Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Lifestyles

October 17, 2012

How to buy, prep, carve, preserve your pumpkin

Think you know the latest tricks for carving a creepy pumpkin? The pros continue to push the barriers.

A handful of people become professional pumpkin carvers each fall, specializing in fantastical designs. Among them are Alex Wer, self-styled "Pumpkin Geek," who lives near Sacramento, Calif.; Scott Cummins, a Perryton, Texas, middle-school art teacher; and Marc Evan and Chris Soria, the Maniac Pumpkin Carvers of New York City.

Wer does his carving between insurance sales and an evening package-delivery route. He works with the fake, foam pumpkins sold at craft stores, so his intricate work has longevity. Evan and Soria drop their jobs as illustrators for a few months to carve pumpkins for festivals, parties and individual clients. The long hours leave the two childhood friends battling sore wrists and aching backs by late November.

"It's a labor of love," says Evan, who also carves pumpkins on the Food Network's "Halloween Wars" this season. "Pumpkin carving is definitely not the easiest way to make money. It's not a 'get rich quick' scheme."

For inspiration, scroll through these carvers' websites — The Pumpkin Geek, Pumpkin Gutter, Maniac Pumpkin Carvers. Or check out the creepy, three-dimensional portraits at Villafane Studios.

Here are some of their tips of the trade:

1. Choose Your Pumpkin Wisely

"You want to have a stem, and you want it to be a healthy stem because that stem is still providing nutrients for the pumpkin," says Soria.

Don't cut into your pumpkin around that perfect stem. Instead, access the pumpkin from its backside to help preserve freshness. Cutting out a stem cap weakens the Jack-o'-lantern, says Evan. And hiding the opening in the back gives the pumpkin more visual punch.

"It's aesthetically more pleasing seeing the glow from (only) the design, not creeping out from where we might have cut the hole at the top," says Evan.

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