All it takes is faith and trust… and just a little bit of pixie dust.
That’s what Peter said to Wendy and her brothers 64 years ago in my favourite Disney classic, “Peter Pan”. In order to fly, all the children needed to do was think of a wonderful thing and get a little sprinkle of magic pixie dust from Tinkerbell.
Leave it to me to find a way to take arguably the most girly thing ever and spookify it, eh? I try hard, guys, I really do.
Last year, a friend sent me the following image of a Tinkerbell jack-o-lantern and suggested that I needed to make one.
Yes, I’m a bit of a Tinkerbell fan (despite the fact that Tink hated the Wendy in “Peter Pan”!), and when I saw this, I definitely wanted one. And I’ll be honest: It was that “glittering” trail of pixie dust that really sold me on this.
Here, let me go ahead and post the money shot straight away because this is going to be a long and detailed tutorial post and I’d hate you to bail in the first 500 words without realizing there’s a spooktacular Halloween jack-o-lantern photo shoot gallery waiting for you at the end. So do be sure to at least scroll all the way to the bottom!
I have only carved one pumpkin in my whole life — the one mentioned in a previous post, “Fangs for the Mummeries“. So… not super skilled at this!
Obviously, the above photo is of a phony pumpkin, not a real one. Which is such a fantastic idea! If you’re going to go to all that work carving a cool and intricate design, then why not do it on something that you don’t have to throw away in a few weeks?
So this year, I was determined to make myself the Tinkerbell jack-o-lantern. As soon as the fall/Halloween decorations hit store shelves, I was creeping them looking for a nice blank pumpkin….. which of course could not be found in my dinky little town.
But one two-hour trip south to the nearest Michaels arts and crafts store and problem solved.
This nice little 9″ craft pumpkin was the perfect size. It was tagged at a steep $23.99, but all the pumpkins were already 50% off by September 23rd when I visited, so I got it for $11.99! #BargainHunter
Once I’d purchased a pumpkin, the first order of business was to make the stencil. I found an image of Tinkerbell in the pose I wanted, cleaned it up, formatted and sized it, and printed it out.
Orientation was pretty important for this particular design. I wanted her standing straight up and down, so I took my time placing the stencil.
I quickly realized that because the pumpkin is round, I’d have to cut the corners of the stencil in order to make it lay as flat as possible. I wasn’t sure how deep the cuts would need to be, so I started shallow and adjusted as needed.
Once the corners were cut in, I was able to overlap some of the extra paper and the stencil ended up surprisingly flush with the surface of the pumpkin.
Tip: I would highly recommend using some sort of painter’s tape to affix the template to the pumpkin. I stuck a piece of Scotch tape on there to start with and it stuck TOO well. Remember, these pumpkins are already painted, and you don’t want to risk pulling any of that orange finish off. Also, the Scotch tape left behind little bits of glue. So invest in some blue painter’s tape!
Next, I did the step I should have started with: Testing out tools for actually cutting this phony pumpkin.
I had hoped to find one that was more hard plastic than foam, and this little guy proved to be more difficult to work with than I anticipated.
Since I needed a hole in the bottom of my pumpkin anyway (to put a light inside when finished), that’s where I did my experimenting.
I used a variety of tools to see what would be most effective and precise — push pin, garment pins, sewing needle, exacto knife with a variety of tips, utility knife, as well as some general pick tools. It was apparent immediately that simply “cutting” the pumpkin wasn’t going to work very well.
It is a foam pumpkin and was much thicker than I was expecting (3/4″), and the walls are actually soft and frazzy like cheap packing styrofoam. I finally hacked out the round that I wanted to remove using a combination of the knives mentioned above.
It was a disappointing exercise, but I did find that the garment pins were small and sharp enough to be the perfect way to transfer the Tinkerbell image to the pumpkin.
I very carefully “picked” my way around the entire outline using the pin, pressing just hard enough to penetrate the paper and leave a visible indent in the pumpkin.
With the hole cut in the bottom and my pattern transferred to the pumpkin, it was time to find a tool that was actually going to work for me.
When in doubt, find something you can plug in.
The stereotype that only men love power tools is baloney. Enter: My trusty dremel.
I know “Dremel” is actually a brand name, but “rotary tool” sounds so non-descript and useless, so no matter which make I’m using, it’s a “dremel” to me.
I fussed around with a variety of bits, testing them on the discarded piece from the bottom, trying to refine my technique but getting more and more frustrated with how large they all were, and how messy and difficult the foam pumpkin was proving to be. On the Christmas list this year? Finer dremel bits!
So here’s the thing: I’m a perfectionist. My dad has been telling me for YEARS to settle down and stop being so anal about stuff. That it’s never going to be absolutely perfect. So as much as it pains me to go against my very nature, I just went for it.
