It’s late October which means there’s a lot of spiders (both fake and real), cardboard skeletons, lots and lots of webbing (seriously, drive around town and you’ll know what I’m talking about) and pumpkins with menacing faces carved in them.
If you stop and look at those jack o’ lanterns you’ll usually see the standard imprint of triangle eyes and Jaws-like teeth. It’s a Halloween staple, but what about those ambitious pumpkins you see every once in a while? You know, the conjoined twins pumpkins, flaming head pumpkins or radioactive pumpkins. Wait, you’ve never seen those before? Then you’ve never seen Tom Nardone’s work.
Tom has written three best-selling books on pumpkin carving and he has appeared on shows like Conan, Regis and Kelly and the History and Travel Channels. This week he happened to tape The Queen Latifah Show unveiling his latest pumpkin creations, but he also found time to speak to EDN about his unusual, yet fantastic and somewhat artistic hobby and why it gives him so much joy.
So what’s the origins of Tom Nardone: Extreme pumpkin carver? Where did it start?
Well, about 14 years ago I moved into this neighborhood where there were hundreds of kids trick or treating. It was the first safe neighborhood outside of Detroit so people that lived in the city would pile their kids in a minivan and come to our neighborhood. So Halloween was just a ton of fun. It was kind of like a block party and I didn’t have any decorations or anything, but what I did have were power tools and I liked to light things on fire so I came up with ways to carve pumpkins with power tools and lighting them on fire.
It snowballed from there and eventually I made a website about it and I started making appearances on TV every Halloween and then I did one on CNN which lasted like the whole evening and the day after that I got offered a book deal. So then I wrote a book and then I had a publicist behind the book and they had me go to different talk shows.
Are there any creations that you’re particularly proud of?
Well you’ve probably seen the puking pumpkin before? I invented that. I created the first ever puking pumpkin. A lot of the pumpkins that I’ve created, over the years, have become ubiquitous, they’re everywhere. The website is extremely popular and I think that a lot of the ideas I come up with just continually expand every year.
This year I invented one that uses cheetos for hair and the other is a mummy that is just made by wrapping a jack o’ lantern in hockey tape so they’re real simple but I end up seeing them in more and more places.
What’s the key to making a great pumpkin? Is one born with pumpkin-carving abilities or is it just as simple as being creative and imaginative?
I think a lot of times it’s just one prop that makes the whole thing. The one prop makes it pop! You just have to have the right sort of accessory to go with it. Whether it’s a dog bone or a nail or tape, something like that. Usually it’s something you have around the house or you can find at the store.
It looks like you’re beyond just using simple pumpkin-carving instruments. There’s power tools and chainsaws involved. Is there one tool that is most effective?
I probably use a cordless jigsaw more than anything else. You can use a pumpkin-carving tool but for me the jigsaw speeds up the process so it’s the one tool that’s most effective.
Is it safe to say October is your favorite month of the year?
It used to be before I wasn’t so busy. No, it’s safe to say Halloween is my favorite holiday for sure.
What hasn’t Tom Nardone accomplished in the world of pumpkin carving?
Someone had contacted me about breaking some world records next year. There’s the fastest pumpkin carve and I think the record stands at like 26 seconds, but a few years ago I did one in 10 seconds on Good Morning America so I’m pretty sure I can break that. And then there’s the fastest time to carve a ton of pumpkins which was some really high number like three hours and then there was the most pumpkins carved in an hour. So someone was talking about doing a publicity event where I could break all three records in one shot.
Is there anything you won’t do to a pumpkin?
I’m not really into blowing them up. Everybody asks me, ‘why don’t you just blow one up,’ well what’s the point, you don’t end up with anything once you’re done. I’m trying different tools, some don’t work and some do.
Did you ever imagine that this hobby would lead to best-selling books and appearances on shows like Conan and Good Morning America?
No, nothing like that. It’s really funny to be on these shows because you sort of create and write a segment and it’s a really fast, really high-profile, really intense project that you have to put together and I like that about it. And then November 1 comes and I can just leave it behind completely.
What do you do with all those pumpkins after Halloween?
The funny thing is I carve very few from my house. I think there’s one on my porch right now. But I carve them for everybody else and then just leave them behind. I just carve em and leave em.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to a novice pumpkin-carver?
A lot of it has to do with picking the right pumpkin. Pick an ugly pumpkin and pick one that is taller than it is wide because that’s the proportions of the human head. If you try to work with a pumpkin that is short and small it’s just not going to work out for you because you can’t make it look like a head so that would be my advice.