Lisa and Richard Carey, of Vestal, New York, have carved thousands of pumpkins over the past 25 years. They brought their carving expertise to the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival this year, and their pumpkins will be among the many, many more displayed in Veterans Square on Saturday. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)
By ADAM DRAPCHO, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — "We are hoping this will inspire some people to be more creative with their carving," said Richard Carey, standing among some of the two dozen jack-o'-lanterns that he and his wife, Lisa, had brought from their home in New York as pumpkins and which they spent Wednesday and Thursday engraving and sculpting into cartoonish faces. In addition to the normal-sized pumpkins, they also brought a pair of giant pumpkins – one 600 pounds, the other 900 – that Richard spent two days carving. One of those giants will be auctioned off to benefit the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival, and all of their jack-o'-lanterns will be on display on Saturday in Laconia's Veterans Square, either at the 34-foot-tall tower or arranged in front of Prescott's Florist.
While the task of carving 30 jack-o'-lanterns plus two giant pumpkins would sound like a lot to most people, it's actually a step back for the Careys. Starting 25 years ago, when their children were small, they decided to take their carved pumpkins beyond the conventional three-triangle face, zig-zag mouth scheme. Within several years, they were filling a park with their creations, and at their peak they were carving 300 pumpkins each year. They've long lost count of how many pumpkins they've carved over the years, but it's surely in the thousands.
So, what have they learned about carving pumpkins? That there's more than one way to skin a jack-o-lantern.
For adventurous carvers looking to expand their skills, the Careys have three primary suggestions:
• First of all, stop cutting a hole around the stem of the pumpkin. Leave the top intact, and instead, cut a hole in the bottom of the pumpkin to clean out the insides. This will make it easier to simply place the carved pumpkin over a lit candle, rather than trying to set a candle inside the pumpkin and light it from above. It will also be more stable on a flat surface, and, the jack-o-lantern will last longer once rot starts to set in. Instead of rotting around the top and falling in on itself, it will rot around the base and will remain stable for a few more days.
• Secondly, expand your pumpkin-carving tool kit. Kitchen knives are good for cutting, but small wood saws are much better for carving pumpkins. In fact, Richard, who also dabbles in wood carving, finds that many of his woodworking tools are useful when carving pumpkins. For example, he uses a drill to give his pumpkins pupils in their eyes.
• Lastly, consider all dimensions of the pumpkin – between the outer skin and interior cavity, there's as much as an inch of flesh. Much of the detail that the Careys acheive in their pumpkins comes from using a paring knife to scrape off the orange peel, revealing a light-colored flesh that can then be sculpted into shapes or features. That flesh offers some contrast with the orange peel during the daylight hours, and is translucent after dark when the pumpkin is lit from within.
Richard says he approaches a pumpkin in the same way a sculptor sees a block of marble – he looks for the finished product inside, and removes the material around it.
"When you get the pumpkin, you look at the shape and the expression is there, you just work with it," he said.
"And you make it come to life," added Lisa.
This pumpkin, carved by Richard Vestal of New York, will be one of thousands at the 2016 New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival Saturday. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)
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