By Jake Clapp | LSU Student
With a short "open," Maven Lore prompts his customer to open his mouth. He shines a light on the man's teeth, examining his workspace.
"Relax," Lore says as he turns around and begins digging through tools in the black and silver hard-sided case sitting on the kitchen counter in his New Orleans home.
The two make small talk as Lore pulls out an artist's drill and two small pieces of pre-molded dental acrylic. Simple tools of the trade for a "fangsmith," an artist that sculpts vampire fangs for daily wear.
With dark hair down to his waist and a stocky build, it's easy to see Lore, 36, fitting in to the New Orleans vampire community using his dark and often deadpan style of humor.
Lore is stone-faced as he takes the customer's left and then right index fingers and tells him to hold up the upper lip.
The customer complies and Lore shoves the two soft pieces of acrylic onto the man's upper canine teeth.
"Stay like that for about 10 minutes," Lore said.
About five minutes pass and the customer reaches up a hand to feel the acrylic drying around his teeth. Lore slaps the customer's hand away and jokingly chastises him.
A few minutes later, Lore tugs the two acrylic pieces off his customer's teeth with a faint "pop" and sets to work shaping and smoothing with the drill.
Five minutes and Lore hands his customer two freshly-minted, vampire fangs that fit snuggly over the man's canines, meshing seamlessly with his other teeth.
For 14 years, Lore has created custom fit vampire fangs for an eclectic range of clientele, from not only members of the small New Orleans vampire community to tourists, businessmen, lawyers and law enforcement.
"I have always been into (vampire) mythology," Lore said. "I bought my first set of fangs when I was 22 and as I was walking home, I felt different, like there was something more to this than just pointy teeth."
A graphic designer and artist, Lore began making fangs at the urge of his roommates while living in his native New York City when he was 23-years-old.
"I was living with a bunch of vampire enthusiasts at the time and they saw the fangs I had gotten a year before," Lore said. "I started making them fangs and it turned out I had a knack for it."
Soon after, Lore lost his job with the graphic design firm he had worked at since graduating college. Low on cash and couch surfing, Lore decided to move to New Orleans in 1998 after working that year's Endless Night Vampire Ball as a guest fangsmith.
Lore said he is the only fangsmith in New Orleans, easily finding a place and business among the city's vampire community.
"There is a lot of interpretation of what it actually means to be part of a vampire community," Lore said. "For some people it's a religion; (for others) its about being part of a group; still others see it as a philosophy; and, of course, there are others who just like the fashion aspect of it. There is no one definition. The biggest connecting theme is just the love of the mythology. That's a jumping off point for everything else."
For Lore, the philosophy and strength of the vampire figure are what attracts him to the mythology.
Lore said before Hurricane Katrina, he knew of hundreds of vampire enthusiasts who formed a helpful community within the city. Since then the number has dropped drastically to maybe a dozen.
"Now, there aren't as many clients living in New Orleans, it's mostly tourists or strippers," Lore said. "The clientele I do have is a small group that saves its money to get fangs. These are luxury items."
Lore can charge anywhere from $100 to $200 for a pair, depending on the style and time needed. On average, Lore can finish a pair of fangs within 30 minutes, but says his personal best is five pairs within an hour.
With his case in hand, Lore can make fangs anywhere, but on the average day sets up his workbench in the back of various French Quarter shops. He can often be found working in Boutique du Vampyre and Wicked Orleans.
Marita Jaeger, owner of Boutique du Vampyre, said her shop has hosted Lore for nearly six years and recently has seen an increase in business for his fangs due to the surge in popular vampire shows and books like True Blood or Twilight.
"The vampire hype and media are bringing more people out because they see it's cool and acceptable," Jaeger said.
Jaeger said customers would normally only buy fangs for costumes and Halloween, but now sees more people wearing them to nightclubs and bars in the city.
The desire for fangs has also crossed demographics.