Introduction to Collecting Halloween Art
This introduction is a great place to start your collecting adventure. If you already collect, there may be some new tips for you here. Share this information with someone who is interested in getting started.
Halloween art (HA) is a broad category with many sub-genres (folk, vintage, horror, goth, etc.). The type of art I cover is one-of-a-kind (OOaK) originals that tend to be more on the whimsical, often historically inspired side. This is not to be confused with collecting vintage Halloween memorabilia, which is another exciting hobby. If you wish to learn more about collecting vintage Halloween, check our Mark B. Ledenbach’s web site.
I call the genre of art I cover “contemporary HA,” because it is the art of today, being actively created.
Many contemporary Halloween artists are inspired by the past. The Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Deco periods are some of the most popular eras for inspiration, although many artists work in a contemporary style. See my art gallery for examples of some of the popular styles and inspiration types available today. Here is just a small sampling of periods and things inspiring artists today:
- Historical periods (like the Victorian era)
- Movie and literature characters
- Authors (Poe is a favorite)
- Victorian mourning clothing and rituals
- Golden childhood memories
- Crossing and blending holidays (Christmas and winter blended with Halloween is popular)
- Macabre looks and Goth culture
- Day of the Dead – while the wonderful and magical Day of the Dead (DotD) and Halloween are not the same thing (and should not be treated as the same thing), there has been an inevitable rise in DotD collecting by Halloween collectors
The mediums used by Halloween artists today are just as varied as the art world at large: paper mache, ceramics, beads, leather, tin types, paint, fabric, glass, trash, etc. Artists create paintings, jewelry, figures, puppets, dolls, figures, ornaments, hats, reworked antiques – more items than you can imagine. Dolls and figures are some of the most popular items available today. I never had an interest in dolls until I started collecting and now I’m hooked. The popularity of Halloween dolls is made evident every in the fall issues of Art Doll Quarterly magazine.
Where to Buy
Specialty Seasonal Shows
The first major Halloween art show was Halloween and Vine, which started in 1996 in Petaluma, CA. The tradition is now carried on by the All Hallow’s Art Fest Show. By major, I mean an exclusively Halloween show which garners national level attention. In the early 2000s, a show called the Halloween Opera opened in Pennsylvania. The Opera closed around 2006.
In 2007, the third national-level show, Ghoultide Gathering, opened in Michigan spreading the vibe to the Midwest. In 2017, the spirit of Ghoultide was passed from artist/producer Scott Smith to Jennie and Joe Hepler-Takens, and reborn as Bewitching Peddlers of Halloween.
During my collecting journey I’ve watched the field grow from one national level show to six and counting:
- Marshall, Michigan: Bewitching Peddlers of Halloween
- Bothell, Washington: Hallowbaloo
- Sanford, Florida: Spirits in Sanford
- Petaluma, California: All Hallow’s Art Fest
- Cummings, Georgia: Heart of Halloween
- Pleasanton, California: A Bewitching Fete
It warms my heart to see the growth in both the number and attendees of these shows. More shows means more to visit, more artists, and more collectors.
People travel in from all over the US and Canada to attend these shows. Their enthusiasm to catch a special piece is electric. Some collectors set up camp days before, Black Friday style, to secure early places in line. But, don’t let that discourage you! There is an abundance of goodies at the shows. First AND last in line will both be able to take home wonderful treasures. Do be aware thought, that getting in line early sets you up to find the best selection.
Outside of national Halloween shows, there are countless regional shows, where Halloween type art can be found. Many of these are listed as “alternative” art, like the Flipside Alterative Arts show in Greenville, South Carolina. Some fun things can also be found at local Halloween, harvest, and pumpkin festivals.
Shops and Art Galleries
I could spend years writing up all the cool shops and galleries that carry HA all year. They are all over the US. This is why traveling and art collecting fit so well together. If you are traveling to a new city, search on the internet to see if there are any places to go hunt for HA. I’ll highlight just a few of the places I’ve enjoyed visiting (and one place on my bucket list).
- San Francisco, California: Loved to Death – This store was featured in a reality TV show, “Oddities San Francisco” on the Science Channel. While their main gig is antiques, oddities, and taxidermy, they do carry some original art and art prints.
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: The Weeping Glass – You know a store is fun when it is listed in Atlas Obscura. This cozy dark shop features oddities, taxidermy, and a good amount of original art. You will walk away with an appreciation of gothic art and culture.
- New Orleans, Louisiana: Kako Gallery – New Orleans, feels like Halloween all year. Kako is just one of many shops and galleries in New Orleans where you can add to your HA collection. Kako is one of the galleries that carries the work of artist Joy Gauss. Joy creates magical, “Bone Gang” pottery figures and objects reflecting an “only-in New Orleans” vibe and tradition. Bone Gangs have been a part of Mardi Gras since the 1800s – a group of people dress up as skeletons and dance and sing early in the morning to remind people to appreciate life.
- Hell, Michigan: Screams Souvenirs – I’m cheating here. You won’t find original art work in Hell, but I love this town for all its kitsch. You can buy tacky souvenirs with every hell pun in existence on them and enjoy ice “scream” with toppings served out of a coffin. Before you leave, mail out your Halloween greeting cards so you can have them postmarked from Hell.
- Corona del Mar, California, Roger’s Gardens: Surprisingly, one of the best displays I’ve seen of HA is at a garden shop in Southern California. They mix originals and reproductions into an eye popping display. Do yourself a favor and google “Halloween Roger’s Gardens” and go watch one of their videos.
There are endless places to purchase Halloween art all year online. Historically artist co-op marketplaces were the main places to collect art. Now you can also find art on major online marketplaces, like Etsy. Here are just a few places to get you started:
- Etsy – with so much content, Etsy can be a bit tricky to shop from scratch on, but not impossible. I find it easier to follow artists I like on social media (and email lists) so I’ll know when they have posted new art in their Etsy shops.
- EHAG Emporium – Since 2010, the Eclectic Halloween Artist Guild has offered new art on the last day of the month by various artists with a monthly theme. The styles and mediums of the artists vary.
- PFATT Marketplace – PFATT stands for Prominent Folk Artists Trinkets and Treasures. This is marketplace is updated on the 10th of every month with offerings from a set of artists with (generally) a more primitive style.
Once you have some experience in collecting, you may find your best treasures by following artists you enjoy on social media and email newsletters.
Don’t forget to keep your eyes out new favorites. Even if you cannot go to a Halloween show, check out their lists of participating artists so you can start following ones you like. Facebook is another great place to get exposed to new artists. Here’s two groups to get you started, Halloween Folk Art Society and All for Fall and Halloween.
Like most hobbies and interests, this is something you can do on a modest budget or make more significant investments in. It depends on your budget and tastes. If you like artists who are receiving national attention, you will need to invest more to get their work. Many of the top artists receive national kudos in magazines like Art Doll Quarterly, Country Living, and Better Homes and Gardens. Artist Vergie Lightfoot’s work was once used to decorate the set of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Keep in mind, when you buy original art, you aren’t just paying for the piece, but the years of learning, formal training, materials, and hard work the artist needed to become exemplary in his or her medium. To stretch their budgets, many collectors mix reproductions and originals.
Now that you’ve read about collecting, go out there and get started!