April 13, 2021

In the Artist's Studio: LeeAnn Kress of Charmed Confections

charmed-confection-pumpkin-head

Love Halloween art?  Love candy colors?  If you do and you haven’t yet really taken a look at the work of LeeAnn Kress of Charmed Confections, you should.  LeeAnn has a way with making her characters come to life through her sculpting and painting.  The vibrant candy colors help bring life to her sweet and sour Bittersweet Dolls, Ghoulie Cakes and Trunk Monsters.  Charmed Confections Halloween collector’s items are a mix of spooky and sweet (with a splash of sassiness) and is some of the most detailed artistry I have seen. 

The Charmed Confections studio is located in California, where LeeAnn calls home.  We weren’t able to meet in person, but I felt close as we chatted over the phone.  Enjoy our conversation below and hopefully you won’t only learn something new about LeeAnn, but you’ll also gain an appreciation for her creations.

The funny part is as we’re winding up our conversation, LeeAnn says “It’s been an honor and a privilege talking with you today”.  SAY WHAT???? Wait!!!  That’s what I was going to say!  I mean how cool is it to get to talk to one of your favorite artists?   I had so much fun chatting with her, the hour just flew by.  How I wish we were closer so I could walk through her studio and see her work in action.  How I wish I could be a fly on the wall and see her sculpt or paint, to see a Bittersweet doll come to life.  I envision how these dolls float happily in her mind before they ‘come into being’ – it puts a smile on my face. 

Of course I had questions, tons of them.  Where to start!!  I say let’s start at the beginning and just let it flow from there, just like our conversation.

Introductions didn’t take long.  We had been chatting online for a while, so our chat was more like reaching out to a friend that I have not seen in a while, but this was a special friend and one I wanted to know more about.  LeeAnn is from the west coast, loves to go junking with her family and has a loyal and loving Aussie named Candy Boy Jake.  She is married, is a mom (to a lovely daughter) and used to work in the telecommunications field as an office manager and marketing director. 

These days she loves being able to spend her ‘working’ time in her studio creating the pieces we have come to know and love.  Her Charmed Confections characters are known for being sweet and a little sour, full of candy colored vibrance.  Her original pieces start with a lump of clay, but end up being sculpted, sanded and painted into characters that come to life and find their way into the collector’s hearts and home.

To get started down our interview, I had to ask the one that is most obvious that I’m pretty sure I know the answer to:

Alright LeeAnn, so what is your favorite holiday?  And tell me some childhood stories about why this holiday has made it’s way into your studio.”

(Do we even have to guess?)  In her childhood, LeeAnn was painfully shy.  In her early childhood she did not like Halloween too much at all.  In fact, she was downright afraid at Halloween.  Her older sister had a little mean streak and would sneak into LeeAnn’s room and scare her, biting her with plastic vampire fangs.  When remembering the days of trick-or-treating, she reminisced about being bold and running ahead to be the first to knock on the door.  That stopped though when one time the door was opened, and someone was there dressed as a large Grizzly Bear!!!!  Never again was she the first at the door!

As she grew older though, she learned to embrace her fear and found the fun in Halloween.  Her family always participated in block parties, dressing up and bobbing for apples.  She remembered her dad dressed up as Dracula, with her mom beside him as Dracula’s bride.  She remembered when they created large bat wings for their costumes and stood on the house roof (of all things) flapping their wings.    It was quite a site to see, to scare and astonish the kids and parents in the neighborhood.  They are such fond memories, and I can hear in her voice how she loved going back in time and remembering when.

“So, is this fondness of Halloween where you get the inspiration for your creations?”

Since she remembers being scared as a little girl, her inspiration for her characters is sweeter and more whimsical.  Halloween should be FUN for all!  She talks of her Bittersweet dolls and her Trunk Monsters and although they are Halloween collectors’ items, they are fun, spooky/sweet and full of brilliant colors.  Halloween is all about the candy and costumes!  LeeAnn loves creating her original dolls because while most reproduction items are in the traditional Halloween décor colors, her originals can be an expression of most anything.  She loves shades of lime green and teal, or the girl with the pink/purple hair.  It all starts with an idea in her head…….

