Maniac Pumpkin Carvers started out as a labor of love but quickly spiraled into something that is so much more. Founders, Marc Evan, and Chris Soria have been collaborating for over 20 years, creating all manner of artistic wonders.
Name: Maniac Pumpkin Carvers
Location: Brooklyn, NYC
Favorite Product at A&C: Lino Blades
It's pumpkin picking season! We couldn't think of a better time to introduce you to Maniac Pumpkin Carvers. Keep reading to learn more about the incredibly talented artists of Maniac Pumpkin Carvers. Maniac Pumpkins have been displayed at The Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, and Yankee Stadium. Appearances have included Good Morning America, Rachael Ray, The Kitchen, The Chew, Martha Stewart, Wired, Popular Mechanics, Yahoo News, CNN, and more. Each year they continue to elevate the art of pumpkin carving. Winner of Food Network's Halloween Wars, they have impressed viewers worldwide, with their carving skills and talents.
Artist & Craftsman Supply: Who are you and what do you do?
Maniac Pumpkin Carvers: We are Maniac Pumpkin Carvers. We are a full creative studio that specializes in elaborate pumpkin art. ManiacPumpkins.com was started 10 years ago by childhood friends, Chris Soria, and Marc Evan. We are professional artists specializing in large-scale murals, illustration, and fine arts, but each fall we get a pop-up studio somewhere in Brooklyn and set up our Maniac HQ as we settle into our roles as professional pumpkin carvers. It’s been incredible taking what started as a passion project to new heights each year and developing it into a brand with worldwide recognition. Our clients include The Museum of Modern Art, Disney, Marvel, Google, MTV, The Walking Dead... to name a few!
A&C: Do you have a favorite design you’ve carved on a pumpkin?
MPC: It’s always hard to pick favorites. We have worked with so many incredible clients over the years. Some highlights are the annual pumpkins that we create for MoMA. We intensely study and then recreate a work of art either in their collection or on special exhibition in October. Some examples include works by van Gogh, Dali, Munch, Matisse, and Picasso. Getting hired by companies like Marvel and Disney to carve their characters has been a dream come true.
Getting to play with artwork based on some of our favorite contemporary artists has also been a blast. We’ve carved pumpkins for some of our favorites, including Alex Grey, Tara Mcpherson, Alex Pardee, and more. It’s always an incredible learning experience to do a study of a beautiful work of art in another medium. It becomes an opportunity for us to push the limits of what we thought was possible in regard to detail, depth, realism, and value.
A&C: What’s the biggest pumpkin you’ve carved?
MPC: The biggest pumpkin we’ve carved was over 1800 pounds. It was carved for an event at Grand Central Station and then moved to New York Botanical Gardens. For the past 7 years, we have carved a pumpkin in the 800-1000-pound range for Luna Park, Coney Island. Giant pumpkins are always showstoppers. Last year, Marc and Chris teamed up at Luna Park to create an epic skeleton pirate that took the two of us and another helper all day (and into the night) to carve. This giant pumpkin was instantly one of our favorite carvings we’ve made over the years. And our original design was so popular that someone even got it tattooed as a full back piece!
A&C: What types of tools do you use to create your designs? How many injuries have you sustained during pumpkin carving season?
MPC: Our toolboxes are a hodgepodge of items sourced from hardware stores, kitchen supply places, and Artist & Craftsman Supply. Some of our favorite tools for pumpkin carving include the Kemper ribbon loops, lino cutters, X-Acto blades, and woodcarving gouges and chisels. The only pumpkin specific item that we consistently use are the little orange scoops that come in the classic Pumpkin Masters toolkit.
We’ve gotten better at protecting ourselves from injuries over the years. Carpal tunnel, muscle cramps, sore backs, and other repetitive stress issues are a bigger concern for us, rather than the knife related injuries you might expect. That said, accidents do happen, even if it's infrequent. We keep a little crazy glue in each tool bag and first aid kit. It’s painful but a dab of that glue has been known to close up wounds on the fly, so we can keep on carving. Crazy glue is also surprisingly effective at bonding pumpkin, so it has multiple uses. We don’t recommend getting in on your skin though.
