For many people, carving pumpkins is a link to the past, to their childhood when times were simpler. Whether carving one, or a couple dozen of them, there are things you can do to make it an enjoyable activity, and possibly even help you turn out jack-o-lantern artworks that will have the neighbors, kids and adults alike, spouting wows as they go by your orange glowing masterpieces.
This year, pumpkins are not as widely available as in years past, due to weather conditions that have greatly affected the crops overall. To help combat this, shop early, to afford yourself a good selection of pumpkins to choose from.
I like to look for those pumpkins that are both oddly shaped and a few that are typical, evenly round pumpkins. Depending on what sort of carving or face I have in mind, will often determine the overall shape I am in search of. In addition, if you plan to line a walkway with them, or place your finished creation in any place that it will not be able to be propped up or against something else, you will also need to look for those that have a somewhat natural flat spot towards the bottom, so that they will sit easily without toppling over.
Once you have chosen the perfect pumpkin for what you have in mind, bring them home. Next, decide where you are going to actually carve them at, keeping in mind that the actual cutting and digging out the guts will bring with it some mess, so choose someplace that you can easily clean up. For the actual cleaning, begin with the exterior of them before you do any actual marking or cutting. If you have a soft-sided old brush, lightly brush away any debris that might be on your future piece of artwork. If you absolutely must, you can take a damp washcloth and wipe the surface clean, but be sure to dry the exterior at this point, avoiding leaving the surface overly damp for any length of time, as this will only hasten the possibility of mold.
The top of the pumpkin should be cut first, so that you can clean the interior of the pumpkin out. Be sure to cut the top large enough to easily scoop out the insides, and if you plan to bake the seeds, have a bowl or other container at the ready to store them in. Clean the inside as thoroughly as you can, leaving as little to none of the threads and other guts as possible. The more of this left behind, the quicker the pumpkin will rot. We always use to say that the cleaner the house, the longer it would stand.
Once you have your design idea ready, you can either trace directly on the exterior of the pumpkin with a pen or marker, apply a transfer to follow, or just jump right in and freehand cut. If you have never tried this last suggestion, I highly recommend giving it a go. Some of my best designs throughout the years have been the result of those times I have just started cutting with nothing more than a very loose idea of what I want the finished jack-o-lantern to look like.
Transfers are a great way to create very intricate designs, and you may discover designs such as a cat sitting on the shoulder of a witch, to moons shining brightly over the initials RIP on a gravestone. These can often be found at the local grocery or five and dime type store. Some craft stores might also carry such items. If cute is more your style choices, cut out the word BOO! On the other hand, create a smiling but tooth missing pumpkin. Just about any design that is even remotely Halloween or Fall related, from traditional to off the wall, can be altered to work as a jack-o-lantern design.
When you have finished carving your masterpiece or whole entourage of them if that is more your thing, add a simple votive candle if the pumpkin is going to be located in a safe place, or insert a battery operated flame made specifically for lighting up pumpkins and other decorative items.