It’s at this point I ask her to describe the process of creating an original and I ask: “what do you think about when you are painting an original?”:

I can hear the dreaminess in her voice as she explains how clay is so natural, but after sculpting and sanding, she starts to lose herself in the painting as the character starts to ‘become’ and takes on it’s own personality.  She asks herself if the piece is good enough to be in her own collection, and then would her collectors love it?  She doesn’t consider this work.  She thinks about the collector and wants to make them something unique.  When an idea comes to mind, her first thought is “Can I do it”?  Her goal is that it’s done with all the creativity, sweetness and uniqueness that she can give it.  The most important thing to her is that whatever she makes for her collectors, they are happy and her piece brings them joy!

I ask her to go back a bit and tell me how she got into selling her work and I wanted to know “If you love what you do (and it appears you do)...what do you do to ‘get away’ from work?”

LeeAnn has been creating art her whole life.  It’s only been in the last 13 years that she has been working with collectors.  She was picked up by Bethany Lowe Designs as a licensed artist four year ago and currently has her 2022 designs on one of her studio desks.  Back to being that fly on the wall, wouldn’t it be great to see what’s next??  She travels once a year to sell her art at All Hallow’s Art Fest Halloween show, in Petaluma, CA each fall.  It’s a great time to share some of her original artwork she has created through the year with collector’s who come from miles, if not states away.  She loves meeting them in person and finding out what they love, what they collect, and what they want to see next. 

So what does she do to get away from work?  Well…she doesn’t consider this work.  She did have the proverbial office job for years, but now this is not a job.  This is a dream and she loves living it.  She loves creating and bringing us unique Halloween art we will treasure through the years. 

So this makes me think about ‘jobs’ per se and I ask her “When do you feel most satisfied?”

She takes a minute to think and answers very thoughtfully.  She says there are many layers of satisfaction.  She gains satisfaction when she overcomes difficulties in a design build.  She is satisfied as she sculpts, paints, and puts love into her characters.  Once they are sold, she gently wraps them and tells them goodbye and calls it the ‘frosting on the cake’ as they are sent to their new homes.  Then she of course is satisfied as we, the collectors, send back our love for our new originals.  She calls this the ‘cherry on top’.  She loves when collectors reach out to her and give her feedback, so send her some love and let her know what you think!

So my inquiring mind kept on digging and I wanted to know:  “Where did the idea of the poison apple come from?  And last but not least…..what do you think you are most know for?”

She laughed when I asked about the poisoned apple.  One of her girlfriends is a huge Snow White fan and wanted LeeAnn to create her a ‘poison apple’ as a lapel pin so she could wear it when she dressed up to go to Disneyland.  LeeAnn made that original poison apple pin from clay and her friend LOVED IT!  She told LeeAnn she should continue the poison apple theme (as she has).  They have been very popular.   Bethany Lowe Designs carries some of her poison designs - both the ornaments and the full size, large apple are available this year. 

When thinking about what she may be most known for, she thought it must be the Bitter Sweet One-Eyed Skeleton Dolls.  I went ahead and googled them while we chatted, and just looked at the different ones, their beautifully colored dresses, their sweet faces and their stylish hair.  The details are just incredible.  If given the choice, it would hard to have a favorite.  One day, I hope to own one! 

Even though I felt we could talk all day, I know we both had to get back to our day jobs, I just had one last question, “Where do you see your journey go from here”?

I know a smile was on her face as she thought about the future.  LeeAnn wants to continue to make her whimsical characters as long as she can.  She will to continue to go to Halloween shows and meet those that share her love of Halloween and all the wonderful artistic ways it is celebrated.   Mostly, she wants to make sure her collectors are not just happy their purchase, but full of excitement when they open that package sent in the mail (whether a reproduction or an original) and think ‘Wow!  That’s amazing!  I love it!’

It was such a joy to be able to talk to her.  She’s so thoughtful and hopes to work on other Holiday Décor items as well.  I know I would love to see Christmas Décor and Easter Décor!  We’ll be sure to keep following her for future surprises!

As an added surprise, LeeAnn has offered her collectors an opportunity to get some signed Bethany Lowe Designs reproductions that have retired.  Check out her Artist’s Collection page for your opportunity to own one of these awesome pieces!

And remember, that’s why we are here.  Artists like LeeAnn are here to create, Bethany Lowe Designs and Holiday Pizzazz are just two of the ways to help you get those amazing pieces!  We all encourage feedback so reach out and let us know what you love and let us know what you want to see more of!