Ray’s Carefree Story
In May of 2015, the Town of Carefree’s Marketing Director, Gina Kaegi, was looking to hire a pumpkin carver to enhance a new fall festival for the Town. What she ended up discovering from her search was so much more.
Once Ray arrived, he fell in love with the Carefree Desert Gardens and his imagination started to run wild with ideas. He had been thinking about possibly finding a place in Arizona and be close with his kids for the first time in 10 years instead of traveling all over the world.
The Gardens were being seen as a perfect organic environment for creativity and the potential to build a sustainable exhibit for families and children. In less than 2 weeks, the Mayor and Council decided that Ray was a perfect fit and Carefree’s Enchanted Pumpkin Garden was born.
The Town is honored to have been chosen by Ray to make his artistic dreams a reality in the Carefree Desert Gardens and to help share this one-of-a-kind exhibit with the residents, the state of Arizona and the world this October.
Ray envisions a book, gallery and many more additions to the Gardens for years to come and hopes you share in our excitement. 2016 will be our event’s second year and we hope you make it a tradition in your family to come enjoy for years to come!
To learn more about Ray, visit his website.
To learn more about the Town of Carefree, click here.
Ray’s Skilled Carving Team
Chris Vierra was born in Providence Rhode Island. Chris is a bit of a daredevil. Up until the age of 26, He had 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. After seeing a hand sculpted prototype statue of one of his favorite characters online, Chris switched gears and decided to pursue his passion for 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.
Nikolay Torkhov lives in the countryside of Moscow, Russia. All his life he has spent 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 being 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 Carefree 2016 exhibit. He prefers working and playing with sand, ice and pumpkins but will sculpt 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 met Ray at a sand competition and Ray was impressed with his abilities and decided Nikolay could represent Villafane Studios. They’ve been friends and a team ever since.
Sue Beatrice resides in Sea Cliff, NY and has been a professional artist for over 30 years with clientele including: Disney, The Danbury Mint, Waterford Crystal, Hasbro Toys, Warner Bros., Dreamworks, Nickelodeon and Frankford.
Sue’s 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 – the largest in the world (at New York Botanical Garden’s), largest in Asia (at Ocean Park, Hong Kong), and largest on 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 6 ft 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 called Carvers.”
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 introduce.
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.
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. 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 and in 2005 realized he could carve and sculpt sand.
He has been an avid sand sculptor and has won awards from festivals in the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Russia, and the Dominican Republic. He is continuing to learn more and more about pumpkins, wood and bronze as he travels the world. Recently in 2017, he was selected to work with Ray Villafane and his team in Hong Kong at the largest amusement park, Ocean Park.
2017 Halloween Activities
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.