Before you carve your Halloween jack-o’-lanterns, take some inspiration from two guys who have turned pumpkin carving into a true form of art. Marc Evan and Chris Soria are the duo behind Maniac Pumpkin Carvers, a full art studio that specializes in all things pumpkins. Whether they’re carving custom pumpkins for Halloween parties or performing live demos, Marc and Chris create some of the most elaborate designs we’ve ever seen — forget the triangle eyes and toothy grin. They have even carved pumpkins inspired by their favorite classic art pieces (think Van Gogh’s Starry Night).
We talked to Marc and Chris to learn all about how they discovered pumpkin carving, some of their favorite creations, and their best tips for beginners. Read on, grab some tools, and get carving!
Tell us about your team. What are your backgrounds?
Maniac Pumpkin Carvers was founded by Chris Soria and Marc Evan. These two artists combined their illustration and sculpting skills with their love of Halloween to create Maniac Pumpkin Carvers LLC, a company specializing in custom pumpkin art. Their carvings and demonstrations are world renowned and continue to push the boundaries of this exciting art medium.
How did Maniac Pumpkin Carvers come about?
Chris and Marc are both artists and childhood friends who love all the things about Halloween, horror, and geek culture. They started out carving pumpkins and producing haunted houses while still in high school. They both studied illustration at Parsons School of Design in New York City. During college, the duo began experimenting with elaborate pumpkin carvings. Soon after, they were contacted by Wired.com and their pumpkins were thrust into the spotlight. Maniac Pumpkin Carvers was born.
How have you grown over the years?
Maniac started out as a hobby — just two friends carving pumpkins out of our apartments for small businesses. Now we have a full seasonal staff, including project managers, event planners, and interns. We ship pumpkins all over the country, get flown around to carve at events throughout the fall season, and, most importantly, have helped to establish pumpkin carving as a art.
What do you love about working with pumpkins, as compared to other types of art?
There is something magical about freshly carved pumpkins. Yes, they will decompose, but that makes it even more special knowing that it will only be around for a short time. A true limited edition that captures the imagination and creates a unique experience.
What are some of your favorite pumpkins you’ve carved over the years?
So many favorites, but a few at the top of the list include our renditions of famous works of art like Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Munch’s Scream pumpkins that we have done for the Museum of Modern Art. We have also replicated many of our favorite album covers, tons of great monsters and zombies, including pumpkins for AMC’s Walking Dead, and fantastic pumpkins for Food Network, Martha Stewart, and so many more.
What about your most memorable events?
Chris competed on the first season of Halloween Wars, which was really fun to watch. In 2012, Marc competed on the show and was a part of the winning team, Dead Men Walking! This year, we have events coming up on the 17th and 18th with New York Botanical Gardens, and on October 26th we have big events at Coney Island and also in Ottawa, Canada.
Tell us about competing on Halloween Wars on the Food Network. What did you take away from that experience?
Being a part of such a high-profile competition is certainly exciting, but the stress of competing at that level can take its toll. The key to success on a show like Halloween Wars is not just creativity or skill, but teamwork. The skill level and artistry of all the competitors forces such a high level of competition. Marc and Chris were both fortunate to work with and compete against fantastic artists, who helped to push our creativity and output to the next level.
What do you look for in a pumpkin you’re going to carve? Any tips for people hunting for the best pumpkin at the patch?
Look for pumpkins with the stems still attached and never ever lift by the stem. Thats your pumpkins lifeline. Protect those stems! Also, look for pumpkins that look plump and have a skin that is free of any soft spots or insect damage.
Walk us through your process when you’re carving a pumpkin. How do you plan/prep/go about it?
We like to do a lot of research, including preparatory sketches. Once we are ready to carve, we clean the pumpkin, then draw out the design onto the pumpkin. Then we get right into the carving. The process changes a bit for each design.
What are some of your best tips for amateur pumpkin carvers?
Our best tips are to have a plan and draw out your design first. When etching, it’s important to use sharp tools and always keep the blades moving away from your body to avoid injury. Keep a first aid kit and fire extinguisher nearby. Accidents are a good way to ruin Halloween. Go slow and, most importantly, have fun!!!
Any easy ways to pull off an impressive design?
It should be fun, not necessarily easy. Practice. If you only carve something once a year, it’s probably not going to be easy.
What suggestions do you have for people looking to take their Halloween jack-o-lanterns to the next level? New techniques to try, etc?
Experiment with different tools you may have around the house. Peelers, zesters, graters, rasps, nails, etc. can all be used for interesting techniques and textures. Experiment and have fun.
See more creative designs from Maniac Pumpkin Carvers: