Ray’s Carefree Story
In May of 2015, the Town of Carefree was looking to hire a pumpkin carver to enhance a new fall festival. Who they discovered from their search was an extraordinary talent!
When Ray Villafane arrived, he fell in love with the Carefree Desert Gardens, his imagination running wild with ideas. He saw the Gardens as a perfect organic environment for creativity and the potential to build a sustainable exhibit for families and children. The Mayor and Council agreed that Ray was a perfect fit and Carefree’s Enchanted Pumpkin Garden was born!
Villifane Studios and the Town of Carefree are honored to share this one-of-a-kind exhibit with YOU every October, and we hope you make it a tradition in your family to enjoy our fall festival for years to come!
To learn more about Ray Villafane, visit his website.
To learn more about the Town of Carefree, click here.
Ray’s Skilled Carving Team
Brandy Davis, also known as “The Pumpkin Artist,” is an award-winning and Guinness world-record-holding professional 3D pumpkin sculptor from Nampa, ID. Don’t let her dainty feminine looks fool you – she can carve with the big boys!
Brandy caught the eye of Villafane Studios several years ago when she was chosen as the winner of a collaborative pumpkin carving contest they were co-sponsoring. With over 10 years of professional carving under her belt, she has carved unique and extreme pumpkins for many large companies and worldwide campaigns for many organizations, including Villafane Studios, Progressive Insurance, Country Music Television and many more! She is also a veteran of the hit Food Network TV show, Halloween Wars.
Deane grew up in New York’s Hudson Valley and has lived in California, Connecticut, North Carolina, and Ohio. He has studied art privately, but is largely self-taught and considers his work an extended learning project. His early art was done in pencil, pen & ink, pastels, and gouache. He focused on airbrush for several years before Photoshop was introduced. He has worked as an illustrator, sign painter and picture framer before becoming a full time graphic designer for various Fortune 500 companies and for Ohio State University.
Deane’s work has been displayed in the Hudson Valley as well as at galleries throughout Ohio, including The Acme Art Company, High Road Gallery, PM Gallery, The Mansfield Art Guild, and The Big Local Art Tent. He has also been a participant in the Columbus Arts Festival.
It’s ironic that sculpting is one of the few art forms that Deane never attempted before carving his first 3D pumpkins, but that’s been corrected since seeing Ray Villafane’s pumpkins! When he’s not carving pumpkins or painting, Deane writes, records and performs music. He enjoys working with all media and especially likes the fact that people have a hard time accepting that his pumpkin carvings will eventually disappear.
Watch this interesting video of Deane and examples of his skillful pumpkin carvings.
Dmitry has been a sculptor all his life and attended the Saint Petersburg State Academy of Art in Russia in 2004. That same year he began carving ice sculptures, and in 2005 discovered he could carve and sculpt sand.
Since that discovery, he has become an avid sand sculptor, and has won awards from festivals in the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Russia and the Dominican Republic. In 2017, he was selected to work with Ray Villafane and his team in Hong Kong at the largest amusement park, Ocean Park.
Dmitry continues to learn more about carving pumpkins, wood and bronze as he travels the world.
Hailing from Moscow, Ilya studied jewelry and goldsmith designing in art college. He went on to make jewelry for seven years, but during that period he tried his hand at ice sculpture and really enjoyed it. He began traveling for these new artistic adventures as a way to pursue a better understanding of sculpting. He spent six years at Moscow State Academic Art Institute of Surikov.
In 2005, Ilya took up sand sculpting, and to date has created 126 sand sculptures around the world! A few years ago, he met Ray Villafane on a sand sculpting job and shortly thereafter, Ray invited him to Germany to carve pumpkins at Ludwigsburg Palace. His attention to detail and ability to bring inanimate objects to life make him a talented addition to the Villafane carving team.
Luke Schroder hails from Sioux City, Iowa. He’s been a tattoo artist and illustrator for 15 years, and has been obsessed with pumpkin sculpting for a decade. A self-trained artist, Schroder became interested in pumpkins as an artistic medium while watching a Food Network special about Ray! Ever since, he’s been creating one-of-a-kind art out of squash.
His major influences are horror movies, mythology and heavy metal.
