It should come as no surprise that a main theme at Dollywood during the Great Pumpkin LumiNights is in fact – pumpkins! Plain, carved or as part of a massive sculpture, you can find them everywhere throughout Timber Canyon and Wilderness Pass during the Harvest Festival.
In keeping with that theme, Dollywood invited artists from Maniac Pumpkin Carvers to showcase their handiwork at the Pumpkin Carving exhibit. Every day, pumpkin artists will be in Timber Canyon from 1-9 p.m. doing live demonstrations in the art of pumpkin carving.
Maniac Pumpkin Carvers is based in New York and has had their pumpkins on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art for six years. They’ve also competed on Food Network’s Halloween Wars and appeared live on Good Morning America among other TV appearances.
I had the opportunity to ask Chris Soria, co-founder of Maniac Pumpkin Carvers, for some of his best tips and tricks for carving awesome pumpkins this Halloween.
Being Invited to Dollywood
Sarah: What was it like hearing that Dollywood wanted to showcase your work in Great Pumpkin LumiNights?
Chris: We were very excited to be invited to carve at Dollywood. The theme park is full of subject matter. The Smoky Mountains are a beautiful and inspiring place to carve, and Dollywood is a fun place to make pumpkin art at with all its rides, attractions, and artwork.
Start with the Right Canvas
S: What do you look for in “good” carving pumpkins?
C: We look for pumpkins with healthy stems and healthy skin. The stem of a pumpkin is a good indicator of the health of the pumpkin. We carve pumpkins of all shapes and sizes though.
When to Carve
S: How soon before Halloween should you carve pumpkins to keep them looking good on the big day?
C: Carved pumpkins can last about 4-8 days. They’ll last longer if you refrigerate them when not on display.
What to Carve
S: What are some good starter designs?
C: Some good designs to start with may be silhouettes of things like animals or objects. Try carving something consisting of simple shapes and then move on to capturing more detail with later pumpkins.
Tools of the Trade
S: What tools do you suggest for beginning carvers?
C: We mostly use sculpting tools such as clay loops and printmaking tools such as linoleum cutters. These are fairly common tools that can be found at most art stores.
S: What are some mistakes beginners can/should avoid?
C: It’s helpful to sketch out your design first with a washable marker or crayon. This way you have something to work with rather than carving from scratch.
I’d like to thank Chris Soria of Maniac Pumpkin Carvers for taking time to share his tips and tricks in the art of pumpkin carving with me and the Dollywood Insiders blog. Be sure to stop by the Pumpkin Carving station in Timber Canyon and browse through the display of pumpkin creations. Artists will be there carving from 1–9 p.m. every day of the Harvest Festival now through October 28.