I'm Hooked! What Do I Do Now?

Now you've carved yourself a genuine pumpkin sculpture. For many people that will be enough. Perhaps you will buy new pattern books every couple of years just to keep things fresh. You have amazed friends, family and neighbours with your amazing art every Hallowe'en and maybe you even have some groupies who look forward to what you will do next and will it top last year's offering. If you are asking yourself the same thing, then please read on.

What Next?

You're still reading? Excellent! That means you've mastered basic carving techniques and you want something more challenging. You will need new and exciting patterns to carve, new and likely sharper tools to carve with and a supportive spouse who won't mind losing you for a few days a year and won't mind the house smelling like raw pumpkin. I can't help you with your spouse, that's your problem, but I can suggest what you can do for patterns and tools.

First you'll need cool new patterns. Surf the web for pumpkin patterns and try and find something that you can't wait to see carved and doesn't intimidate you with its complexity at the same time. Get and print the pattern and put it away until you need it. You'll get to the more complicated ones eventually. Give it time!

Why the criteria? The pattern (or patterns) you choose must excite you. If you can hardly wait to get it carved, then you will do it. If the pattern is only something you like a little bit, then you are less likely to do it. It will also keep you from trying more complicated things. And while you do want to try increasingly complicated patterns, do not overreach yourself. If you attempt something too complex too soon you'll blow the carving and become discouraged. Find the balance!

So what happens if you mess up a carving? First, how large a mistake is it? Depending on what it is, most people are unlikely to notice. You can likely work around the error. Years ago I tried to carve a haunted house pattern I got from the Pumpkin Wizard. I was a little (lot) less cautious then about the process of carving and I didn't compensate adequately for the curature of the pumpkin and noticed too late that, as I was transposing the pattern onto the pumpkin, the left side of the picture was closing on the right side of the picture on the pumpkin. In case you don't get it, I had about 8 inches of pattern and only 7 inches of pumpkin. Flat paper mixes poorly with rounded pumpkin!

So what did I do? Did I cry? Did I scream in frustration and throw the pumpkin against the wall (wouldn't my wife have loved that!)? No. I was frustrated and angry with myself for not noticing the problem sooner. I took a break and walked away for a while. When I came back I made a decision that, unlike the pattern, my haunted house would not have a porch. Unless you knew the pattern, you wouldn't have known. More importantly, I learned that before you start transferring the pattern onto the pumpkin, you need to shape the pattern to fit the surface of your pumpkin. Cut out pieces of paper from your pattern and join them, picking blank parts to cut out. Pick sections of the pattern that can be shortened without losing anything and either cut them out and join them or crinkle the paper. When done, the paper will be curved and fitted to the surface of the pumpkin and you can see what survives of your pattern. So not only did I salvage the carving, I learned from it!

Okay, so what if it's not small? You were a little to enthusiastic, cut too far and now a vital piece of your pumpkin is lying inside the pumpkin, and no one will question that it is a mistake. Sigh. Well consider toothpicks. You can try to use toothpicks to re-attached severed pumpkin (unless the pumpkin is artificial, in which case glue will get the job done). If the damage is too great even for this life-saving manouver...give it the last rites. For yourself, take a break. Go out, buy yourself a new Hallowe'en decoration and a new pumpkin while you are at it. Get back on that horse and carve the pattern again, time permitting. But first, take the time to figure out where you went wrong. Odds are you were probably impatient. Don't feel bad, patience can be learned. Be careful not to carve the big stuff first. The more stuff gets carved out, the weaker the remaining pumpkin is and you will need all the strength you can get to carve details. For portraits carve the eyes first. I find that often doing the scraping first is a good policy. Above all take your time. Little bits. Perhaps do large carve out a little piece at a time. And keep up your confidence! Remember, you CAN do it!