Editor's note: This article was published in Grand Traverse Scene magazine's Fall 2018 issue. Pick up a free copy at area hotels, visitor's centers, chambers of commerce or at the Record-Eagle building on Front Street. Click here to read GT Scene in its entirety online.
Some wait for the Great Pumpkin to appear beneath Halloween night moonlight. Others make their own autumn magic.
Pumpkin artistry begins in the field of Peggy and Jason Clark who perfected the art of pumpkin-growing over three decades.
The couple produces the iconic Halloween gourds at their Centennial Farm in Long Lake Township. Clark’s Family Farm’s 3 acres of pumpkins provide a palette for carvers of all ages. Traditionalists will find round, orange pumpkins growing in the Clark field, but will also discover pink, blue, white and striped pumpkins, as well as flat pumpkins used for stacked arrangements.
“Variety has been our calling card,” said Peggy Clark.
The Clark Farm is happy hunting grounds for “Lord of the Gourd” Pat Harrison of Leelanau County. The growers raise peanut-shaped Naples Long especially for Harrison, but he also likes to wander the field for what others consider rejects.
“I get my pumpkins from the mutant pile,” he said.
The stranger the better to inspire his cartoon-like sculptures.
“The face is already there,” he said. “I just help it come out.”
Harrison’s tool box consists of an X-acto knife and paring knives in assorted sizes.
“There’s no right tool or wrong tool,” he said. “Use whatever you’re comfortable with.”
Harrison’s carver’s canvas goes beyond pumpkins, gourds and squash.
“I love to go to the (store) produce sections and look for different shapes,” he said. “You can carve anything except tomatoes.”
Harrison sculpts 400 pumpkins each October and presents about 30 one- to two-hour demonstrations at various fall events. Check his Facebook page for a current list of appearances.
Frankfort pumpkin sculptor Ed Moody unleashes his creativity on giant pumpkin varieties. His largest masterpiece weighed in at nearly 1,800 pounds.
“Pumpkin Ed” first took on the giants 19 years ago. He long dreamed of carving a Cinderella carriage. Five years passed until he came across a 400-pounder grown on Old Mission Peninsula. The farmer agreed to sell it for $1 per pound — more than Moody could afford.
“But I couldn’t afford not to follow my dream,” he said.
Pumpkins became larger and availability increased over time, Moody said, as did his passion for pumpkin sculpting. The pumpkin whisperer finds design inspiration emerges from the orbs.
“The pumpkins talk to me and I talk back — and we decide what’s best,” he said.
Moody’s sculpting frenzy begins one week prior to Halloween to ensure each design remains fresh for the holiday. His first giant pumpkin required more than 30 hours to carve. Years of experience whittled the time to two to four hours per creation.
The master carver is known for creating an annual display in his front yard at 722 Leelanau Avenue in Frankfort. He has exhibited as many as 20 works attracting up to 100,000 visitors and 1,200 trick-or-treaters in a single October.
“It’s so much fun to see all the smiles,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
“Pumpkin Ed” is a long-time presenter at the Frankfort Fall Festival, this year slated for Oct.13. His agenda for the season includes carving giants for Stormcloud Brewing Company in downtown Frankfort and Incredible Mo’s Family Fun Center in Grawn.
It’s all about jewel-like colors at Harry Boyer’s Pumpkin Patch. Boyer’s Glassworks in Harbor Springs is a working hot glass studio and gallery. Boyer unveils the studio’s 2018 glass pumpkin collection Oct. 6 in coordination with the Pumpkin Patch at Three Pines Studio in Cross Village.
Boyer began creating glass pumpkin sculptures 20 years ago at the suggestion of a collector.
“Now we do hundreds of pumpkins each year,” he said. “We work on color, patterns, shape and size.”
The hand-blown pumpkins range from 1-9 inches and follow a theme established for each year’s collection. Last fall’s Great Lakes theme incorporated shades of blue. “Sunset” is the 2018 theme. It features the rich nature-inspired colors of the skies.
Like the pumpkin sculptors, Boyer takes cues from his medium when creating a piece.
“We go with what the glass wants to do,” he said. ‘They create themselves and we go along for the ride.”
Art lovers from across the country make their way to Boyer’s studio to add a little autumn “eye-candy” to their collection.
From field to studio, area pumpkin maestros bring their artistry to the harvest season handing out sweet beauty, fun and possibilities.