It’s time to get weird, Charlotte.
If you like preserved specimens, have always wanted to learn taxidermy or have an itch to watch performers slide swords down their throats, the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Concord is probably already on your radar.
Husband-and-wife combo Tony and Michelle Cozzaglio started the expo in 2017 in their hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, as a way to showcase the truly strange and utterly out-there. After turning out 1,000 people for their inaugural event, the couple took their show on the road, hitting eight cities in 2018.
This year, they’ve continued their expansion, increasing to 16 cities across the country. Their June 29 stop at the Cabarrus Events Center & Arena will be the first for the expo in North Carolina.
“At the end of last year, we did a poll all across the country and we wanted to see where people wanted us to come and so many people said Charlotte and so many even just said North Carolina in general,” Michelle explained. “That’s how we chose it. We said, ‘Charlotte sounds pretty cool, let’s try it out.’”
From a young age, Michelle had an affinity for fringe culture and going against the norm. Starting an expo for the odd and curious seemed like a natural extension of her interests.
“I’ve collected preserved specimens, or animal skulls, just odd antiques. I dabble in all things weird, really,” she said. “It always piqued my interest growing up in punk music and already being involved in alternative culture.”
Michelle and Tony’s expo attracts a wide variety of people across demographics. Some people hate it — which is OK according to Michelle — while others never thought they’d enjoy an event dedicated to the unusual. As the list of vendors keeps growing and the event gets bigger every year, the two make sure to be as inclusive of odd interests as possible.
“We have the stuff for real oddities collectors so you can buy animal skulls and preserved specimens, human skulls, whatever, but not everybody is into that,” Michelle stated. “Someone else can go and grab a really cool piece of original art or some jewelry that’s Halloween-themed. We really try to have a little something for everyone.”
Of the hundreds of vendors that will participate in the expo, many are local. We talked to four local artists from the area who will peddle their wares and products to attendees for the first time in an expo setting. A couple of them have never set up shop outside of an Etsy store — mostly for concern of the strange looks they receive for their weird and creepy products. At this expo, however, you’re more likely to find daggers made for throwing than people shooting daggers.
So if odd, curious and fantastical is your thing, then check out these four artists who will have something for you.
Kim Vass-Eudy, Shugar Shack Dolls
No one does creepy dolls like Kim Vass-Eudy does creepy dolls.
After her mother’s death about three years ago, Vass-Eudy needed a creative outlet to process her grief. She turned to painting, despite having always been a writer, and found that she was surprisingly good at it. She eventually built on her creative passions, adding painting, sculpting, sewing clothes and writing backstories for the dolls that she collects, which she sells as Shugar Shack Dolls.
Vass-Eudy finds her projects in thrift stores or from people who inherit them. One friend gave Vass-Eudy another doll that was buried in the backyard and recently unearthed, which she turned into “Veinessa.” Back when collecting dolls was a popular pastime, they served a much different purpose than what Vass-Eudy intends for them.
That’s why she aims to give them new meaning through her work.
“Somebody had them on display; they’re supposed to be the epitome of beauty and they’re just thrown away. I take them and I just reimagine them. I change them, I change the concept of what beauty is by making them into something else,” she said. “It’s my art, I look at what it means to be beautiful, what it means to be a woman in our society, what it means to go against that idea of beauty.”
Her inventory includes a Carrie-inspired doll and two twin dolls modeled after the Grady girls (from the “Come play with us” scene from The Shining). Many of her creations are informed by her favorite author — and the creator of the aforementioned characters — Stephen King.
For the upcoming expo, Vass-Eudy is working on a doll inspired by Pennywise, the antagonist of It, which she recently re-read.
“The movies lose a little something that the books have,” she said. “The story’s a little bit different, the characters, a little bit different, so I wanted to re-read the book and get back into the character of Pennywise and see if my doll is going to reflect that.”
With each doll she creates comes a backstory, a reimagining on how they were found and what journey they endured before they came to Vass-Eudy.
All the dolls’ new purposes are born from the desolate condition she found them in.
“My dolls, they have sadness to them and there’s tragedy and there’s another part,” she said. “This may come from when my mother passed and trying to deal with that, but there’s this part that’s resurrected that’s healed that is not in that darkness anymore. They’re out of the darkness.”
Jason Dulin, The Edge of Dreaming
Hundreds of hours have gone into Jason Dulin’s fantasy jewelry pieces. He meticulously designs pendants and beads using Zbrush, the same program used to digitally sculpt the creatures and characters from Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. Each of his designs, which he sells under a brand he’s called The Edge of Dreaming, have anywhere from 200 to 400 hours of work put into them.
“I don’t actually output a lot of designs, it can be very frustrating for myself and maybe for other people who like my stuff,” Dulin said. “I guess because I’m a little bit of a perfectionist, but also every time I look at it with new eyes I see other things I could do to improve upon.”
