This Year, Try Sculpting Pumpkins!
The art of carving pumpkins gets more creative every year. Chesterfield residents are fortunate to have a local carving expert available for assistance at Art Unleashed Inc. This expert shares tips on how to whittle pumpkins that “will get your neighbors’ attention.”
For the third year, artist Heather Woodson will provide an annual pumpkin-carving class for adults at the nonprofit art studio located at 13379 Olive Blvd. This fall’s class will be held the evening of October 25 for those ages 18 years and older. All tools and materials are provided on-site during the class.
Typically, Heather teaches sculpting and wheel throwing with clay at the studio. She says she started carving pumpkins for fun, which led to carving for events and commissions.
“People began to ask how I did that, so I decided to try offering classes,” she says.
Heather says sculpting is the most popular carving practice people want to discover how to do in pumpkins.
“They often want to learn how to carve into the pumpkins’ flesh creating a three-dimensional character,” she says.
She recommends practicing carving on clay ahead of pumpkin-carving, or with fruits and vegetables, such as melons, apples and potatoes, all of which have a somewhat similar texture to pumpkins. She says while those other items aren’t identical to pumpkins, they are still close enough to get a feel for it.
Because pumpkin textures change greatly based on varieties and even yearly weather patterns, Heather says they can be more difficult to carve from one year to the next.
“Try different types and practice on the cheap ones,” she recommends. “Also, you can extend the life of your pumpkin creations by spraying them with a bleach and water mix to reduce the bacteria growth. Then, apply a thin coat of petroleum jelly to all the cut surfaces to seal them.”
The most common mistake people make with pumpkin carving is not checking the depth of the flesh before carving, the artist says.
“Cutting a small hole in the back or bottom will let you know how much room you have to carve.”
Heather predicts pumpkin-carving trends this year will be recognizable people, cartoons and other pop culture imagery.
She suggests combining techniques, such as traditional carving, and removing just some of the pumpkin skin to create designs and images.
For neat, clean pumpkin carving:
- Cut a hole in the top of the pumpkin with a large kitchen knife, preferably one that is serrated. Be sure to cut at about a 45-degree angle inward so the top will sit nicely once you’re done carving. If you’re carving with kids, adults should handle this step.
- Use a large spoon or pumpkin scraper to remove all the guts and seeds from the pumpkin. Make sure the side you are going to carve your design into is clean. If you’re planning on saving the seeds for roasting, this is a good time to separate them from the rest of the insides.
- Sketch out your design or trace a stencil on the pumpkin before carving. If you’re drawing on the pumpkin, a permanent marker is the best option, as it won’t smear. Tracing stencils can be challenging, especially for more advanced designs. Many pumpkin-carving kits provide a “pounce wheel” to help with this. You also can try a connect-the-dots technique.
- The blades found in pumpkin-carving kits often allow for more control and safety compared to kitchen knives.
- Be careful not to cut too far when carving out different parts of the design. The cleaner each cut, the easier it will be to take out the carved parts without tearing nearby rind.
- Carefully remove the unwanted pieces and clean up any rough edges.