The wooden door swung open and there she stood in a swirl of shiny, silver fabric.
A parasol trimmed with a trail of pink crystals ran a halo around her slight frame as her eyes excitedly darted around through two holes of an elaborately decorated mask.
“Welcome,” Danuta Rogula said, her arm draped with a red feather bowa spread wide. In the other hand she held a slightly orange-coloured plastic sleeping baby.
“I became a grandma two weeks ago,” she said.
Ringlets on her silver wig bobbed as she explained that the doll was a tribute.
Rogula twirled and proceeded to wrestle her puffy dress through a door frame into a room holding a dizzying array of artwork. Much like her ensemble, which was made from a mishmash of new and old, found and bought, Rogula's pieces jumped from oils to acrylics and fabric compositions.
“For me, life is about experiences,” she explained while untangling one of her ringlets from a crystal on the parasol. “I admire people who just stick to one thing and master it. But I think life is too short.”
This is Rogula's gallery: a haven she bought her with husband David five years ago. While travelling up the Sea to Sky Corridor, the Port Moody couple fell in love with Britannia Beach's only waterfront house. Nested on a nook between the water and Highway 99, the 100-year-old building speaks to Rogula's zeal for life, none more so than what awaits upstairs.
After braving a rickety, creaking staircase, Rogula's Halloween Mecca unfolds. Transforming the attic was a long and arduous process. For six months Rogula inched her way through piles of forgotten treasures. There were dozens of lamps — tall ones, gilted ones draped with crystals. Pillowing bags of wool hid a lonely loom in the far corner of the space. Then there were the dolls, medicine bottles and dressers.
As Rogula sorted through bags of once-loved materials, the exhibit started taking form. Using the odds and ends she'd unearthed, Rogula rearranged them into themed rooms — from the jilted bride to the operating table.
Halloween was a new holiday for the Polish immigrant when she arrived in Canada in 1991, but the event is tailored to Rogula's creative talents.
“I was interested in costumes because for years, you couldn't buy anything in Poland,” she said, noting as a teenager she constantly reconstructed her clothes.
From Friday (Oct. 25) to Halloween, Oct. 31, Rogula will lead tours through her attic. There's a $5 donation to help maintain and improve the exhibit for future years. For more info and to book a tour, visit The Old Customs House Gallery's website at www.artbyrogula.com.
“I love Halloween,” Rogula said as a fake crow attached to the top of her parasol appeared to be listening in. “This whole house has been my project.”