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Ray Villafane has an extremely cool daytime job. He is a toy sculptor, who creates life-like figures of Spiderman, Ironman, Incredible Hulk and other cool characters. However, during Halloween he turns his attention to something even cooler - carving pumpkins - and we are not talking ordinary Jack-O-Lanterns, but real scary lifelike 3-D creations that take the art to a whole new level.
Ray's interest in carving began when he was working as a teacher at a Michigan school. Faced with a pumpkin carving project one Halloween, he decided to tackle it like he was molding a sculpture out of clay, rather than carving a vegetable.
While Ray thought it turned out okay, the kids loved it so much that they kept bringing in pumpkins for him to carve.
Since then, Ray has honed his pumpkin carving talents and become so good, that he recently won Food Network's Pumpkin Carving Challenge, where he dominated all three categories - traditional Jack-O-Lantern, 3D Sculpture and Freestyle.
Ray, who lives with his wife and six children in Bellaire, Michigan, uses only simple pumpkin carving tools to create these masterpieces, which take an average of two hours each.
His most elaborate work-to-date is The Predator (see photo below), which took him most of the day to complete. Ray uses his imagination for most of his work, however, if the project is something extra special like the one of Presidential candidate, Mr. Barack Obama, he is extra careful and uses five or six images to ensure he get the right details.
Ray is currently working on writing a comprehensive guide and producing a video on how to create such masterpieces, but incase you feel inspired right now, here are a few tips from the maestro. Buy heavier pumpkins, because the extra flesh provides more material to sculpt. Don't buy perfectly round pumpkins with smooth skins - it's the gnarls and the knobs that help add character.
Happy carving! If you need more inspiration to create your masterpiece(s), check out Ray's website at http://www.villafanestudios.com.