How long to carved pumpkins last?
I’m always experimenting with non-toxic preservatives and have not perfected a recipe just yet. However, I can get a couple of weeks to a month life out of a completed carved pumpkin with various concoctions right now. Pumpkins that are carved, sprayed with acrylic, and painted will last closer to a month sometimes more depending on the species.
By scooping out the insides and carving into the hard outer shell of the pumpkin, the carver is introducing all kinds of bacteria into an otherwise sealed, stable original form of the fruit. If you don’t cut all the way through when doing your design, disinfect the surfaces you do cut, and seal it with layers of paint, the better the odds are that the pumpkin will last longer (much like how pumpkins may last almost all year on your porch if you don’t carve them at all).
When can I get pumpkins?
The most common type of pumpkin used for jack-o-lanterns, cucurbita pepo, is only available from mid-August at the earliest, through late November in California. Fortunately, Kabochas (a Japanese species of pumpkin) can be grown in Mexico and South America all year long. They are much smaller & have a dark green outer skin, but when carved are a wonderful texture to work with and are bright orange underneath, enabling you to practice until Halloween creeps around.
Can you ship them?
If carved only, on the smaller side (basketball size or so), and not painted – then yes. Some of my larger, multi-media vegetable artworks (50lbs. or more) can easily be damaged or paint rubbed off, so I often discourage shipping for such jobs. Locally, curriers have proven to transport pumpkins from patches that I carve at to private parties throughout the Los Angeles area, very carefully and successfully. However, any means of shipping does become quite expensive, sometimes more than the carvings themselves! Please contact me for such estimates as each pumpkin does have to be individually weighed & measured to determine the price.
How many artists work for Peculiar Pumpkin Portraits – is it just you doing all the carving?
I do have individual artists assist me for large jobs or it may take a group of expert carvers to provide all the amazing detail for traditional Thai fruit carving arrangements, but most of the time I work independently on location or in my studio.
Where can I see you work?
As it gets closer to Halloween, I try my best to update my website or social media to let folks know what patch, party, or other public events they can watch me work at. Although I’m based in Los Angeles, which keeps me quite busy, I’m available for events both nationally or internationally. I’m often booked up before the end of summer so please contact me in advance if you can!
What inspires you?
When looking at the variety of forms pumpkins naturally come in, especially the odd shaped ones/other than round, sometimes they already remind me of something and I just add to it with a touch of sculpture. Other times, if I want to metamorphose the typically round pumpkins people bring to me, I can give it more dimension by imagining carrots for horns, a potato nose, coconut fiber hair, leaves as ears, etc. Painting these added organic forms blends them together visually, much like makeup over prosthetics on a character actor in a theater.
Renaissance art can provide a lot of interesting ideas; one favorite artist’s work I really enjoy is Guiseppe Arcimboldo. He created really interesting portraits made up of a collage of objects such as fruits & vegetables, flowers, fish, and even books in his paintings.
Of course, my day jobs involving fossil preparation in paleontology and facial reconstruction for the funeral industry fuel many of the artistic choices I make and Halloween is the ideal time to express that.
All of the folklore, tradition, history and symbolism that haunt us every year during October is probably what I find most inspirational.
How long have you been doing this?
Almost all of my life. My father showed me on how to hold a knife and create the basic features we’re all familiar with, but felt a little limited as to what one can do with this hard, round fruit. As I got older my interest were rekindled by taking other artistic interests and applying them to pumpkin carving. For example, clay sculpting loops work far better than any pumpkin carving kit that’s on the market. Or, copper scrubber pads erase any knife and tool marks you make in the process and can turn them into life-like wrinkles. Over 30 years later, I’m still coming up with new techniques and surprise myself as designs materialize right in front of me, straight out my imagination.
What got you into this?
I’ve always loved the Halloween season and the “momento mori” that accompanies it, so it seemed like a natural progression to apply all of my skill sets & interests to the main symbol that embodies all of it – pumpkins!
How long does it take to do one?
I can do a simple medium size pumpkin carving design in as little as 30 minutes to an hour (especially if I’ve done something similar before), but it’s a lot more fun to spend 2 to 3 hours, or all day on a new idea or portrait I’ve never done before. The more time I take, the more thought & detail I can put into the design for something completely unique.
What do you do when it’s not Halloween?
I sculpt in clay or wax, practice fruit carving with other produce, research ideas, enjoy other arts – get inspired!