Carving pumpkins for Halloween has got to be one of my favorite traditions. Growing up, I always put a lot of thought into exactly what design (almost always a face) I would choose. It’s probably a good thing that Pinterest wasn’t around back then, because I’d be contemplating my options for hours!
Recently I’ve been seeing more and more Otomi-inspired textiles online, and I was curious to learn more about its history. Otomi textiles began as embroidered fabric in central Mexico, in which silhouettes of animals and plants were embroidered with a satin stitch onto fabric, often in bright colors. It’s possible that the traditional designs were inspired by prehistoric cave paintings, but experts can’t be certain. Do an online image search and you’ll see pages and pages of beautiful, traditional Otomi textiles and more recent Otomi-inspired prints. I decided this would be the perfect inspiration for my pumpkin carving this year — click through to see more photos and instructions!
-Black fine-tip marker
-Pumpkin carving set (or knife)
Step 1: Hold a piece of paper up to the front of your pumpkin and use a pencil to trace a rough circle for your design. Fold the paper in half and sketch our your Otomi-inspired design — an image search is super useful for great inspiration. If you want a symmetrical look like mine, only draw on one half for now, outlining your design in black marker when you’re happy with it.
Step 2: Fold the paper in half again and the black marker design should be visible through the paper. Trace this in pencil or marker to complete the design.
Step 3: Prepare your pumpkin to be a jack-o-lantern the usual way — cut a lid on the top and remove the pumpkin seeds and stringy bits inside. Tape the design onto the front of the pumpkin.
Step 4: Use the poker tool in the pumpkin carving set to poke dots along the lines of your design. (You can use a thumbtack for this step, too.)
Step 5: Once done poking through the entire design, remove the paper and set to the side for reference. At first glance, the dots on your pumpkin don’t look like much at all, but use your paper design for reference and you will be able to connect the dots. Use the linoleum cutter to carve into the skin to form the basic shapes.
Step 6: Continue carving away with the linoleum cutter. Once you get going, it’s super satisfying to see the progress! It’s a good idea to put a candle/flashlight inside at this point to check that your design is deep enough to let light shine through. I ended up going back and carving my design a bit deeper, and also using a fork to scrape away extra pumpkin flesh from the inside.
Step 7: Use your poker tool to add details like eyes onto your design. If you’re planning on using real candles inside the pumpkin, you’ll also have to carve a few air holes in the back/top so that the candles stay lit. Battery-operated candles or flashlights are a good alternative too!