Carving a Halloween niche

TUESDAY, OCT. 30, 2007

Curtis Wilkes has been carving pumpkins since he was a kid.

Sure, so have lots of people.

But this 31-year-old stay-at-home dad from Spokane takes his pumpkin carving seriously, spending several hours at a stretch on some of his intricate creations.

“When I was a kid, it was just kind of an artistic expression kind of a deal,” Wilkes says. “And then it just kind of grew from there. I’m not that great of an artist, but I can duplicate. I can duplicate images well.”

Most everybody has carved a smiling face or a scary scowl into a pumpkin. No pattern needed.

But what Wilkes and a growing group of serious pumpkin carvers do takes that idea to the next level.

Most rely on patterns – some of which are quite complex – which are affixed to the pumpkin. The carver then pokes holes all around the pattern, removes the paper and uses a small saw to cut through the holes, connecting the dots.

“My word of advice would be to start with patterns that are a bit simpler,” Wilkes says. “Some of the patterns, they look amazing, but you don’t realize it’ll take two to three hours, and a lot of people get overwhelmed.”

Wilkes, for example, gets his inspiration from comic book characters. He’s a big fan of the ghoulish Insane Clown Posse comics and often carves those images into pumpkins.

He also likes the Zombie Pumpkins Web site, where he shares ideas on the message boards with other carvers.

Even though his designs are complex, Wilkes relies on simple carving tools available most everywhere this time of year. Once he’s done with the carving using the pumpkin tools, he cleans up the cuts with an X-Acto knife.

This year, Wilkes has expanded his carving to foam pumpkins, available at craft stores.

Search online or go to a craft store and you’ll find no shortage of carving ideas and equipment. Cut out random geometric shapes for a stained-glass effect. Carve a moonlit scene, complete with a black cat and twinkling stars. Create words to spell a message.

“Just take your time,” Wilkes says. “Especially if you’re using those saws you get in the stores. They bend very easily … they will snap very easily.”

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