BY Terri Wallis
I can’t remember how it started, how the idea to turn garden gnomes into zombies first came about. While wherever or however it manifested may have been forgotten, the idea has been turned into a creativity that is still going strong. Garden gnomes were my first victims, then came the Barbies and porcelain dolls, and now I’ll turn almost any figure I can find into a zombie. It’s not because I’m excessively morbid or obsessed with death, but simply that I have created an original technique to lovingly transform cute or beautiful dolls and figurines into hideous and yet frequently happy zombies. I have been told many times that turning Barbie into an undead creature is actually an improvement. While sculpting with contact cement and dental instruments has given me creations to sell, Hamilton’s James Street North Art Crawl provides a place for me to sell them. As a starving artist on the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), it is one of the only places I have to show my artwork.
Art Crawl is the best thing to happen to a Hamilton artist like myself
In my opinion, Art Crawl is the best thing to happen to a Hamilton artist like myself, who lives below the poverty line and can barely afford art supplies. At Art Crawl you don’t have to apply for a permit, or pay a fee to display your wares. You simply show up, find an available space, and wait for customers to walk by. Unfortunately, these days Art Crawl is being invaded by store owners from Toronto and individuals selling unwanted items as if in a garage sale. Spots are being taken away from local artist who rely on the crawls as one of, if not the only, place to showcase their talents.
Lately I have been very lucky, having many opportunities to make a name for myself and “Zombie Art by Terri.” The “100 in 1 Day” interventions, Open Streets, The Barton St. Festival and the Hamilton World Music Festival presented wonderful venues for my zombies to find new homes. These were either free, for a small fee, or a small percentage of what I made, and all offered a new client base for me to sell to. I didn’t plan it like this when I started but the main reason I can keep going is that the cost of my supplies is so low. The main reason for this and my new favorite saying is “Thank god for dollar stores!” (I use god in a non-religious way). The majority of everything I use can be found in dollar or discount stores. Dollarama in particular has played a huge part in making this an affordable adventure. Michael’s recently had a clearance sale on some very good paints, and it constantly issues 40% and 50% off coupons. Value Village and Talize are amazing places to find victims to be zombified.
By allowing people to pay what they can afford, I can respect my customer’s financial situation and give them some control
The cost of materials has allowed me to proudly place several “pay what you can” signs around my display, and I am very happy to be able to offer this to my customers. The reason this is so important to me is the fact that I’m on ODSP. I know what it is like to have very limited funds and to not be able to afford the things I really need, not to mention cool things I see. I don’t want to put other people in that position. By allowing people to pay what they can afford, I can respect my customer’s financial situation and give them some control. I’m not going to refuse to sell someone something I’ve created, something they really like, because they don’t have a certain amount of money. I simply ask those who are interested to pay what they can afford and what they feel the piece is worth to them. Most of the time, my customers give me more than I would ask for if I was putting price tags on my art. This creates a very positive relationship between myself and my customers, and makes selling the results of my creativity a very enjoyable experience. Thankfully, it also makes ZombieArt by Terri a fairly profitable and extremely loveable hobby and business.
I am amazed that things have worked out the way they have with low expenses and a decent profit. I can let my customers pay what they can afford while I make original and unconventional art that is appreciated by people of all ages. Thanks to the Hamilton Art Crawl, I will have a place to sell it. I am on Facebook and Instagram as “ZombieArt by Terri” and in the near future, I will have a website with the same name. Thank you to everyone who has either purchased my artwork or offered words of praise and encouragement.
Check out ZombieArt by Terri for more amazing zombie art.