Another great Fall season of jack o'lanterns has come and gone. In this, my 4th year, I was able to create a grand total of 18 of these pumpkins this year from September to end of October. If you jump over to my 'Pumpkins' tab on the menu bar, you can see many of these.
A little background (taken from the Louisville Jack O'Lantern Spectacular's About page):
"The Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular began in Oxford, Massachusetts in 1988. It’s entertainment for the entire family. The Louisville event, October 12– November 5, will be held in Iroquois Park with 5,000 carved pumpkins lining a ¼-mile walking trail, illuminated at night as an “art show” daily from dusk to 11 p.m. during the week (Sunday-Thursday) and midnight on Friday & Saturday."
Many people ask how I got involved with this. The answer is that I was browsing the Art/Design job section of Craiglist (always a bit scary), and discovered a post that was looking for local artists to hire to come be a part of this at their pumpkin studio at Iroquois Amphitheatre. I thought, "let's just see what this is all about", and sent them my portfolio. Before I knew it, I was drawing and carving on massive pumpkins in a great Fall/Halloween themed theatrical visual art event that I look forward to every year. There are about 140ish intricate pumpkins on the trail, and almost 5,000 other jack o'lanterns lining the trail and up in the trees. Each year comes with a new overall theme, with the trail then being broken down into small sections or "skits" that fit within the overall theme. People come from all over Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, and even further to see our work.
Another question I get asked a lot is how long these take to make. This always depends on the size of the pumpkin "canvas", and the intricacy of the work that is to go on it. My fastest pumpkin was probably this enormous sea turtle I made this year, my attempt at turning a large, flat pumpkin into the illusion of a giant sea turtle. It took probably about 5 hours to draw, and then about 2 hours to carve. I think the one that took me the longest was from 2015, a Hobbit themed pumpkin depicting the scene of the Unexpected Party, where the dwarves and Gandalf show up at Bilbo Baggins house and a large feast ensues. I spent days drawing, and all the food was particularly tedious to figure out. The carving went slightly faster. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't especially cooperative that year, and that pumpkin only lasted 3 days on the trial before it died, which really hurt. Which brings me to the next combo question I am often asked...
"Is there any way to preserve them? It's a shame to do all that work for something that is so temporary!" With good, dry weather, cool temperatures, and few squirrels, these will sometimes last 3-4 weeks at most. That is with scraping out mold, spraying with different things, etc. I suppose in theory you could attempt to permanently preserve these, but I'm not sure that it would work.
As far as it being so much work to create such a beautiful but temporary thing, to me it's part of the beauty and appeal of it. It's the ephemeral, fleeting nature of these that adds a level of thought-provoking beauty. These are living canvases with a life, a very short one. The artists spend hours and days making something wondrous and amazing, only to watch it slowly (sometimes quickly) whither away. It's sort of reflective of our own lives and the reality of life in general. We have such a brief moment to make a difference, do big things in our own ways before we start to whither and pass on. It's interesting to make art that is not permanent, that has a life of its own, and that exists in time. Of course it's always sad to see them go, but it's fantastic and awe-inspiring when you've worked hours and finally see them lit, and see the reactions of the thousands of people come from near and far for a glimpse.
Amie Villiger Harris