Marc Evan and Chris Soria of Brooklyn's Maniac Pumpkin Carvers treat pumpkins as if they were lumps of clay, sculpting them into beautiful, repulsive three-dimensional props worthy of a Tobe Hooper movie. We asked them to spill all their secrets, and teach us how to carve a pumpkin like a pro.
How to Choose a Pumpkin
The best are fresh and have a consistent texture. Generally, the thicker the stem, the thicker the flesh, so you can carve deeper for dramatic effect. And don't gut it. The gooey stuff inside helps keep the shape.
Buy the Right Gear
Use clay-sculpting tools, such as , which you can buy in various shapes and sizes at any arts and crafts store. , , and kitchen knives are perfect for adding details. Basic are a bit flimsy but work great for kids. Set up an overhead light that casts shadows on the sculpture and accentuates the modeling. If you wanna get extreme, then go for some power tools.
Rough It Out
Cut away the skin with a , which works like a potato peeler. Rough out the entire underlying structure—cheekbones, eye sockets, nose, and mouth cavity—before adding details such as wrinkles and teeth. If the pumpkin dries out and gets tough, mist the flesh with a 1:1 mixture of lemon juice and water.
Finish It Up
The devil, or the undead, or whatever, is in the details. As you get deeper into the flesh, you'll notice the grain becomes more pronounced. If the flesh starts to pull, cut in the opposite direction, just as in woodworking. Your sculpture will last longer if you dip it in an ice bath with a cup of bleach. But don't get too attached. Ultimately it'll rot away, get eaten by squirrels, or be smashed to pieces by an ornery trick-or-treater.