Creative Carving!

By  0 Comments

The scary candlelit face of a jack-o’-lantern is one of the most familiar symbols of fall. Carving pumpkins dates back centuries to Ireland and Scotland, where ancient Celts warded off evil spirits on All Hallows Eve by chiseling faces into onions and turnips. When immigrants brought the tradition to America, they found that pumpkins were a much better medium for their creations. With a candle installed inside, a carved pumpkin became the perfect lantern.

While traditional jack-o’-lanterns with ghoulish or whimsical faces are still popular, pumpkin carving has evolved over the years. New designs and techniques have expanded the possibilities for creativity and elevated the humble pumpkin to an art form.

Cutting tools that let you create intricate 2D designs are now available in any Halloween store. More advanced carving innovations include 3D sculpting effects achieved by cutting away layers of pumpkin instead of cutting holes, allowing the interior light to softly glow through. Paint is often applied to intricate designs for added depth and realism.

Besides spooky characters, Disney and Star Wars characters have become popular for pumpkin depictions. Pumpkins carved with seasonal images of sunflowers and autumn leaves are used for pumpkin displays that last beyond Halloween. Abstract patterns of holes made with a power drill is one of the most recent trends. Search online for “pumpkin drilling” for examples and DIY instructions. Another innovation is stacking carved pumpkins to create a totem or more elaborate figure.

As with all visual projects, the internet is a great source of inspiration for pumpkin carving. Check out hundreds of images on Instagram and Pinterest or watch Ray Villafane’s videos on YouTube to see how he creates incredible 3D pumpkin portraits. You can also find videos that show how to use a paper pattern and some simple tools to carve intricate designs.

The expansion of the art of pumpkin carving has paved the way for entrepreneurs who provide pumpkin carving services. For example, Maniac Pumpkin Carvers in Brooklyn, New York, offers carving demonstrations, classes and corporate team-building activities as well as custom pumpkin designs, with “so many gord-geous possibilities” for creative designs!

Local pumpkin festivals are another great source for carving inspiration. To see pumpkin carving at its most extreme, you may want to plan a future visit to one of the big pumpkin events across the country.

The Great Jack-o’-Lantern Blaze
Since 2005, the historic Van Cortlandt Manor in New York’s Hudson Valley has hosted an annual display of more than 7,000 pumpkins carved by a team of on-site artisans. Visitors enjoy synchronized lights and music while strolling past displays that include a 25-foot Statue of Liberty constructed from pumpkins. The Blaze also has a Pumpkin Carousel, Pumpkin Windmill and a Museum of Pumpkin Art. The nearby home of Washington Irving also merits a visit for the Sleepy Hollow Experience.

Jack-o’-Lantern Spectacular
The Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island, celebrates autumn in New England with a display of 5,000 carved pumpkins. Highlights of the show are a huge tree covered with hundreds of carved laughing pumpkins and the Soaring Eagle Zip Ride, which provides a thrilling view of the nighttime display from above. Proceeds from the event benefit the zoo’s animals, environmental education and conservation.

The Great Pumpkin Carve
More than 70 pumpkin artists participate in this annual competition sponsored by the Chadds Ford Historical Society in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Visitors to the first day of the three-day event watch as the artists carve huge pumpkins, some weighing as much as 400 pounds. Judging and viewing of the completed creations takes place over the following days. Other attractions include live music, hayrides and kid-friendly Haunted Trail.

Night of 1,000 Jack-o’-Lanterns
The Chicago Botanical Garden celebrates the humble Halloween pumpkin in a big way. Across two weekends in October, the garden is illuminated by more than 1,000 LED-lit carved pumpkins of all sizes and designs. Professional pumpkin artists from Rise of the Jack O’Lanterns demonstrate how they use power tools, gouges, scalpels and knives while spending up to 15 hours carving a single pumpkin.

Pumpkin Nights
This event showcases local pumpkin artists. Since the first Pumpkin Nights at the Minnesota State Fair in 2016, the event has spread to five locations across America: Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and Santa Rosa, California. Over 3,000 real and artificial carved pumpkins populate a series of themed lands along a half-mile trail that leads to Pumpkin Central, a festival area with gore-free entertainment and games as well as demonstrations by professional pumpkin artists. ■

Sources:,,,,,,, and