About the Pumpkins
How/why did you start doing these?
As it says on the main page, my family always had super-elaborate pumpkins when I was a kid. I decided that was a tradition I wanted to keep once I finished school and got my own house, so I got a set of those Pumpkin Masters saws and worked out my first two designs back in 1997.
Why anime specifically?
Because I like it, and I'm never at a loss for characters who'd look good carved into the side of a gourd. Since 2004, though, I've branched out a bit, and started carving soccer-related ones, which are all visible at my other site.
Did you skip 1998?
No, I did two that year, Devilman and the logo of my then-employer. The photos didn't come out.
What tools do you use?
A couple of good sharp Henckels knives to open the lids, and Pumpkin Masters saws. I usually run through about two sets of saws per year. A stainless steel Korean-style chopstick helps clear out the cut pieces, and a Dremel makes nice round holes and glowing areas.
How do you choose what designs to use?
I choose characters based on whose faces I think would work nicely, and then track down source material that would work as a pumpkin. For source images, I look for good portrait or 3/4 face shots where the character looks particularly spooky, angry, or odd. Images with clean lines and well-defined contrasts work best, as it's the lines and shadows I use to decide what gets cut and what doesn't.
The characters I use in a given year are usually picked in September or earlier. When it comes time to buy the pumpkins, I usually go shopping with the character's face shape in mind. Not always, though; invariably I'll do one at the last minute from one of the orphan pumpkins that's last on the lot. My pumpkins usually come from Pemberton Farms in Cambridge.
How do you design them?
I look at the source material, take a sheet of paper, and try to recreate the source material as a stencil. There's not really any trick to it. I've seen some people take photos, bump up the contrast, and use the printouts, but except in special cases where I'm trying to recreate something exactly (like a corporate logo), I've got no use for that technique and consider it cheating. Half the fun is in freehanding the design.
How long do these take?
About 20 minutes or so to sketch out the design. The actual carving takes anywhere from ten minutes to five hours depending on size and complexity. The bigger the pumkin, the longer the time required. I usually start the carving a day or so prior to Halloween.
How do you carve them?
Pretty much just how you'd think, which is how the instructions in the pumpkin saw kits tell you:
- Sketch design.
- Wipe off surface of pumpkin with damp cloth.
- Open lid.
- Scrape innards out of pumpkin, and scrape pumpkin itself so flesh is about an inch thick.
- Tape design to surface.
- Make little dots on surface of pumpkin along pattern lines.
- Using vertical motion, saw designs marked on surface of pumpkin, dot to dot.
That's it, really. Like I said, there's not any trick to it, but it kinda doesn't hurt I've been doing this since I was little.
All these pumpkins, the saws, the candles, etc, this must be expensive. Why do it? They're just going to rot.
It's not that expensive; it's like any birthday or holiday in that it's something I budget out ahead of time. Yeah, they're ephemeral; hell, every year one pumpkin rots before I get a chance to take a knife to it. Still, though, I do it because it's a neat thing to do, and because it genuinely makes me happy to see the kids in my neighborhood get all excited when they come past my porch. In a couple of cases, I've done pumpkins for other people. It's fun to do, it's a cool challenge, and it's just something that looks cool on my front porch.