No Halloween is complete without a peek at American sculptor and artist Ray Villafane’s masterpieces. Since 2015, the two-time winner of Food Network’s Outrageous Pumpkins has been impressing visitors to Carefree, Arizona’s Enchanted Pumpkin Garden with his extraordinary 3-D pumpkin sculptures. This year was no exception.
Villafane and his team arrived at the beautiful Carefree Gardens in early October to get their creations ready for the 10-day free event that took place from October 20 to 29. By the time the visitors started pouring in, the spooky fruits were climbing tree houses, frolicking on rope swings, and even reading newspapers.
While these were certainly impressive, even more so were the “pickled” 3D carvings. Placed inside sculpted saguaro cacti to blend in with the environment, each masterpiece was steeped in a special solution that will allow the carving to last for over a year! Young visitors to the Enchanted Pumpkin Garden also had the opportunity to showcase their carving skills and obtain tips from Villafane and his team.
The highlight of the festival, however, came on Saturday October 27, when the world-renowned carver and his crew transformed a colossal 672-pound pumpkin into a spooktacular ghoul in front of a live audience. While the pumpkins were the star attraction, the festival also featured other fun activities like pie eating contests, story-telling by witches and warlocks, pumpkin arts and crafts, and face painting.
Villafane’s carving skills first surfaced in 1993 after he sculpted a pumpkin for his high-school students during Halloween. The art teacher became so inundated with requests that he began selling his creations to neighborhood hotels and restaurants. In 2004, Villafane put his artistic skills to work on action figures for Marvel Comics. His "practice" design of X-Men's Wolverine as Logan, was so good it was immediately put into production. Over the next two years, the artist designed many toy prototypes, including, Sabretooth, Magneto, and The Punisher. In 2006, Villafane gave up his teaching job and went to work for DC Comics, where he remained till 2010, before leaving to pursue his true passion – pumpkin carving. The maestro has since sculpted over 2,500 gourds in 102 cities around the world.
Villafane, who uses basic carving tools for even the most intricate creations, says the key to success is selecting the right fruit. The expert recommends seeking out one that is big and heavy so that there is enough flesh for sculpting. He also prefers pumpkins with lines and curves because they help add character to his creations.
Resources: carefreepumpkingarden.com, villafanestudios.com, wikipedia.org