‘Pittsburgh Pumpkin Guy’ Shares Halloween Carving and Sculpting Tips

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Take it from a pro – if you want to create the perfect jack-o’-lantern, you have to choose a pumpkin that “talks to you”.

That’s the best advice from professional pumpkin carver Brendan Conaway. Conaway, a 35-year-old Plum resident, doesn’t just carve pumpkins, he carves them, a completely different art form, he says.

“By the time I’ve finished (carving) a pumpkin, they’re usually ready to say something,” Conaway said.

So how exactly does one become a professional pumpkin carver?

“I took the plunge and started posting pictures of my 3D pumpkins on the internet and like most things, someone found me on social media,” Conaway explained.

“There is this woman named Jackie Hooper who runs a local entertainment management company, Sound Advice Entertainment. She was looking for a pumpkin carver. A friend of mine shared my posts with her, and she was like, “Whoa, we gotta put you in front of everyone.” ”

Since then, Conaway has traveled to Seven Springs for its Autumnfest and has also appeared at the Senator John Heinz History Center, the Westmoreland Museum of American Art, and several senior residences. And Conaway has launched a “carve and sip” class, where he teaches pumpkin carving, and attendees enjoy a few glasses of wine.

Conaway clearly loves his job and carves nearly 100 pumpkins in the month of October. He spends the other 11 months of the year running his own interior painting and renovation business. Google Pittsburgh Pumpkin Guy or Pittsburgh Painter Guy and Conaway appears.

He says pumpkin carving is clearly on the rise.

“It’s probably at a point right now where it’s going to take off in new ways,” Conaway said. “There’s a lot of popularity because of the shows on the Food Network right now. There’s a show called “Halloween Wars” and another called “Outrageous Pumpkins,” and they’re basically pumpkin carving competitions. It’s becoming more and more common. People are learning that there are other more unique ways to carve pumpkins than your typical jack-o’-lantern.

Whether you’re looking to carve a typical jack-o’-lantern or create a pumpkin carving — creating patterns on the outside of the pumpkin without digging into it — Conaway has some tips.

When choosing a pumpkin, pay attention to the weight. Shape and size matter less than weight. When carving a pumpkin, Conaway prefers a heavier pumpkin with thick walls.

“If you’re talking specifically about jack-o’-lanterns, you want the walls of the pumpkin to be especially thin so there’s less pumpkin to carve in order to shine your light in all the brightness you want,” Conaway said. “If you’re out in the pumpkin patch picking pumpkins and you find a lighter one, this is the one you want.”

Conaway keeps a variety of pumpkin carving tools from a black bag. He stresses the importance of having the right tools.

“The tools you can get off the shelf from Giant Eagle or Target with the booklet with the patterns in there, don’t undersell those kits because they’re awesome compared to a kitchen knife,” he said. -he declares.

“If you use a regular serrated blade from your kitchen, it’s not thick enough, but it’s thick enough that you have to push and pull so much into this pumpkin. And it’s a real knife that can open your finger But those little serrated blades that you get out of these kits are exceptionally fine.The serrated blade on these is perfect for cutting pumpkin easily and you’ll finish your pumpkin and be much less tired in the end.

For those who would rather not have to cut a pumpkin every fall, Conaway said there is an alternative.

“You can go to any local craft store and they sell foam pumpkins that you can always carve,” he said. “They are dug. So, at the end of the year, you can pack it away with the rest of your Halloween decorations. It does not rot. It lasts longer. If there’s anything about pumpkin carving that makes people sad, it’s that it’s temporary. They deteriorate and spoil. I like it to go wrong, and I can carve another one. (Foam Pumpkins) are for those who just want to set it and forget it.

For those who insist on carving a real pumpkin, Conaway has another recommendation.

“One mistake I run into with people and their jack-o’-lantern style pumpkins is that they’ll get this stencil from the book they picked up at the grocery store, and, sometimes, the designs are really intricate. Just keep in mind. mind the positioning of your knife,” he said.

“A big part of the reason these stencils don’t work the way people want them to is because they’re cutting around this stencil, but their tool is positioned incorrectly. They do a lot of different cutting angles and then you end up making a mistake and a piece falls out that shouldn’t or the light doesn’t pass through an area like it should.

Conaway said to make sure the handle of the knife is parallel to the ground. He refers to it as making straight cuts.

Another tool he recommends is something called a loop tool. It’s like a dull razor blade bent into a circle.

“What it does is scrape the inside walls of the pumpkin and get rid of all the guts. It doesn’t leave anything behind and you can also thin the walls of the pumpkin. Let’s say the walls are thick and the light doesn’t come through, you can make the walls thinner by just going inside and digging in as much as you want,” Conaway said.

Conaway highly recommends trying pumpkin carving. You might need more tools, but he said it was more fun.

“I’m able to carve a fairly complex three-dimensional pumpkin in about an hour,” he said. “If you want to get into pumpkin carving, be sure to check out the carving websites on the internet. Go sculpt specific websites to create the set (of tools) you want.

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