The nice thing about using the dremel is that you can carefully work your way out to the lines. Drill a hole in the middle of the piece you want to remove and then work outward from there in order to maintain better control of the machine and where it’s going. The one real downside to using a power tool for this kind of application is that it takes only a fraction of an inch slip and you can’t undo the mess you’ve made. In a split second you can ruin the whole thing.
Again, my bit was just too large for some of the finer details of Tink, but *insert dad’s voice* “Don’t worry about it!” Okay, okay, I can fix that with some paint later, and no one will notice if I accidentally cut off one of her fingers or give her one huge one where there’s supposed to be two.
Key piece of advice here: At this stage, seriously, don’t worry about it being rough. You’re going to be able to go back once the majority of material is removed and do your smoothing and refining then. Right now, you just want to get it cut out.
As you can see, it’s not too pretty after the initial cutting. But not to worry, now the tedious detail work can begin.
Again, I SO wish this pumpkin had been made of a hard, thin plastic instead of thick, soft foam. It was very difficult to smooth out the edges and round things out properly. But I knew ahead of time that I was going to paint that inner edge orange, and that it would really help with the overall appearance later on.
With Tinkerbell pretty much finished, I moved on to the next step: The trail of pixie dust. This was the key component to transforming the jack-o-lantern into something magical.
I laid out some thin artist’s tape in the general shape and size of the sparkling swoop, and then began poking holes. For this I used a straight metal pick. When I started, I wasn’t sure how deep I’d want to make the holes. I felt that the pixie dust trail should be on the subtle side, and so I didn’t push any of the holes all the way through to begin with.
There was a lot of picking and re-picking after this, taking the pumpkin up to the darkness of a windowless bathroom and testing to see if the holes were deep enough to let sufficient light shine through. I re-poked every single one of those holes multiple times, determined not to go too far and risk destroying the subtlety of the sparkle.
As it turns out, thick foamy pumpkins need big, deep holes. Soooo after an hour+ of poking and re-poking holes by hand, I once again channeled my inner Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor and upgraded to the drill.
I didn’t intend to drill every single hole, but once again, the pumpkin’s material and thickness was a problem. No matter how big and perfect I made the holes from the outside, the foam was frazzing on the inside, which was keeping the holes smaller on the inside of the pumpkin and not letting out as much light as they should have. The drill actually made this worse because of how it chewed up the foam. The drill was necessary, but keep in mind, it will make a bigger mess.
Side note: I did this in my studio. It was terribly messy and dusty and I breathed in way too much phony pumpkin dust. If at all possible, do this outside. ;P
With the design cleaned and completed, I decided to paint the stark, white edges of the cuts and holes. But I did want to maintain some contrast between the edges and the pumpkin, so I mixed up an orange colour that was just a tiny bit lighter than the pumpkin itself.
In case you’re wondering, yes, I painted the inside of every last pixie dust hole. It was taking much too long painting them one at a time, so I watered down my paint and sloshed it on there, rubbing it back and forth to force the coloured water down the holes, and then quickly wiping off the surface with a rag. Worked like a charm though it did plug up a few of the holes and I had to go back yet again with the pick and redo them.
I picked up these glittery orange LED tealights at the local dollar store for $1.25.
The only thing left to do was, of course, take some fun photos!
Ha, the funniest thing about this is that none of these props were bought as Halloween decorations. The candelabra has been sitting in a corner of my kitchen for as long as I can remember (though I DID substitute the fabulous red candles for this shoot), the skull and raven can be found on the window sill of my studio anytime, and the little spell book, while being a new purchase, will eventually be sanded down and repainted like a religious illuminated manuscript! Sometimes I look around my house, see all the creepy things that I consider to be ‘everyday’ decor, and wonder when I turned into one of the Addams family.
I’m sure that I carved this jack-o-lantern for the sole purpose of setting up this kooky little display. I waited until dark, grabbed the tripod, lit some extra candles, set the camera to manual, and put a few of my photography skills to work. I know you’re dying to see these — I can feel it in my bones.
“Painting with light” here. My camera is set to a very slow shutter speed in order to capture enough light from the candles to illuminate the entire picture. Because the room is in complete darkness otherwise and the shutter is staying open so long, I was able to take one of the candles and quickly pass it in front of the lens to create the light trail without my hand or the candle itself being captured. Very cool trick and fun to play around with.
“There is magic in the night when pumpkins glow by moonlight.” ~ Unknown
So there we go, a little girly fun for Halloween! Who says you can’t mix spook and soft? Ladylike and lurid? Dainty and dangerous? People, I would be happy with a pink Elvira ANY day.
Until next time, unpleasant dreams . . .
“We all go a little mad sometimes… Haven’t you?”