Pumpkin Carvers Squash the Competition

Carving Contests, Tips, Techniques & Spooky Inspiration

Check this out before it is too late to carve your own pumpkin masterpiece:

Banquet chef and food carver extraordinaire, Bang-on Roulet of the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage, Alaska has won several gold medals for her carvings. Who better to get some tips from then such a celebrated pro?

Roulet’s Tips for the Best Pumpkin Carving

Pick the right pumpkin: make sure it is fresh–that means heavy, and has no mold around the stem. The shape is your choice, but she prefers “ugly and tall” rather than the traditional round pumpkins.

Don’t Gut it Out Right Away: sure we were all taught that the first step is to gut the pumpkin. You don’t need to gut it until you want the eerie glow of candle light coming through. You can carve your pumpkin up to 10 days before gutting it, just be sure to keep it cool at night.

Go Beyond the Pumpkin: go ahead and add ghoulish props to your carved gourd. Use other food items, fake spiders…whatever to add some drama and spookiness.

Tools: Roulet’s tools of choice are clay carving tools, a pen knife, paring knife, and a special tool for food carving called a “bird’s beak knife.” When you are done carving, a simple kitchen brush and scouring pad smooths everything out nicely.

Let’s Face It: okay, now the big question is what to carve. Do you want to go with the traditional jack-o’-lantern? No worries. For the adventurous who want something more dimensional, try these pumpkin carving tips:

Start by using a large looped tool to scrape the surface layer of pumpkin from the area where you want to place the face.

Carve out the basic lines for the eyebrows, nose and chin. Carve under the eyebrow to define the eyes. Sculpt the form of the nose and create a slope on the nose leading to the tip. Blend the eye sockets into the cheek area.

Use the point of your loop tool to create smile lines that start from the nasal area and extend down toward the mouth. You can go deep on the smile lines, but if the surface starts to feel soft to the touch, do not go any deeper.

Carve a smile and start to shape the features. Remove material to create bags under the eyes. Dig deeper near tear ducts and the outer eye area.

Use a medium-sized loop to refine the contours and creases. Use a small loop tool to sharpen creases and define details.

Using a small round loop, remove the material to create the nostrils. Use a large loop tool to smooth imperfections.

OOPS!: Oh no Mr. Bill, we made a mistake–don’t worry, be happy!

Of course you can modify your deign…but there is no law that says you can’t put a piece back on with a toothpick (or even a spot of superglue!)

Master Carver Demonstrates in Time Lapse Video

Art Institute of Chicago graduate Edward Cabral now works as a professional pumpkin carver. Yes, there is such a thing. His work can be seen every October at the Jack-O-Lantern spectacular in Louisville, KY.

As he demonstrates in the video above, the process involves both drawing and carving skills. And patience. All for work that disappears quickly.

The longest the carvings can last is 2 weeks. Weather can destroy the works in as little as a few hours.

“I love art that gets destroyed,” Cabral, 28, told ABC News of his interesting work. “It’s the Buddhist mentality of nothing being permanent. In this way, I can witness its entire life cycle. You’re not really worried about all these fine details.”

OK, so not all of us can be master pumpkin carvers. Don’t fret my pretty… If you are drawing a blank, have carver’s block, or just want to get some inspiration, check these out…

Need Some Inspiration?

pumpkin house

pumpkin sculpture

pumpkin pi

Your pumpkin can be as simple or complex as you want. Choose a favorite theme or tell a story. Make them scary or silly. Be willing to try something different. Let your kids call the shots. Let your inner grossness come out and play.

pumpkin barf

Bottom line, anything goes for Halloween. If you want more inspiration check out these glowing wonders.

Finding Novel Inspiration

Another option is to take inspiration from a favorite book.

literary pumpkins

And if you aren’t too sure of your carving skills or you prefer to express your creativity in a less messy manner, you can still have fun this Halloween. Try painting your gourds, or add wigs and a hat–


pumpkin madeline

Join in the fun and create the pumpkin or jack-o-lantern of your dreams (nightmares?) this season. It’s not too late..but you’d better get to it. Chop Chop.

Article and video on pumpkin carving tips thanks to Tara Young and Victoria Barber of the Alaska Dispatch News. Click here to read their complete article.

Thanks to ABC News for the article on Edward Cabral, video by John Seyal photography.

Pumpkin Carving Ideas article from Arti Patel on Huffington Post Canada (specific images not credited)

Literary Pumpkins, article by Alex Weiss, Bustle.com

Literary mages from Tom Simpson (Madeline), Brandi Korte (Harry Potter Collection)