In classic October Americana form, I spent my Sunday evening carving a pumpkin I had picked out from a local pumpkin patch. I sawed out two triangles for the eyes and tooth picked them to my pumpkin’s head to make a Cat-O-Lantern. I thought I was being creative. That is, until I met Pam Leno, an amazing pumpkin sculptor in Lake Stevens.
“It’s gotten me on the Martha Stewart show. When Sharon Osborne had her talk show, we were on there with Ozzy [Osborn] on Halloween, which was a little bizarre. I carved at the White House. Two specials on the Food Network. It’s been incredibly crazy!”
That’s right, she said the White House.
“It was really fun because we pull up in this black Escalade, so we look really cool, and we’re all in costume and there’s bags of pumpkins carved in the back. So they do what ever search they do with the dogs and we just drove up the driveway and carved pumpkins right in the front of the White House! We got to go inside and it was really cool.”
Surprisingly, she didn’t use my kitty cat carving technique.
“I did one mummy that was coming out of the pumpkin. There were spider webs stuck on the sides that were actually all carved out of pumpkin and little bats flying through the top. Then I did a couple of really great faces. One of them had fingers busting out of the pumpkin, like he’s trying to get out of the pumpkin.”
Pam has her own special technique which is more of a scraping than an actual carving.
“So many people were asking me ‘How do you do that?’ So a friend of mine and I produced a how-to DVD, so it literally takes you pumpkin 2 from the pumpkin patch to bringing the pumpkin home to how to start. The tools you need are included because this is a different way of sculpting. In most cases you don’t cut all the way through. It’s actually a scraping.”
And the scraping allows her to do detailed faces, like the one she just did of a famous face.
“The Kim Kardashian pumpkin that I did for People magazine was really quite difficult because it needed to look somewhat like her. It was really hard! I even had to give her a nose job! It [the nose] came from the back of the pumpkin, I cut it out of the back and, with my super secret knowledge, added it to the front.”
She even shredded some pumpkin skin to use as eyelashes and says a detailed face could take up to seven hours. Being a professional pumpkin sculptor, Pam has dug up a little bit of history on the tradition.
“Carving pumpkins started with turnips and it was a Celtic tradition. They used coal in the bottom of the turnips and it was all about keeping the bad spirits away and welcoming the good spirits in. There was a character called ‘Stingy Jack’ and he made deals with heaven and hell, so when he died no one would let him in. So the spirit was forced to walk around and that’s when the jack-o-lantern with the face came into play. People created this face to keep him away, so if there was a lighted face his spirit couldn’t come into their homes.”
Pam’s pumpkin sculpting career only lasts about a month each year but she’s managed to carve herself a nice little niche. (See what I did there?!) Click here to order her DVD and carving kit and see videos and photos of Pam’s creations.