Carve first, scoop later — that's just one of the tips from Maniac Pumpkin Carvers Marc Evan and Chris Soria.
Based in Brooklyn, these professional illustrators switch to the medium of pumpkin during the month of October. They carve up hundreds of pumpkins each fall with intricate and elaborate designs. They sell for a few hundred dollars — and rarely end up on stoops. In fact, as often as not, they can be found on an album cover — or even in an ad from Tiffany's.
"We definitely treat it like any other high art," Evan said. "We specialize in really badass pumpkin carvings."
While your pumpkin may not look as slick as their's, Evan and Soria say there are simple steps you can take to make your jack-o-lantern standout from the rest.
First, find a pumpkin with skin that's an even color. Plus, pay attention to the stem — and don't use it as a handle.
"There's still nutrients in the stem, helping the pumpkin keep going," Evan said. "When that stem comes off, it's not good for your pumpkin."
Next tip: wash your pumpkin. It's important to have your pumpkin clean before carving, the pair say.
Then, make a plan. And draw it on the pumpkin before you even think about picking up a knife.
"Look at some scary images and then put it on the pumpkin," Evan said.
Soria says people should use a wide variety of tools. The Maniacs use everything from linoleum cutters metal loops, paring knives and even hand saws.
And the pair aren't just cutting out whole chunks of pumpkin. Often, they're merely removing the skin, or just part of the pumpkin flesh — rather than cutting all the way through.
But once the first cut is made, that pumpkin will start to decay. Generally, there's nothing that can be done to stop the process, but it can be slowed. The Maniacs spray the pumpkins with a mix of lemon juice and water while cutting, which helps prevent oxidation.
And once the design is complete, they seal it with some vegetable oil, or Vaseline.
Then, and only then, do they scoop out the pumpkin.
"Most people, when they carve their jack-o-lanterns, they cut the stem off, so it's not going to last as long," Soria said. "We actually cut the hole out of the back, instead."