After digitally sculpting a piece, he sends it to a manufacturer to create the metal jewelry, turning them into rings, pendants and beads.
He’s constantly building on a mental list he keeps with ideas for more unreleased and unfinished designs, but it could take upwards of 10 years to complete if he tried to create every single one.
Although his released pieces might not be categorized as creepy or odd, he still fills a needed fantasy niche as a jewelry designer.
“I’m very much in the fantasy realm; that’s what I grew up on, reading J.R.R. Tolkien and Piers Anthony and stuff like that,” Dulin explained. “I think maybe in a way it’s only odd because of how I seem to have an affinity for finding ways to combine things that don’t seem like they would go together.”
The newest product to come from Dulin’s fantasy metal jewelry is a pendant and a bead design of a man’s face sharing a head with a bear’s face, to be titled Bear Father. It’s still in production, but he hopes to finish it soon.
The Oddities & Curiosities Expo will not be Dulin’s first appearance as an art vendor at an event, but it will be his first time with the expo, like many of the artists who have joined the fray in cities across the country.
“It’s exciting to have an entirely new crowd,” he said. “I’ve done Renaissance Festivals, I’ve done a couple cons but this will be very new to me so I’m very excited just to see what the reaction is from a different demographic.”
Tiffanee Tyndale, Beauty Bone Custom Skulls
Bones don’t bother Tiffanee Tyndale. She grew up on a ranch out west and spent a lot of time with animals and had a deep interest for bones since she was young. Now, she’s combined her interest in animals, bones and art to launch a passion project, Beauty Bone Custom Skulls, for which she decorates real animal skulls.
“I saw another woman doing it and I loved it. So I have some extra bones left over from when I lived out west, because I lived on a ranch, so I decided to do it myself,” Tyndale said. “I just really enjoy the process.”
Her designs use dead animal skulls — seen by many as gross or unseemly — and turns them into beautiful displays of artistic skills. In some designs, she implements methods like decoupage — which uses paper cutouts and special paint effects — while for others she sprays them with chemicals that react with paint. She covers bat and muskrat skulls in gradient glitter or sits them serenely in a hanging terrarium surrounded by moss.
“When it comes to what I do with them, they’re all unique, but they’re very feminine. I like pretty, sparkly things,” she explained. “Honestly, any kind of things that I can do, I just try to go all-out on everything.”
Because of her odd and unconventional canvases, Tyndale is no stranger to the strange looks her skulls by perusers at pop-ups. The expo is a chance for her to connect with a demographic that more readily accepts her art.
“I’ve never done any vending events that are based on what I do. I’ve done a lot of events that are art festivals, but I’m really the only person with anything like this, so I get a lot of strange looks sometimes,” she explained. “I feel like with this expo, I’m going to be reaching out to more people that are going to be interested and understand what I do.”
Rachel Powell, The Pickety Witch
Rachel Powell hails from New England, and there was a time when she and her family would make the pilgrimage to Salem, Massachusetts every year. That trip makes more sense when you consider Powell’s profession: She’s a witch.
While Powell won’t commune with the spirits to set a curse upon you, she does design spell-binding apparel and accessories for the witch lifestyle. Launching from a Kickstarter campaign in late-2017, she raised around $800 to produce her first two enamel pin designs for her brand, The Pickety Witch.
Of the first two pins created from the fundraiser, one was a hand holding a smudge stick to ward off spirits while the other hand enamel pin sported an evil eye design made for the same use. Since then, the line has expanded to include more pin designs and she’s recently ventured into clothing and traditional art. One thing that’s true regardless of her growth: She stays true to the witch aesthetic.
“I grew up surrounded by the witchy thing. I [have] witches in my family, growing up we played around with ouija boards and we did all the creepy things. It sticks to my roots and seeing it kind of emerge in the mainstream fashion scene recently is really cool because it’s cool to see that representation,” Powell explained. “It’s an expression of me and myself and my beliefs but also what I grew up with.”
The expo on June 29 will be the first time she’s sold her products as The Pickety Witch. As soon as saw that the Cozzaglios would be coming to the Charlotte area, she knew she had to be there.
“Because it’s a travelling show, and for them to come so close, it’s like, I have to try to get into this,” Powell said.
Visitors to her table can expect a wide representation of the witchcraft lifestyle and aesthetic — not just creepy, dark occult magic. Her cute designs include animals like deer, fawn and her best-seller: a baby goat flying on a broomstick.
“I like the balance between the dark, witchy aesthetic, and then you have a whole realm of magic, like plant magic and home magic, and there’s so many different areas you can go,” Powell said. “So instead of sticking just to the dark occult gothic side, which I really like, it’s just a wide variety of witchcraft, really.”
This work by Queen City Nerve is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.