11 Tips for Carving Expressive Pumpkins
Potter Steve Steininger creates fiendish jack-o'-lanterns with a special carving technique that penetrates only the surface of a pumpkin's skin -- which allows the thin rind to cast a soft, eerie glow when light shines from behind. Learn how to create these spirited pumpkins using nothing more than your imagination and a crafts knife.
- Study faces, primitive sculptures, and masks for inspiration. The best faces are those with distinct features that lend themselves to caricatures.
- Choose a 10-pound pumpkin, because they're easy to grip between the knees and roll around in your lap while you carve. Steininger's faces usually extend around half of the pumpkin.
- Cut slices off the bottom of the pumpkin until it sits level, using a kitchen butcher knife.
- Hollow out the pumpkin from the bottom, using a large metal spoon or ice-cream scoop. (Pumpkins last longer with the moisture removed.) This means the curly stems remain intact, making each pumpkin face unique.
- Decide which angle offers the best view of the stem. That's the side you should use to carve the face.
- Use a crafts knife to gouge V-shape, beveled pieces from the pumpkin's surface, then pop out the pieces. Do not cut all the way through.
- Start with the eyes. They're the "soul of the pumpkin," Steininger says. "They're the most important feature for creative scariness."
- Add the rest of the face, including wrinkles, wicked brows, a billowy nose, and a big mean mouth that screams with delight. Note: Steininger doesn't sketch before he cuts, but if you're looking for inspiration, check out Carve-a-Pumpkin for possible features.
- Finish the pumpkin with a quick, wet "wipe down."
- Insert Christmas lights, a lightbulb socket, or a battery-powered votive; these are safer and cast a cooler glow than traditional votives or candles.
- Keep your carved pumpkins chilled. The cooler you keep them, the longer they'll last. (Don't let them freeze, though, or they'll lose their shape.)