Photos courtesy of Melbear’s Quality Collectibles
With Halloween right around the corner, and knocking loudly on our doors, it’s fun to shine the Plush Life light on a true-blue Halloween enthusiast. Dragon/bear/fantasy sculptor Melanie Clark is an unabashed devotee of all things that go bump and thump in the night. She shared her penchant for all things terrifying when she corresponded with me and opened up her interest in decking her house with heart-stopping collectibles. Here is a look at a very creative young woman who excels at making things that are frightful and delightful!
If soft-sculpture artist Melanie Clark was asked to describe her home-decorating style, she’d easily quip, “The Reign of Terror.” Born on October 25, 1978, Clark boasts that she was “practically a Halloween baby!” For this artistically inclined enthusiast, Halloween, with all its menacing trappings, is the event she waits for all year long.
Working in her family’s business — she manages their automotive re-manufacturing facility — Clark lists the number of “cool classic cars” that come her way. However, her interest spikes the most when the occasional Hearse rolls onto the lot: “I was very excited about that. I even offered to buy one of them. However, I was not overly sure if my neighbors would appreciate a Hearse parked in my driveway, though.”
The interior of Clark’s house boasts Halloween décor, regardless of the calendar’s date. It can be a sunny May day, and there will be mummies, skeletons, vampires, and assorted monsters hanging around her end tables and mantelpieces.
“I own hundreds of Halloween items. The larger props and many of my favorites stay out all year. It does make for interesting conversations with guests and delivery people! I confess, I keep my smaller favorite things out all year so I can personally enjoy them,” Clark says.
Her home’s exterior is another story — a chilling, frightening tale to behold! The collector goes all out to transform her house into a manse that the Munsters or the Addams Family would love to call their own.
She is serious about sharing her Halloween fun: “Oh yes, I sure do decorate! It takes me weeks just to bring everything up from the basement and unpack it all. I don one big night — just on October 31 — where I dress up the whole front yard and the house. I set up life-sized props, fog machines, a cemetery, strobe lights, limbs, blood, and other goodies! I usually recruit family and friends to help me, and we have a little party while giving out candy and scaring the kids! At the end of the night, we drag it all back into the house. It takes a lot of work, but I love it when people stop to take pictures of my ‘haunt.’ The comments from the people make it worth it.”
It’s not just Clark’s property that undergoes a roof to front-lawn metamorphosis. She also loves the chance to reinvent herself. Choosing the right costume and look is something she pays great attention to: “It is the highlight of my year to get dressed up in whatever costume I decide and play Halloween all day. I have even gone to the store to grab party supplies in my zombie makeup, which has definitely garnered some looks from people. Some folks looked quite afraid!”
Growing up in Edmonton, Alberta, young Clark delighted in unleashing her inner gremlins and ghouls. She adored swaddling herself in sinister attire. “As a child, I was always encouraged to get dressed up and go trick-or-treating. Unfortunately, Halloween can be bitterly cold in Edmonton, so the years that were warm were always my favorites. We always carved pumpkins and put out decorations. When I became too old to trick-or-treat, that is when my collection of Halloween goodies started. If I couldn’t be out collecting candy and scaring the neighbors, I had to do something else. Scaring the kids and parents who came to my house became my new tradition!”
Accumulating her collection became a pastime and then a passion for Clark. She has a definite set of rules she buys by: “I prefer things that are a bit unnerving. I like things that make you feel uncomfortable when you look at them — even if you’re not sure why you are uncomfortable. For my Halloween ‘haunt’ outside, I prefer animated things that pop out to scare people, or all kinds of things that talk and move. This makes the trick-or-treating experience better for the neighborhood kids. At least, I think so!”
When Clark puts away her spooky signs and statues, she estimates they take up most of her 800-square-foot crawl space. Among her holiday collectibles — which stay out year-round and are tucked away for future use — are horror-themed pinball machines, vintage and antique candy containers, artist-made critters and dolls, antique dolls, Nightmare Before Christmas memorabilia, and an abundance of movie-style props.
Clark has contemporary, legendary villains, like Jason, Freddy Krueger, and Michael Myers, in her lineup of horror. These bad guys of filmdom inspire her greatly. “I would love to create monsters for movies,” she says. “I created some prototypes for a movie in the past, but, unfortunately, they were not used in the film. Still, it was a blast making them.”
Using her hands to create is a secondary vocation for Clark. In addition to her role as automotive manager, she has earned a top-notch reputation as a soft-sculpture artist and miniature maker.
There are only so many hours in a day — and, of course, the Witching Hour is Clark’s favorite — but she fills her time juggling her two hands-on jobs: “I make teddy bears and other collectible critters — mostly from mohair. One of my loves is to make somewhat scary/somewhat cute creatures. I’ve made mohair and sculpted gargoyles, cats, and bears. I also make Halloween dollhouse miniatures. I’ve made witches, ghosts, goblins, and other haunted wee things. I create creepy dollhouse food — hand sandwiches and pickled eyeballs, for example. I work on this Halloween dollhouse when I have the time.”
Having purchased so many items that she’s even had to rely on a horse trailer to cart the bounty home, Melanie Clark has no intent to stop her haunted hunts. “I really want to get an antique Peter Bear. It is not traditionally Halloween, but it is creepy to me. I’d like to add some Corpse Bride and some more Nightmare Before Christmas to my collection. Thinking about it, I feel more automated zombies for my Halloween-night ‘haunt’ would be great to find as well,” she says.
Balancing a career in the family business, building a reputation in the soft-sculpture realm, and trying to break into the horror-movie prop world keep the talented woman perennially challenged. Melanie Clark has her diehard “wish list” of what she’d like to acquire for her collection, and she is determined to cross them off — one skull and crossbones at a time!