Fun fact: You can comfortably fit about 30 plastic jack-o-lanterns in a shopping cart. Bryan Blackmon knows this because he’s bought more than 300 of them this month, after his DIY Halloween decorations turned into a neighborhood sensation. He paints the plastic pumpkin baskets to look like giant eyes, cuts teeth and a tongue out of plastic foam, places them in shrubbery and voilà: You have a monster in the bushes.
At this point, he’s made about 140 of these “monster kits” for his neighbors in Woodstock, Ga., but Blackmon didn’t start this craft project with the intention of running a decoration-making workshop from his backyard. He and his wife, Nancy, always liked decorating their house for Halloween, but with two kids and all their activities to take care of, they never gave themselves much time to do so. Now, with both kids in college, Blackmon decked out the yard early. They set up a large spider and web at the end of September, and while he was catching up on some yardwork, Blackmon thought he could expand the display.
“I had some big holly bushes on the corners of the house that I’d been meaning to prune. … And I said, ‘Hey, they kind of look like monsters,” Blackmon said. He made some teeth and a tongue using plywood scraps he had around the house, and he bought some inflatable toy balls and painted them to look like eyes. (The eyes eventually deflated, so he replaced them with the painted pumpkin buckets.)
“Now we’ve got these two monsters in the bushes, and it’s just Oct. 1. The monsters look so cool, I made some monsters on the smaller shrubbery,” Blackmon said. “It sort of became, ‘What can I do tomorrow?'”
Soon, fake tombstones joined the spider and monsters in the Blackmons’ lawn. Then he went to the dollar store, bought plastic, white tablecloths for $1 each and hung ghosts from the trees. People in the neighborhood started to drive by and take pictures of his increasingly elaborate lawn décor, so he posted to his neighborhood Facebook group, inviting people to come over if they wanted to take a closer look.
An Accidental Sideline
“People were just intrigued by it, so I extended an offer out on Facebook that if anyone was interested, I’d make them some, if they would just cover the cost of materials,” Blackmon said. He threw out a cost of $10, and the requests started coming.
Within two weeks, he made about 90 monster kits — two eyes, teeth and a mouth. He assembled the mouth with the foam, wires and hot glue. By the time he put out his last call for requests, he had 120 monster orders in his neighborhood alone, and some requests for friends and relatives in other states.
Given the volume of requests, Blackmon ran out of materials lying around the house and had to go into mass-production mode, buying paint and sheets of plastic foam in bulk. He estimates the materials cost about $4 to $5 per set. By day, the 54-year-old Blackmon designs power systems for the local utility company. Monster design is just a hobby, but his success this year has him thinking about setting up a website to sell the decorations next year.
He didn’t track how much time it took him to make all the monster kits, but Blackmon didn’t seem to mind making that investment. You can tell from the tone of his voice when he talks about the process that he’s had a lot of fun with it.
“Over the last few years we’ve felt a little less connected to the neighborhood, but this year now everybody knows me,” Blackmon said. He, Nancy and their kids have lived there for 17 years. “It’s really been kind of fun to get reconnected to the neighborhood through this unplanned venture.”
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Images courtesy of Bryan Blackmon