Jennifer Wells-Davison admits to an obsession with Halloween. She’s not talking about the horror favored by young adults raised on slasher movies, who have taken over a holiday that not long ago was strictly for kids.
She loves the soft spooks of her childhood — witches, ghosts, sinister pumpkins and black cats — nostalgic images that are only quaintly creepy in a 1950s kind of way, if not downright cute. Every year she decks her Dixon home for her favorite holiday with objects and themes in the autumnal colors of Halloween. We’re not talking about the factory-made plastic monsters and macabre decorations sold in the big box stores and pop-up Halloween emporiums. Wells-Davison favors one-of-kind, artist-made pieces she meticulously hand selects at art festivals devoted strictly to Halloween.
“It’s the smell, the scent, the leaves. It just brings back fond memories,” she said, describing the appeal of Halloween. “I’m not into scary skeletons, blood and gore. I’m into fun and whimsical. It always takes me back to home (in Kansas City) and back to Mom.”
Get there early
Every year Wells-Davison arises before dawn on one exciting day in September to make the trip to Petaluma. She is hoping to be one of the first in line for one of the top Halloween art and collectible festivals in the country, so popular that people start lining up at 6 a.m. for a chance to grab rare pieces by top artists with international followings.
Petaluman Stephanie Sherratt is the producer of the “All Hallow’s Art Fest” Sept. 23 at Hermann Sons Hall in Petaluma.
Sherratt co-produced the former Petaluma event Halloween and Vine for 5 years. When the show ended in 2016, she wanted the tradition of a Halloween Art Show to continue with All Hallow’s Art Fest. With new energy, Sherratt is going solo with her own show, in the same location with many of the same carefully vetted artists, both established and emerging.
One of the favorites is David Everett, whose air-dried clay sculptures of skeletons, crows, pumpkins, ghosts covered with sheets, funny monsters and witches are filled with humor. Each piece is sculpted by hand, given a primer coat of gesso, painted in acrylics and sealed, stained and painted with fine details. Pieces sell in the three to four figures and are grabbed up almost as soon as the doors open at 9 a.m.
“I bring about 50 pieces. But in the last couple of years, within an hour and a half I’m pretty much done. It’s a feeding frenzy. Some people are not even looking at the pieces. They’re grabbing them and handing them to me to ring up. At the end of the day there might be one lone piece sitting on the table,” laughed the San Bernardino artist, who also is a graphic artist.
Everett said since he started sculpting his Halloween ghouls, the holiday has exploded in popularity
“Now it’s huge. It’s almost surpassing Christmas as far as collectibility,” said the artist, who also makes Christmas-themed pieces but secretly prefers Halloween himself.
“I’ve always loved everything ghoulish. Not scary but mischievous,” he said, remembering fondly the spooky images of his youth in the 1960s and 1970s when a cackling witch, a screeching cat or howling ghost could send a child into shivers. “There’s just something magic about that.”