Vicki Jessing, aka “Mouse Mom” is an Arizona native who received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Northern Arizona University. Though she didn’t immediately put her artistic talents to use, opting instead to work in accounting for two decades, she did dabble in prop creation for musical theater, as well as teaching watercolor classes at a Phoenix-area senior center.
Fast forward to August 2017 when the fates brought Vicki to Villafane Studios, where in the past two years she has continued to discover artistic talents that even she did not realize she had! Her influence helped create the magical world of lovable and fun rock balancing mice (among a plethora of other things!) that would not exist in this Enchanted world without her.
Chris Vierra was born in Providence, RI and is admittedly a bit of a daredevil. Until the age of 26, he performed across country as a BMX stunt man. His obsession with ninjas and his high-flying BMX acrobatics earned him the nickname “Ninja Chris.”
Since a very young age, Chris attended comic book and toy conventions with his family. He always had a love for art and video games. Upon seeing a hand-sculpted prototype statue of one of his favorite characters online, Chris switched gears and decided to pursue sculpture. He began to research how toys and collectible statues were made.
With no formal art training, he picked up a brick of clay and a few tools, and uncovered a natural ability to translate forms into the 3D world. Fast-forward a few years, and Chris turned his passion into a career, sculpting for such clients as Neca, DC Comics, Hollywood Collectibles Group and many others.
Gabriel Vinas is a Cuban-American artist whose work is heavily influenced by his interest in science and anatomy. Often using fossils as starting points, he explores the sculptural similarities and differences between ancient and modern species of hominid, each with their own visual story to tell. When away from his scientific work, Gabriel is happy to indulge in his passion for building and creating characters, and considers himself lucky to have the Villafane Studios family as an outlet for his creative nostalgia.
His involvement with pumpkins and this enchanted world began seven years ago, when he interned with Ray and was exposed to collectible-figure sculpting and pumpkin carving. Subsequently, he was featured on Food Network’s Halloween Wars, Season 3 and emerged (along with his team) as that year’s winner.
Gabriel has recently moved to Arizona to pursue a Masters degree, and is looking forward to many enchanting years of working with Villafane Studios.
Nikolay Torkhov lives in the countryside of Moscow, Russia, and has spent most of his career studying academic sculpture. In 2012, he graduated from the Moscow State Academic Art Institute (Russian Academy of Arts.) Originally starting out in street art, he evolved into becoming a sought-after professional sculptor.
His second love is horses and his gift of sculpting shows in his meticulous creation of a horse made of Manzanita wood at the 2016 Enchanted Pumpkin Garden event. He prefers working and playing with sand, ice and pumpkins, but will sculpt creations out of just about anything. He says that ice and pumpkins have their own charm due to their short lived life and that’s ok with him!
Nikolay and Ray met at a sand competition, where Ray was impressed with his abilities and invited Nikolay to work with Villafane Studios. They’ve been friends and team members ever since.
Sue Beatrice resides in Sea Cliff, NY and has been a professional artist for over 30 years, with clientele that includes the Walt Disney Company, the Danbury Mint, Waterford Crystal, Hasbro Toys, Warner Bros., Dreamworks, Nickelodeon and Frankford.
Her artwork covers many specialties – from commercial illustration to fine art on canvas, but sculpture is her main focus. She also works in the ephemeral arts, carving with Sand Sculpt USA, Pumpkin Sculpt USA and Villafane Studios. Sue has carved several world record breaking pumpkins, including the largest in the world (at New York Botanical Gardens,) the largest in Asia (at Ocean Park, Hong Kong,) and the largest in Long Island, NY. In these mediums, she is best known for her depictions of realistic and whimsical animals and mythological creatures.
She owns All Natural Arts, a venue for selling her unusual and unique steampunk and nature-inspired antique pocket watch sculptures, as well as her paintings and other personal art forms. Her one-of-a-kind designs are sought after by galleries and collectors all over the world. Sue also joined forces with CityCakes to carve a six foot tall unicorn cake for MTV.
Sue has appeared as a pumpkin carver on Halloween Wars, The Rachael Ray Show and in an hour long special on SyFy, Carvers.
At the Enchanted Pumpkin Garden, Ray had over 100 carved characters, artfully imagined and frolicking in their magical villages created in the Carefree Desert Gardens. Every carving is a model of skillful talent and playful imagination.