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Garden Fairies pump up ho-hum porch pumpkins

Bo Derek's beaded cornrows and those spiky retro Mohawks may be coming soon to a porch near you.

In the interest of freshening up those bald jack-o'-lanterns with tired triangular eyes and gap-toothed grins, we challenged the Garden Fairies of Tampa Bay to "think outside the pumpkin" and come up with something a bit hipper.

After all, the community-minded artistic gardeners are known for magical transformations of private gardens and public gathering spots. They recently completed a 17-foot-tall, 22-foot-wide multimedia mural on the Meres building in downtown Tarpon Springs, which they gave to the city Oct. 20.

So decorating pumpkins?

Hah! A walk in the park for these designing women. They readily accepted the challenge.

Monday night, seven of the fairies gathered in Heather Richardson's Safety Harbor studio armed with $4 pumpkins, power drills and glue guns. One team would create with candy; another, plant materials.

The third, just some good old recycled junk.

Red Hot Chili Pepper Devil and the punky Silver Skull

Barbara Melby-Burhans, the 55-year-old owner of the Clay and Paper Gallery in Dunedin, found her inspiration for her vegan devil head in her Palm Harbor garden.

Those chili peppers, one long, one short, just shouted out to be horns.

A butternut squash face bears seed pods for eyes and mouth. Acorns became irises of the eyes. Plant fiber was used for the eyebrows and goatee.

Shannon O'Leary-Beck, a Clearwater muralist and faux finish painter, was less than enthusiastic about the vegetal challenge — at first. As her skull started sprouting plant life in the shape of a punk rocker's head, she had a change of heart.

"I love the funky shock of hair" made of palm fiber and a bromeliad plant, said O'Leary-Beck, 60. "He's got a lot of personality."

The eyes are red ginger flowers. The inside was sprayed black for dramatic effect.

"It's okay if some of the black comes through," the artist said. "It makes it creepier."

Reclaimed from trash and an old movie

Heather Richardson, 48, a mixed-media artist who lives in Belleair Bluffs, was recycling materials decades before it was fashionable. Her studio is crammed with boxes of leftover mosaic tiles, picture frames, fabrics, glitter, beads, dried plant parts, and other odds and ends.

"I thought, 'Great. I can finally use those two lightbulbs I've been storing for years,' " she said.

The bulbs would create the glassy-eyed look for what would evolve into a rather intoxicated-looking pumpkin.

Kiaralinda, another master recycler, fashioned a party hat from a bucket lid and water bottle filled with corks. The spinning flower was cut from a soda can.

The dude has corks cut in half for nose and teeth, with a plastic lid for a mouth.

At the same time, Jan Stiffler, 61, of Clearwater, was braiding cornrows from yellow plastic bags on a girly pumpkin.

"I learned everything from watching my mother in her beauty parlor," she said, rolling up a spool of hair.

Hey, if this is Halloween, these pumpkins must be Bo Derek and Dudley Moore recycled from the 1979 movie 10.


Burn, baby burn

Siobhan Nehin, 54, an exterior designer from Tarpon Springs, and her partner in creativity, Riké Kallaugher, 57, of Crystal Beach, couldn't wait to light the candles on their Candy Man's licorice hairdo.

Birthday candles had been hot-glued to the "hair," topping a face sporting eyeballs of sliced jawbreakers and candy corn teeth.

"This is the perfect pumpkin for a Halloween party," Nehin chirped.

First a black and red tarantula nesting in the mop top began to melt. Twisting and flopping, it finally lost its grip and fell to the ground.

On the way down, it grazed a right cheek and eye, leaving a trail of black sugary gel on the orange skin of the jack-o'-lantern.

"It's a black teardrop," someone yelped. "It's crying."

Soon the licorice locks began to liquefy and change form. The fairies oohed and aahed.

"These are the simple pleasures of life," Nehin said. "We were all tired after work and came together to decorate pumpkins and ended up having a riot."

Want to re-create the look? Nehin advises: "Resort to a glue gun or sips of wine as needed."

Garden Fairies pump up ho-hum porch pumpkins 10/28/10 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 4:34pm]
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