MECO Show and Sale

MECO Show and Sale
2016 Show & Sale will be the Saturday 14th May 2016 held at the Peachland Community Centre in Peachland BC. contact person Barb Janes-Yeo at 250-757-2842

Sunday, 28 October 2012

MECO Meeting - Jack-O-Lanterns

Author Unknown
Jack, Jack, Jack O'Lantern,
I wonder if you know,
When you are all lighted,
Your crooked teeth all show!

Jack-o-Lanterns from image at "Deck the Holidays" Blog
 Ah, pumpkins. Magical orange fruit of my heart.  One of my favourite "p" words (the other being "Pony") . You can be baked into pies, cakes and cookies, slipped into coffee (think I may have mentioned - I have a weakness for pumpkin lattes) or ice cream. Your seeds are divine, once roasted. And you are the ultimate icon of the Halloween season. If I could marry someone - well, it would probably be Colin O'Donoghue, have you SEEN that man? What eyes... ! sigh...wait...what was I saying? Oh yes. Pumpkins as the ultimate Halloween icon, and more precisely - the Jack-O-Lantern. 

The Jack-O-Lantern has an interesting history. Did you know that originally it wasn't a pumpkin, but a Turnip that was carved and lighted? It was meant to light the way of a displaced soul who was neither welcome in heaven or hell - the displaced soul managed to be too cruel for heaven, but blackmailed the devil not to take his soul -  which meant,  without a destination, he was doomed to wander ever more, with the Jack-O-Lantern to light his way. How cool is that? Come to think of it, I have been on vacations like that, so I guess I have a little sympathy for Jack. 

I am glad, however,  someone eventually decided a pumpkin was easier to carve, because I have to say, I am not fond of turnips at all. Blah! 

Which brings me finally to the topic of discussion today - how to make miniature hollow - yes, I said hollow - Jack-O-Lanterns out of polymer clay. Our fearless leader, Barb, taught us the technique. Here are the models she brought to show us:

Really Bad Picture of Examples 

You know? Sometimes I brag about my camera being amazing for small items, and then it gives me this, sigh. But you can see where we are going with it all. 

Ah, here is the better picture:

Better-ish picture of examples
The Jack-O-Lantern starts life as fimo and styrofoam ball. The styrofoam balls (just a little bit under an inch in diameter) were purchased at a large craft store chain. They were rough, not smooth, which is important because the smooth do not work as well. 

Polymer Clay colors - orange, brown and green

Worked Polyclay with Styrofoam balls
Some of the crew working studiously on pumpkins

 We didn't use straight orange for the Jack-O-Lanterns, but a mix of orange with a titch of green and a smattering of brown, just so they were a little more realistic. The balls of Styrofoam were  covered with thinnish, but not too thin (for they then could be too fragile for carving) poly clay. We flattened the bottom, made pumpkin ridges around the pumpkin, and started the carving process. We did not cut all the way through, however - just scored the lines, and those made it easier to cut out after we baked them.   We also added stems, or other embellishments (remember, if you are going to cut out the top, place decorations judiciously - it is a terrible thing to have a perfect vine full of glorious leaves and then realize you are going to have to damage your work if you want to carve the access hole on the top of the pumpkin). Once we had the Jack-O-Lanterns to our personal tastes, it was off to the oven they went! What happens here is science. *The heat from the convection oven causes a change in the molecular structure of the Styrofoam,  which temporarily fluxes from solid to semi-solid, repositioning bonds and displacing air bubbles,  and settling into a more compact form - in short, it shrinks away from the sides, leaving a hollow space. This Styrofoam can be removed after baking.

*Probably true. Or I am making this up.  You never can tell with me. Either way, the Styrofoam does shrink to leave a hollow pumpkin.
Angry Pumpkin and Happier Pumpkin
This is a good place to put in  a safety tip  - melting Styrofoam and cooking Polymer clay means you need ventilation! The lungs you save may be your own! End of Motherhood statement. 

Jack-O-Lanterns ready to be baked
Once they were out of the oven, and cool enough to handle, we started the carving process. Some people found it easier to carve the face first, and then cut the top access last to remove the shrunken Styrofoam. Some of this depends on how thick your pumpkin walls were when you covered the Styrofoam in the first place, of course.  I had no problems cutting the face out last, but again, use your own best judgement.

Pumpkin carving in process
Use a sharp knife, but another Motherhood Statement - be careful with the knife. DO NOT force a knife. Always use a sharp blade, and let the knife cut for you,  and keep your fingers clear. Pushing on a knife  where it just does not want to go can have bloody consequences, and an expensive ride to the hospital where some kindly but overworked ER Doctor will have to stitch you up and mutter about "kids these days". 
My finished Jack-O-Lanterns!
Is it just me, or does the guy on the far left of your screen not look happy to be sharing a table with the two nastier Jack-O-Lanterns on the right? 

Of course, you needn't make a Jack-O-Lantern if you do not want to, never let it be said that I stifle anyone's creativity. If you leave the pumpkin uncut, you have  something for your garden or for a produce barrow. Or you can break the pumpkin in some creative way, and make "seed goo" pouring out of it (perhaps being eaten by a mouse, or use it in a compost heap, etc.).  Make a hollow pumpkin and use it as a vase for a floral display (one recent magazine suggested painting a pumpkin for an elegant fall centerpiece on your Thanksgiving table, although I am not sure I would want to explain the baby pink color they chose for their model to my guests, but to each his own I suppose).  Make smaller solid pumpkins for your decorating pleasure, or in smaller sizes for your tinier endeavors.

One final tip or two in using Polymer clay - wash your hands with baby wipes between colors, and when your hands get too covered with the solvents and pigments of the Polymer clay. This keeps your work cleaner, and makes it easier to work with clay. Also,  don't use utensils/baking sheets for Polymer clay and then for food. Mucho bad idea. Make sure you clean your hands well after you finish working with the clay, so you don't accidentally ingest the product. The package may say safe, but they really mean safe after cooking - you don't want to be eating unprocessed Polymer clay. Well, don't eat the cooked stuff either, come to that. Just don't. End of final Motherhood Statement (today). 

Have a spook-tacular Halloween, and I wish you a most sincere pumpkin patch! 

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