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Pandemic pivot: Calgary artist finds new Halloween opportunity during COVID-19

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WATCH: Halloween is sparking success for a creative Calgarian’s "pandemic pivot." As Gil Tucker shows us, her new opportunities will carry on well beyond the spooky season. – Oct 6, 2021

Desiree Williams enjoyed giving a tour of her Calgary yard Wednesday, showing off a space extensively decorated for Halloween.

Williams has filled it with wooden cutout figures painted to resemble characters from the animated movie The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Read more: Coronavirus: Alberta Health issues guidelines for a safe and ‘scary for the right reasons’ Halloween

It’s a project prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were supposed to go to Disneyland, but COVID hit, so we couldn’t go,” Williams said, “so we decided to bring part of it to our house.”

Creating the display was a family effort.

“My husband cuts everything out of the wood. I draw it, paint it,” Williams said. “Everything is handmade.”

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Williams is now creating spooky scenes for other people, making a gargoyle, a Demogorgon from Stranger Things and a Cheshire cat and other characters from Alice in Wonderland.

Read more: Calgary man collects Halloween costumes for struggling families: ‘Times are tough’

Williams switched to making yard figures after years of working as a graphic designer.

“Because of COVID, where I was working, because of the restrictions, they had to shut down, so that took away that,” Williams said.

The pandemic also shut down a steady sideline selling handcrafted signs through her company Kokua Design.

“With the Christmas markets all closed down last year, that was kind of a big hit,” Williams said, “and that was a huge, huge part of our business.”

Read more: Halloween tradition: Calgary costume shop celebrates 70 years in business

Williams is now making up for the loss of income by selling her custom-made creations.

“We’ve already got Christmas orders coming in because we are cut off for Halloween,” Williams said. “I wouldn’t be able to finish any more for Halloween, so once this is done, we’ll go right into Christmas.”

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Williams says her new opportunities may not have appeared if the pandemic hadn’t happened.

“Because of COVID, I had all that extra time, which I wouldn’t usually have, which turned into this,” Williams said.

“I always said that I wish my dream job was at Disney, as an Imagineer, like to create all that stuff, so you don’t even feel like it’s work. I absolutely love it.”

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