I hope you had a great All Hallow's Eve and filled your pails, pillow sacks, and treat bags with assorted goodies! I had a nice dinner with a grandmother and handed out treats at her place (occassionally sneaking a few for myself) as I have done in previous years. After the kids had stopped coming to the door, I helped her clean up and headed home to finally carve my 2004 Jack O' Lantern. I couldn't accomplish this earlier in the day, because when I went looking for a pumpkin, every major grocery store on the south side of Edmonton was apparently sold out. As I would discover later, the reason had something to do with pumpkins rotting in the growing fields and not being fit for sale. So what little they did have sold earlier in the week.
Not one to easily give up, I thought back to High School Art Class and how we created clay pumpkins for an assignment. As I recall, I was pleased with the way mine turned out (carved flames coming out of the tops of the eyes, nose, and mouth) but so was the art teacher. He asked to keep many of them and since he was such a nice guy, we couldn't refuse. However, today I knew I didn't have time to make a clay Jack O' Lantern, and I remembered reading about artificial 'Craft Pumpkins' in a flyer a week ago. These allow you to carve your design into a foam-based pumpkin and keep your art rather than throwing it out before it rots. So I drove over to a Michaels Arts and Crafts store to take a look.
Outside in front of the shop, they had a bin marked 50% off - even then, it seemed a bit overpriced for the quality - but I didn't want to miss out on one of my favorite Halloween activities. They also don't look as good as the ones available on the Funkins website, but those have to be ordered and would arrive 7-10 days after Halloween. Michaels had their pumpkins available here in the city. Another drawback is that there are seams visible on the outside and inside of the Michaels ones. If you're picky visually about such things, this can throw off the look of your Jack O' Lantern if not carved carefully.
Just as important to remember is that these artificial ones are flammable. That's right; don't put a candle or too-hot light source underneath, or you'll not only lose your Jack O' Lantern, but there's a good chance you could seriously burn yourself or your house down along with it. To light them up, you can buy ready-made craft lights that have lower-wattage, or use a glow stick such as the kind kids wear on Halloween.
There's almost no more thrilling sight on Halloween than Jack O' Lanterns. As if each one possesses a unique 'spirit', they glow magically, and manage to both invite and scare you off at the same time. Many people don't realize how long it takes to do a more intricate carving job and how much patience you must have. Thankfully I've done this a few times already so I knew I'd be at this one a while. Because the Craft Pumpkins aren't as easy to cut as one might think, I had to use not only my trusty Pumpkin Masters Carving Tools, but an X-Acto knife as well. Even with that, it was still not easy going through the foam. I think real pumpkins are actually easier to carve than this particular craft brand, but they still only last a week at best. I spent a total of about 6 hours on carving the Jack O' Lantern but I know it will last longer than a week.
As for the carving pattern, I'm a Pixar fan, so I thought I'd like to do one of their characters. With the upcoming release of The Incredibles, there was an opportunity to create a new Jack O' Lantern design - one that hadn't been seen before. I found an image of Mr. Incredible thanks to the wonderful Pixar blog, Luxo, and then proceeded to make it carveable by changing the image to black and white and refining details to make it a semi-rigid design. When I had achieved approximately the look I wanted, I printed out an inverted black and white image (making the pattern's black areas the ones to carve), attached it to the pumpkin with tape, and began the carving process.
Despite the quality of the Craft Pumpkin, and the time to complete the project, I think the final product turned out pretty cool. Now I just have to look for a low-wattage light socket base and I'll have a handcarved, reusable, electric pumpkin - unless I give it away of course. And I hope the folks at Pixar enjoy what I've done because like the kids collecting candy last night, I'm awaiting my treat in the form of their film, The Incredibles.