mounted pieces. “Everything is tabletop, but I want to do sculptural artwork that you can hang on the wall,” he envisions.
But just like before, Firth knows this new concept will require him to change his format, find a completely different process, and have him, once again, “walking into the unknown.”
For artist Andy Firth, that seems to be just the way he likes it.
You can view Jack Of The Dust’s complete catalog and sign up for the mailing list at www.jackofthedust.com.