Bewitching Peddlers of Halloween

Bewitching Peddlers of Halloween is a one-day-only event, in Chelsea, Michigan, where you can view Halloween-themed sculptures, art dolls, paintings, drawings, wearable art, pottery, metal works, millinery, folk art, and photography by more than 40 of the very best artists from across the country. More than an art fair, it is a gathering of artisans. After ten years of promoting and fine-tuning the highly acclaimed Ghoultide Gathering, Scott Smith and Bill Gilmore decided it’s the perfect time for them to retire from their role as the promoter of Halloween art and producer of the annual event. Carrying on the tradition set by Ghoultide Gathering, Jennifer Hepler-Takens and Joe Takens are going to transform a barn within the historic Chelsea Fairgrounds into something magical. As the culmination of their year-long act of dedication, Bewitching Peddlers of Halloween will present a collection of original artworks by a growing community of carefully curated Halloween-makers.

Bewitching Peddlers of Halloween

Exhibition Date:

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Chelsea Fairgrounds

20501 Old US-12 Hwy
Chelsea, MI 48118

​Early Buy Event: $20.00
Tickets will be sold at the door, no early sales
​Event begins 8am-10am

​General Admission Shopping: $5.00
​Tickets sold at the door, no early sales.

(Above: Sculpture by Dustin Poche)

Would you tell us the story behind this Halloween art show?

As with many a magical story, this one begins from an ending. After 10 years of promoting and fine-tuning the highly accoladed Ghoultide Gathering, Scott Smith and Bill Gilmore decided it would be the perfect time to enjoy retirement.  So, with their help and mentorship, my husband Joe and I dreamed up a new incarnation, Bewitching Peddlers of Halloween.

This show had come to mean so much to the collectors and the artists alike, that we wanted to hold space for them in a way that let our vision take root, while maintaining excellency within the genre that Ghoultide offered.  Bewitching Peddlers is our homage to a tradition skillfully crafted by Scott and Bill. It is a gathering of people who live in magic. They feel passionate about art and it makes no difference whether the spell is cast by paintbrush or a needle and thread, down deep the magic comes from the heart.

What makes Halloween so special for you?

It’s a time of year when the veil is the thinnest between our world and that of everything otherworldly. That sentiment alone both gives me a tingle up the spine and delightful grin. I love the childlike wonder that Halloween elicits. It’s a special holiday to me because having lived a fairly sheltered childhood, for this one day, we threw caution to the wind and paraded the streets as witches and ghouls, doing the ghouliest things our 9-year-old brains could conjure. It’s wondrous and it’s magical.

(Above) Drawing by Isaac Bidwell

For those of us who are familiar with Ghoultide Gathering, what differences/similarities can we expect to see?

If you are familiar with Ghoultide Gathering, you will be delighted that the same level of curation and talent follow us to Bewitching Peddlers. The community feeling is the same. The main difference is that my husband Joe and I have infused my art dolls as the central characters as you enter the doors. We have constructed 6ft tall Prim Pumpkins to greet our collectors as they enter. Our vision is that of an enchanted peddlers market with crystal chandeliers hanging from weathered and worn barn wood beams. The juxtaposition of the enchanted alongside of the macabre will create an ambiance to remember!

Please tell us more about this 6ft tall Prim Pumpkin.

She’s stands at her peddler’s cart offering welcomes to all of our guests. I created her enormous head much like I do my smaller scale art dolls, one layer at a time. I had never taken on a project as lofty as this and there were times that I didn’t know if she wanted to come to life at all.  After months, she woke up and was pleased with herself.

(Above) 6 ft. Pumpkin art doll by Jennifer Hepler-Takens. Photo credit: Joshua David McCann.

You’ve been making art dolls for many years now. Will you tell me how it all began? (And, why pumpkins?)

For my entire life, the pumpkin has been a thing of magic and a symbol that the most mundane thing can become so much more.  This is my ninth year of creating Prim Pumpkins. My late grandmother was an art collector and textile maven. She taught my hands to feel exquisite texture even before I understood the depth of my education. She helped guide me toward the path that would become my passion. My work is a bit of a marriage between textile and sculpture. I started making my art dolls as a refuge from the grief of my grandmother’s death and a need to create something that lived inside my imagination. My little odd characters emerged and were well received. I have my grandmother’s favorite sewing thimble in my studio and sometime as I stitch with it, I can feel her presence and it fills me with a contentment that I can’t explain.

According to this event’s press release, over 40 of the very best artists from across the country are going to participate in this show. Would tell us about the show’s curation process? What kind of qualities are you looking for in artwork submissions?

We accept inquiries from artists who would like to be considered for the show via email. Then the real work begins. This year, we were overwhelmed with hundreds of amazing artists that wanted to be part of Bewitching Peddlers. This was quite staggering and a job that we took very seriously. We tried to think of our collectors who sleep in their cars for days before the show opens, waiting to get a prized work of art. We want to be certain that our selections are the very best with the genre of fine Halloween art. So many variables are considered when curating the show such as, excellence within the medium, where the artist has exhibited before, and originality of work.

Currently we have a waiting list and we are curating our 2018 show.

(Above) Prim Pumpkin art dolls by Jennifer Hepler-Takens

What is your vision for the show? Would you walk us through the venue and tell us about the highlights of the event?

The show is held in the beautiful town of Chelsea, MI. Two simple buildings become enchanted vessels for Halloween art.  Our vision is that of creating a show that leaves our collectors wanting for more. As you enter the first building, you will notice our grand peddler. Collectors will be able to see immediately that we strive to bring a balance to the earthen wood of the structure and the elegant glow of chandelier light.

This year we have invited 7 brand new artists to the show. We offer a bewitching selection of pottery, paintings, sculpture, art dolls, illustration, art photography, wearable art, metal works, millinery, folk art and assemblage jewelry. It is truly a bewitching gathering. This year, you will have the opportunity to have your photograph captured in the haunting tradition of tin type. We will have two buildings for you to venture through and a mobile creperie onsite.

For those of us who aren’t able to see the pieces in person, is there any way for us to see and purchase the pieces?

The art offered by this group will be only offered the day of the show, most sell out within hours.  We will have a cinematographer, Joshua David McCann, at the event that will document the set up and day of the show. We will publish his piece on our website after the event. The best way our collectors can support us on this adventure is to follow us on social media and our website.

(Above) Stacey Walsh/​The Goode Wife of Washington County

(Above) Artwork by Karen Lilly/North Forest Studio

(Above) Artwork by Melissa Belanger

(Above) Artwork by Paul Gordon

(Above) Prim Pumpkin art dolls by Jennifer Hepler-Takens

(Above) Artwork by Sheila Bentley

(Above) Drawing by Isaac Bidwell

(Above) Artwork by Dustin Poche

(Above) Artwork by Sam Keck/​Madame Marie’s Wicked Whimsy

(Above) Art doll by Scott Smith @ Rucus Studio

(Above) Nicole Johnson/Mealy Monster Land








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