Oklahoma 'Halloween Wars' champion Daniel Miller shares pumpkin carving tips
A version of this story appears in the Sunday Life section of The Oklahoman. To read more of my interview with Daniel Miller about Food Network's "Halloween Wars," click here.
Oklahoma "Halloween Wars" champion Daniel Miller shares pumpkin carving tips
As Halloween celebrations become more elaborate, many people are looking to level up from the traditional jack-o-lantern and digging into three-dimensional pumpkin carving, which involves carving faces and forms into the surface of fall's favorite fruit.
Wilson artist Daniel Miller - the pumpkin carver on the winning team on Food Network's "Halloween Wars" Season 10 - shared some tips for people wanting to try their hand at 3-D pumpkin carving:
1. Heavier is better: The heavier the pumpkin for its size, the thicker its walls - and that's a good thing because you don't want to cut through when you're 3-D carving. Try taking different pumpkins approximately the same size and weigh them in your hands.
"When you're doing the 3-D carving, the biggest thing you face is them dying out. So, if you don't penetrate all the way through, it doesn't dry as fast, and you'll get about a week and a half out of it," Miller said.
"I struggled with this on the first four or five pumpkins. You just think any old pumpkin is a (good) pumpkin. That is not true."
2. Go for green: Make sure the stem of your pumpkin still has pretty bright green on it, because means it's a fresher pumpkin.
"The older a pumpkin is, the more it starts to peel out like a spaghetti squash or crumble, and that's bad for business," Miller said.
3. Get weird: If your goal is to make a creepy carving for Halloween, pretty round pumpkins probably aren't your best bet.
"The perfect round pumpkins, I try to stay away from," Miller said. "The weird-looking ones with the knots on them or the caved-in spots, the ugly pumpkins, make the best pumpkins if you're carving it. You're going to get a round face out of a regular one - which is fine, you can do some cool faces - but if you want a gnarly one or something, it's better to have a weird-looking pumpkin."
4. The right tools for the job: For 3-D carving, Miller recommends heading to an art supply store for tools used by clay sculptors, rather than using the packaged pumpkin tool kit found in grocery and big-box stores.
"Those are great if you're gonna do a regular jack-o-lantern style. But if you're gonna do a 3-D carve, it's the ribbon loops," he said.
5. Go to the video: Aspiring carvers can find plenty of instructional videos or demonstration clips of elite artists - like Miller's inspiration, "Halloween Wars" Season 1 contender Ray Villafane - on the internet.
6. Practice, practice, practice: "I've got a background in art, and it took me like nine pumpkins to get one that I wasn't scared to show people," Miller said.
Like any other artistic pursuit, pumpkin carving takes practice, but the good news is that it's Halloween, so even frightful failures could potentially become appropriately eerie decor.