Carving a new kind of jack-o'-lanternThirty years ago, a jack-o’-lantern had two triangle eyes, a matching nose and a giant smile with very few teeth. Nowadays, that’s kids’ stuff.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
Thirty years ago, a jack-o’-lantern had two triangle eyes, a matching nose and a giant smile with very few teeth. Nowadays, that’s kids’ stuff.
The act of pumpkin carving has entered a new era — one with cartoon characters and pyrotechnics. The possibilities are literally limitless, and everybody’s getting on board.
If you’re tired of using your usual design and want to expand into the extreme, “Krafty” Kathy Goodman can tell you there are several things to keep in mind that will help the carving come easier. She should know. After all, she’s been mastering the art of extreme pumpkin carving for 20 years.
Goodman is a longtime sculptor, having dealt with more typical mediums like clay long before taking on pumpkins. Her artistic ability helps the carving come naturally, so there was simply no stopping her after she created her first jack-o’-lantern many years ago — a 75-pounder to boot.
It’s not unusual for her to use such a large “canvas” for her craft. In fact, Goodman has carved pumpkins up to about 1,100 pounds in size.
For the past several years, her supply has been coming to her free of charge through the generosity of Wisconsin grower Loren Fimian. Fimian died at the beginning of the month before getting to see this year’s crop carved into jack-o’-lanterns. Still, his pumpkins and Goodman’s designs are getting plenty of area residents into the Halloween spirit as the holiday quickly approaches.
The carvings Goodman currently creates are quite a bit different from when she was just a budding beginner.
“For a long time I only did the silly faces,” she said.
But last year she branched into another realm and entertain designs that were more fitting to Halloween’s spooky style.
And now, Goodman is taking an opportunity to teach others everything she knows. She recently instructed two different classes for Red Wing Community Education & Recreation. One gave adults the chance to get their hands dirty and take pumpkin carving to the extreme while the other was geared toward a younger crowd and focused on ways to dress up a pumpkin without the use of sharp instruments.
Those who missed out on the classes didn’t necessarily miss out on their chance to study Goodman’s skills.
“If people want to learn, I’m more than happy to have them come and carve with me,” she said. “I don’t know how much longer I’m going to do this and I don’t want this art form to die.”
Whether someone works right alongside her, or attempts extreme pumpkin carving at home, Goodman has plenty of advice to offer.
For starters, tools are your best friend — and that doesn’t just mean a knife. A couple useful utensils to have by your side include a wood planer and potato peeler.
Each can be used to shave the skin off the pumpkin with ease, helping you get to the innards that are easier to carve.
“Once you get the skin off, the pumpkin itself isn’t very hard,” Goodman said.
In terms of the proper knife, ditch any with wide, long blades and go for a skinny paring knife instead.
“You’re best to use something that’s close to your hand,” Goodman explained.
Now you’re ready to start carving. If you’ve only purchased one pumpkin and don’t want to jump right into the real thing, Goodman suggests practicing your carving skills on potatoes or watermelons. Also, she noted, it’s much easier to achieve a specific design if you base it off of a sculpture rather than a photograph.
When you’re finished practicing and ready to try your hand at your pumpkin, start by cutting a whole in the top, back or bottom and cleaning out the guts. Next, put a light — not a candle — inside and put the piece you cut out back in its place. This will help you avoid cutting all the way into the pumpkin when you carve because the light will get increasingly brighter if you’re close to reaching the inside layer.
Take your wood planer and get rid of the pumpkin’s tough skin so your knife can more easily carve. With a clean canvas in front of you, pick a place to start and make small cuts. Goodman said she learned how to carve eyes, mouths and noses before taking on much more.
“Once you get a technique down it’s easy to figure out the rest,” she said.
Try to consider the cuts you want to make before actually making them since knives don’t come with erasers to mix your mistakes. However, don’t get too worried if something doesn’t turn out the way you intended.
“Nobody else knows what it was supposed to look like but you,” Goodman said.
Halloween accepts all things disfigured, deformed and misshapen.
Once your pumpkin is carved into a creepy creation or freaky formation, the last thing to do is keep it from crumbling into bits and pieces. Goodman suggests applying cement sealer or spray paint to the areas you carved, adding about an extra week to the life of the jack-o’-lantern.
With all of the work finally finished, feel free to show off your newfound talent and display your pumpkins outdoors for the neighbors to see each day. Just don’t forget to bring them in for the night if the forecast predicts freezing temperatures.
“If they freeze, they’re gone. It’ll turn them to mush,” Goodman warned.