A&C: What is the most popular design you get asked to carve? What's the strangest thing someone has commissioned you to carve?
MPC: Classic Halloween designs like our haunted house or vintage-style witches are always popular. We’ve also carved Munch’s Scream and van Gogh’s Starry Night many times over the years. Wedding and proposal pumpkins are always fun requests that we do many of each year. We should probably keep it PG and not say what the strangest pumpkins we’ve been asked to carve are. Let your imagination run wild... We’ve received some really weird requests. Actually, we used to think it was strange that big brands wanted us to carve classic jack-o'-lanterns (triangle eyes and nose). We thought we were a little overqualified. But now the classic jack-o'-lantern has become one of our favorite things to do. There’s often beauty to be found in simplicity.
A&C: How does the carving process start? Do you know what you are going to create before you pick the pumpkin or does the pumpkin call the shots on the design?
MPC: We typically start with a design and find the perfect pumpkin to use as a canvas for that image. Sometimes with more sculptural works, oddly shaped pumpkins will inspire faces and creatures that we may not have anticipated. So much of our work is very client specific, so there are often some rounds of design approval before we can get to the fun part, which is the carving. Once the design is approved, we sketch it out onto the pumpkin and dive in.
A&C: Do you prefer to smash pumpkins when a design is not going your way or turning them into food and eating them out of spite?
MPC: We have sliced, smashed, chopped, and dropped some pumpkins, but it’s never out of spite. When we are having trouble with a design it's more likely that we try to come at it from a different angle rather than trash it and start over. You can usually carve a little deeper to try and correct a small mistake. And a little crazy glue can sometimes help fix a piece of pumpkin back in place if it got mistakenly removed. Like many other forms of art, the carvings can go through an ugly stage that you have to push through to get back to that point of being satisfied with the work. It really is rare that we make a mistake that would require starting over. If we do have to scrap a pumpkin that’s been started it is usually because a flaw in the pumpkin was discovered during the carving process.
A&C: What other weird things have you tried to carve?
MPC: We’ve carved apples, potatoes, melons, avocados, citrus and more. Maybe someday we will actually carve some wood or other material that’s actually meant to last more than a few days.
A&C: What can’t you leave A&C without buying?
MPC: We can’t go through A&C without grabbing a few lino blades, pens, brushes, double-sided tape, or Caran D’ache Supracolor Pencils. We are addicted to art supplies.
A&C: What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given (not necessarily art related)?
MPC: “This is the real secret of life— to be completely engaged in what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” —Alan Watts
A&C: What is your go-to album/artist right now (in the studio)?
MPC: We actually tend to listen to a lot more podcasts than music. The Joe Rogan Experience is one of our favorites. His long-form interviews are typically 2-3 hours of in-depth conversations that range from very funny to educational and extremely inspirational. Guests include scientists, artists, comedians, athletes, and other people with interesting stories to tell. Not for young listeners or those easily offended though.
A&C: What is your favorite place to visit where you live?
MPC: We are based in New York City and there is inspiration all around us. We love going to sketch at the various museums to get inspired. The Union Square Greenmarket is also an amazing place to visit. We’ve been carving pumpkins there since very early in the Maniac Pumpkins history. That’s where we became friends with several of our pumpkin growers. It’s also a place where we get our food. I take my family every Saturday and its kind of like going to church for us. It’s a really special place. Brooklyn Bridge, Coney Island, The Met, The Bushwick Collective, Williamsburg, The Lower East Side, and Prospect Park are just a few of our favorite spots to visit and wonder and recharge our creative juices
We really put our heart and soul into our work. Pumpkin carving is an ephemeral art form. Using a highly perishable medium to create our art, means accepting that it is not going to last. The final product is going to rapidly decay, rot, or decompose. It's degrading even as you are working. But we love the process. It’s very meditative and Zen. We spend many long hours creating each pumpkin, knowing that they will be enjoyed by others for the brief time that they exist. Each one is like a stunning snowflake about to melt. Its beauty is fleeting. But the memories are worth holding onto. It’s a lot like life in that respect.