Born from a love of “Nightmare on Elm Street,” artist Andy Alexander’s The Grim Wreather
is a purveyor of Halloween Wreaths. Just as you might imagine, they’re a creepy take on the Christmas holiday version—with skulls, abnormal dolls, eyeballs and spiderwebs. Rather than ending up twee or tacky, Alexander’s creations are intricate and just the right amount of kitsch. Also tapping movies and television, some designs include Jason Voorhees’ hockey mask as well as letters referencing a message sent from the Upside Down in “Stranger Things.” While there’s a little gore and ghouls, there are plenty of pagan influences—with more accessible nature-themed wreaths too. Alexander says they’re sculptures that hang on your door, and we spoke to him about his process ahead of the creepiest day of the year.
Can you tell us about this project’s inception? What was the first Halloween wreath you made?
I’m a huge horror movie fan. One of my favorite memories as a kid was visiting the set of “Nightmare on Elm Street 4” and seeing an upside-down house, a pizza with little robotic faces, and a giant Freddy Krueger esophagus. I dreamt of being a set decorator from that day on, and eventually went to art school to study sculpture and installation. When my son was two I would take him to the craft store Stats in Pasadena because he loved creepy stuff too—and how they decorated the store like a haunted house. My sister-in-law also has an October birthday, and on one of these visits to Stats, I had an “aha!” moment when I saw a grapevine wreath and thought of a gift for her. I grabbed some Halloween decorations, fake moss and synthetic flowers—went right home and made my first wreath. I gave it to her, she posted it on Facebook, and next thing I knew all these people wanted one.
Is that still how you create them? Can you tell us a little about your process?
I love shopping at thrift stores and in the wholesale districts of DTLA. The toy, flower and fashion districts are all sources of inspiration. I’ve always had a thing for synthetic flowers as well—they’re so sculptural and otherworldly. My studio is filled with objects I have collected over the years, but when I start to work on a wreath, I don’t just throw spooky stuff on a frame and call it a day. I usually start with a key object or prop—a doll’s head, raven, a skeletal hand, etc—that will be the central idea or theme for that given wreath. From there I work on telling that story—reapers dressing a doll in front of a mirror, for example. I make wreaths that are frozen moments in time. Some wreaths take weeks, while others pour out of me quite quickly. The “Carrie Holds a Grudge” wreath took me over two years to figure out.
You also make custom wreaths, can you tell us the most exciting one that you’ve made?
I was asked to make a “Nightmare on Elm Street” wreath for New Line Cinema, which was a huge coincidence given my love of that movie. I was totally honored! I worked on that wreath for weeks—taking it apart and reassembling it. I used haunted house DIY techniques and built a lightweight “furnace” with a real flickering fire prop. It was the most elaborate piece I’ve made to date, and they hang it up in the New Line office every year.
Are there any wreaths from this fall collection that you’re particularly proud of?
The “Carrie Holds a Grudge” series is the culmination of years of wreathing. It’s incredibly simple looking, almost minimal, but it’s so creepy. I’ve always wanted to make an “uncanny” sculpture and this is the first wreath I’ve made that I find truly unsettling.
I think that the Tarot Card wreaths I made for Opening Ceremony are the most beautiful “maximalist” wreaths from this season. The colors and the story telling truly has a presence.
What do you hope customers receive when they buy a wreath from you—is there a specific mood or message you want to create?
This might sound strange, but I want my customers to connect with me when they buy a wreath. I work hard to infuse each piece with a soul. I won’t sell a wreath I am not proud of, and I love when someone comes to the studio to pick up their custom wreath and they’re beyond excited. I want people to be dazzled by their piece, to show it to their friends and say, “This guy Andy makes them!” I want them to look forward to decorating with my art, pulling their wreath out of its custom garment bag each year and hanging it on their door. I want to be part of their holiday tradition. For a long time I avoided making Christmas wreaths but last year I finally wrapped my head around what a Grim Holiday Wreath might be, and I started making winter wreaths. It just felt right.
Images courtesy of the Grim Wreather