You may remembering seeing Jon Neill on the Food Network’s “Halloween Wars” or sculpting squash in a Snickers ad or carving pumpkins on Nickelodeon or the Hallmark Channel, but you most certainly have seen his work as one of the most recognized pumpkin carvers around.
Year-round, Neill sculpts other things as well, but fall is his time and pumpkins are his favorite medium. As you can imagine, he’s very busy right now, but he took some time out to share eight of his favorite tips and tricks for carving an amazing pumpkin. Check out what he recommends:
Pick a Good Pumpkin
When you go to your local pumpkin patch, try to pick a pumpkin with a long green stem. Green stems make a pumpkin last a super long time! In fact, I still have pumpkins from last year! It’s an important thing to look for because the stem continues to feed the pumpkin. If the stem is dry, the pumpkin might not carve that well, it may also not be that heavy.
How to Hollow Out a Pumpkin
If you’re going to hollow out your pumpkin, cut the back out of the pumpkin, not the top. As I mentioned, a green stem continues to feed the pumpkin and you want to preserve its connection to the rest of the gourd. It’s such an important connection, I’ve even seen some pumpkins heal their skin after an animal has been eating them.
Easily Preserve Your Pumpkin
To help preserve your pumpkin, you can add one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water and soak or mist the carved portion and insides with it. This keeps mold from growing but it will fade your pumpkin. (Take care with this method if you’re concerned that animals or household pets might eat the pumpkin!)
Be Safe While Carving!
Use best knife practices. Never carve towards yourself and carve at least an arm’s length away from your nearest person—what is known as a blood or safety circle. And never, ever force a blade if it gets stuck.
Add Some Color to Your Jack-O-Lantern
Want to add some excitement to your pumpkin? Acrylic paints can not only seal the surface of the pumpkin and help it last longer, but give your pumpkin some colorful flair!
Keep Your Pumpkin Looking Fresh …
After carving, keep your pumpkin cool and out of the sun. It’s a lot like when you prepare a salad, you want to keep it moist and cool. Put a damp towel over the carved portion of the pumpkin until you are ready to show it off. This helps preserve the art.
… and Lasting …
Using an ice cooler for your pumpkin works well. Again, think about it like a salad. Keep it chilled and slightly damp. Be sure to change the towel daily to avoid a sour smell.
… and Lasting a Long Time
By following these instructions, cutting out the back and preserving the stem, sculpting the shape, keeping it out of the sun, and maintaining moisture with a wet towel, your pumpkin can last a very long time. Enough to be entered in lots of contests!
For Inspiration and More
Please stop by jonneill.com to see lots of samples of my pumpkin creations or to pick up a set of the tools I use to sculpt the pumpkins I carve. Or if you just want to see some of my pumpkins, check out my Instagram!