Handle with Scare
Joyce Stahl’s sweetly sinister line of art dolls turned her pastime into a full-time job.
October 2013 Issue
October 2013 Digest
Creepy-but-cute dolls, a pumpkin invasion, gorilla expert Ron Evans, and a hidden stash of pre-Prohibition booze.
Edgar Allan Poe and Lizzie Borden never looked so huggable. Joyce Stahl’s handmade dolls are infused with plenty of cute to soften their ghoulish side.
The New Philadelphia-based artist never thought doll making would become her passion until a friend saw her depiction of the ghost of Jacob Marley from A Christmas Carol
and suggested she give it a try. Seven years and hundreds of adorably spooky creations later, Enchanted Productions has become a thriving business and Stahl’s work has garnered attention from industry magazines such as Art Doll Quarterly
Most of her creations are original characters such as Cobby the Cornfield Creeper and Mr. McScaremetodeath, a Scottish ghost. Others are based on hair-raising historical figures such as Poe and Borden. Regardless of the inspiration, Stahl embraces the whimsical side of Halloween when bringing what she calls her “little enchanted ones” to life.
“Coming from the ’60s and ’70s, [Halloween] was a more innocent time,” says Stahl, who grew up watching “The Addams Family” and “The Munsters.” “Now Halloween tends to have this whole other genre of a bloodier, gorier Halloween. My dolls are never bloody. They’re fun. But there’s just an air of the slightly sinister.”
The construction of each doll can take anywhere from two days to a week. “Some are more cooperative than others,” she says. The construction of the eyes requires 26 individual steps, and hairstyles are created from wool. Stahl creates her dolls with high-quality fabrics she buys at quilt shops and adorns them with antique lace and buttons she finds at flea markets and estate auctions. “Those are my favorite haunts,” she says.
Working full time — including 16-hour days, seven days a week during the lead-up to Halloween — Stahl makes an average of 100 dolls a year. Depending on the materials used and level of detail, they sell anywhere from $200-$1,000 online. She has been invited to Ghoultide Gathering — one of the nation’s largest Halloween art shows — since 2010, and Roger’s Gardens, a destination home-and-garden store in Corona Del Mar, Calif., ordered five dolls for its Halloween display this year.
Stahl sees Enchanted Productions as a combination of all her previous artistic pursuits, which have ranged from illustration to costume design to hair styling.
“It’s as if everything I ever did in my earlier life all comes together in the dolls,” she says. “Everything was just another step on this path.” — Jordan Gonzalez
Visit facebook.com/enchantedproductions for more information about Joyce Stahl’s work.
If you’re intrigued by the idea of drinking pumpkin pop, put a visit to Circleville on your to-do list this month. The town of 13,000 residents, located about 30 miles south of Columbus, celebrates what it bills as the biggest pumpkin festival in the United States, Oct. 16-19. Organizers say more than 300,000 people attend the Circleville Pumpkin Show each year. Part of its popularity may be the fact that the four-day celebration is as quirky as it is quaint. — JG
: More than 100,000 pounds of pumpkins (as well as gourds and squash) stuff the streets of Circleville during the show. One of the highlights is the pumpkin weigh-in. Dr. Bob Liggett, whose 2009 pumpkin tipped the scales at 1,635 pounds, holds the record. “He’s a guy who is willing to share his secrets,” says Barry Keller, vice president of the Circleville Pumpkin Show. “He wants everyone to be able to grow pumpkins.”
: Many foods sold at the show are available with a pumpkin twist. Pumpkin waffles, pancakes or doughnuts take care of breakfast. For lunch, perhaps a slice of pumpkin pizza, a bowl of pumpkin chili and a glass of pumpkin pop. Dinner could be some pumpkin burgers. “It’s essentially a sloppy Joe with pumpkin and spices in it,” says Nanisa Osborn, who handles media relations for the show. “And that really sounds disgusting, but it really tastes great.”
And, Pumpkin Pie (A Big One)
: Since 1952, Lindsey’s Bakery has baked a 6-foot, 400-pound pie to be displayed at the festival. To celebrate the show’s 100th anniversary in 2006, the bakery outdid itself by creating a 14-foot pie that required 795 pounds of pumpkin and the construction of a special pan and oven. “It was wild, it was crazy,” says Katie Miller, owner of Lindsey’s Bakery. “But we had a lot of nice people working and they really enjoyed it.”
3 Questions: Grow Wild
Cincinnati Zoo primates curator Ron Evans and his team spent months teaching a newborn baby gorilla proper ape etiquette.
Mothering a baby Western Lowland gorilla isn’t easy, but it certainly looks like fun. Ron Evans and his team at the Cincinnati Zoo spent months providing around-the-clock care to Gladys, a newborn gorilla who was relocated to Ohio in February after being rejected by her mother at the Texas zoo where she was born. Experts at simulating formative primate experiences, Evans and his co-workers mimicked gorilla communication and carried Gladys around on their backs. The work paid off in July when she was introduced to her surrogate mother, M’linzi. — Lynne Thompson
1. Why is an authentic upbringing so important for gorillas?
A: We’re rolling the dice with how [gorillas’] personalities are going to develop if we hand-raise them for an extended period of time. Sometimes they come out just fine. But sometimes their personalities just don’t quite develop right, and they have a long life of challenge in the social game of being a gorilla. … Gorillas have about 13 different vocalizations, a lot of different facial expressions, body postures and combinations of all three that form a complex language.
2. What were some of your rearing methods?
A: We started wearing a big, fuzzy vest that felt similar to the texture of gorilla hair so Gladys could cling and get used to that texture. We would make gorilla vocalizations to her — deep, guttural, belching vocalizations, which are actually positive vocalizations. ... It’s very soothing. So you’d make these vocalizations, and you’d hold Gladys tight to you if she got nervous about something.
3. When did you know Gladys’ transition to her gorilla surrogate was successful?
A: You could see Gladys starting to warm up to M’linzi, that she wasn’t afraid of her. She would go over and touch her, lay next to her and sleep with her. … I don’t know what it was, but [one day] I startled her. She jumped up, and she ran over and climbed up M’linzi’s back. She went to [her] for protection. That’s when I knew this had worked.
For more information about Gladys and Ron Evans, visit cincinnatizoo.org.
| Fascinating objects from our past
The Westlake Cache
The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union focused on social reform through strict adherence to Christianity and abstinence from alcohol and tobacco. After its founding at a 1874 national convention in Cleveland, the group grew to more than 300,000 members by the time Prohibition was enacted. So it came as a surprise when, in the 1970s, heirs to the estate of an early Cleveland member of the organization found nearly a dozen cases of unopened pre-Prohibition whiskey and gin in her basement. Hoping to avoid embarrassment if news of the find went public, the woman’s estate attorney helped the family quietly remove the clandestine liquor from the home. A portion of the booze resurfaced at a Westlake, Ohio, estate in 2012, when a man found his father’s share of that 1970s cache in a hidden basement storage area. The son quickly discovered that the whiskey and gin, bottled in 1906 by two Midwestern distilleries, could be a hot commodity in today’s climate of boutique beverages. Known as the Westlake Cache, the well-aged spirits will be split up once again when Garth’s Auctioneers & Appraisers puts them up for public auction this month. — Amelia Jeffers
Amelia Jeffers is co-owner of Garth’s Auctioneers & Appraisers in Delaware.