There’s pumpkin carving and then there’s extreme pumpkin carving. Artist and sculptor Ray Villafane, a two-time winner of the Food Network’sChallenge: Outrageous Pumpkins, , shares his top tips for going beyond the traditional and into the extreme. Plus, see a slideshow of some his most amazing creations .
1. Choose a pumpkin with a thick wall. Since it’s difficult to determine thickness without cutting into the pumpkin, pick up a bunch and search for one that is “heavier than others that are the same size,” not just heavy.
2. For faces, avoid perfectly round pumpkins and choose pumpkins that are oblong with a compressed ridge running from top to bottom along one of the sides. Carving the face onto this protruding ridge allows for maximum depth.
3. Use various size clay ribbon loop tools for 90% of the carving. They are perfect for creating fluid contours. Sharp details and fine cuts can be applied at the end with a paring knife.
4. It is common for many beginners to be hesitant to carve deep. As a result, the pumpkins are not as three dimensional as they can be. Unfortunately, it is also common for beginners to go too deep and break through when carving a pumpkin. The key is to go as deep as possible. Waste no material but be very careful as you approach the center. The texture of the pumpkin will change slightly and the surface of the pumpkin will begin to bounce a bit. The more you carve, the more familiar you will be with the limits of your particular pumpkin.
5. Use reference. Photographs, drawings or mirrors can be valuable tools when creating the perfect pumpkin.
6. Cool and moist conditions will add a few more days to the life of the pumpkin. There are so many factors that come into play when it comes to longevity of the carving but a full-proof way to make it last is to take a quality photo.
7. Practice, practice, practice.