Arts & Crafts / Be Creative! / Be Inspired!

Not Your Mama’s Jack-O-Lantern: Pumpkin Sculpting

My first effort, in progress, and inspired by the techniques of Jay Villafane.

What do marble, metal, wood, wire, clay, and pumpkins have in common? They’re perfect for sculpting something.

Sure, we usually think of pumpkins as something to be carved–not sculpted. But let me turn you on to Ray Villafane. He is to pumpkins what Michelangelo was to marble. And he is my inspiration for this little task.


One of Jay Villafane’s amazing creations.

One way budding artists learn their craft is to study the work of masters and try to copy their style. A task for this badge asks scouts to look at the work of a few sculptors, then try their hand at creating their own work in the medium of one artist they admire.

And I admire Ray Villafane. Never mind that his works have a shelf life of about a week before mold sets in. They are jaw-dropping little miracles.

Sure, you could say that it’s just glorified “carving,” but I’d apply the word “sculpting” to what he does. His method is one of subtraction, shaving away the rind until something perfectly imperfect emerges.

Here’s a video that shows Ray in action:

Heretofore, my half-hearted and irregular forays into pumpkin carving generally resulted in the your typical big eyes and jagged teeth. Nothing wrong with tradition, I suppose, but it’s clear that there’s so much more to pumpkins!

So I spent the better part of this past Sunday trying my hand at some of his techniques on two specimens. Unlike Ray Villafane, I still wanted to add that creepy dimension that comes from hollowing out the pumpkin and adding the ghoulish backlighting from a candle. Otherwise, I tried to mirror some of his techniques.

Are my results as good as his? Not by any single, conceivable measure! But they’re soooooo much more interesting than anything I’ve ever done, and I’m actually pretty proud of them.

I grabbed some video on the process, in case you’d like to see their evolution (a couple of photos below that):

Finished pumpkins, before the lights go out.

First finished carvings, ghoulishly glowing.

Finally, ever wondered how to preserve your masterpiece? I’ve tried Vaseline, but have never been impressed with the results. A little research online suggests that a simple 5% bleach solution, sprayed daily on your pumpkin, can really keep that mold and rot at bay longer than just about any other technique. I’m giving it a try this time!

Happy Halloween!


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