The Goalie Issue: The Man Behind The Mask

Custom, Painted Goalie Masks: The Perfect Mix Of Art And Hockey For Michigan’s Ray Bishop

Before Ray Bishop can begin working on one of his custom-designed and painted goalie masks, he has to do a little digging.

“I call it ‘personal archeology,’” said the Michigan-based artist who for the last 20 years has produced masks for goalies of all ages and levels, including current NHLers Ryan Miller, Jimmy Howard and
Al Montoya.

“Goalies all have their own unique personalities. I try to find out what they like, what their interests are and if they have any hobbies. I want to create something original that reflects their personality.”

The design process includes working closely with each goalie to come up with the unique look and feel of the mask.

“I want it to be a hands-on, personal experience,” Bishop said. “People usually have good ideas and a direction they’d like to go. I help them put it all together and come up with a one-of-a-kind design.”

Miller and Bishop have worked together on masks since the 13-year NHL veteran was a freshman at Michigan State University. Miller likes to draw and has come up with ideas for his masks, and “he let me run with them,” Bishop said.

“Ray has outstanding artistic talents, and his willingness to listen has helped develop my ideas into great masks,” Miller said.

A Bishop custom paint job is an individual piece of artwork—and it’s not done on an assembly line. All of his designs are hand-drawn, hand-painted, and take on average 50 hours to complete. Costs range from $600 to $2,000, depending on how intricate the design and the time it takes to complete.

Bishop and his clients work out a schedule, and the goalies send their mask to him when he is ready to work on it so it “doesn’t sit in the shop.” Still, he admits that the whole process isn’t always quick.

“Custom paint work takes time,” he said. “But I am up front and honest about how long it will take. And I will do a great job—no matter if you are an NHL goalie or a house league goalie.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bishop approaches each blank, usually all-white slate with the goal of creating a bold, memorable design that makes the mask—and the goalie wearing it—stand out.

“You can’t see a goalie’s face so their mask is their identity,” said Bishop. “Guys like Felix Potvin, Eddie Belfour, Martin Brodeur and Cujo [Curtis Joseph]—you remember those paint jobs. You knew who they were the second you turned on the TV and saw their mask.

“I want it to look good in your hands and look good in the stands. It’s cool to have a lot of detail and things that you notice up close, but you also need the pop so you can see it on TV and in the rink.”

Bishop’s love of hockey and painting started early. Growing up in suburban Detroit, he watched the Red Wings, played pond hockey and worked on custom paint jobs for his model cars and Hot Wheels using markers, white out and even his mom’s nail polish.

“If I wasn’t skating with my buddies, I was putting stripes and flames on all of my cars,” he said. “I’d use anything I could get my hands on. I have been customizing things for as long as I can remember.”

Bishop Designs was born when he bought an airbrush in his early 20s and painted two street hockey masks with a skull design. He hung flyers in ice rinks advertising his services and the manager of a local pro shop put one of his masks in a display case. The street-level marketing generated a couple of jobs for local youth goaltenders.

“That’s where I started. I still have one of those first masks and I’m surprised anyone let me paint anything after that,” laughed Bishop. “But I just kept working on it and tried to get better. I think that is the secret: never stop learning.”

Bishop painted his first professional mask for the Detroit Vipers’ Jeff Reese in 1997. A year later the Dallas Stars’ Roman Turek became Bishop’s first NHL client.

“Those really gave me a sense of accomplishment,” Bishop recalled. “It’s a pretty great feeling to see your work on a big stage. That’s when people really started to look at what I’d done and it just grew from there.”

Since then Bishop has painted masks for more than 20 NHL goalies, and has branched out to guitars, cars, drum kits, motorcycles and, most recently, a surfboard.

Still, it’s the Olympic masks he’s done for Team USA’s Miller (Uncle Sam holding the Sochi torch), Howard (Stars and Stripes) and Brianne McLaughlin (the USA Hockey shield) that really make
him proud.

“I am very patriotic,” Bishop said, “and I am honored to have the opportunity to work with USA Hockey.”

 


 

Of Course He’s A Goalie

In an instance of serendipity, Ray Bishop’s 10-year-old son, Nathan, who just finished his first season of youth hockey with the Flint Jr. Firebirds, is a goalie.

“After 20 years doing this, I never would have thought that I’d be a goalie dad,” Bishop admitted. “I was so excited for him and proud of him. He just loves it. Hockey is such a great sport and it was great to see him having so much fun playing.”

Bishop earned his Level 1 USA Hockey coaching certification so he could serve as an assistant coach. He calls himself a “B-C level adult player” and enjoyed getting the opportunity to shape youngsters’ hockey experience.

“To see all the smiles and be able to talk to boys on the ice and on the bench was great,” he said. “I just tried to make it fun and instill in them a little bit of the respect for the game and for the coaches, and hope that is carries over to their regular life.”

Bishop’s son wears a replica of the mask his father designed for the Red Wings Jimmy Howard, complete with the stylized D on the top, wings on the sides and the number 35 on the chin.

“One of the parents watching us play said that was the coolest mask of any 10-year-old he’d ever seen,” laughed Bishop. “That was nice to hear.”

Issue: 
2016-06

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