Rich Howells

This Pennsylvania pumpkin carver makes everyone else’s pumpkins look like squash

This Pennsylvania pumpkin carver makes everyone else’s pumpkins look like squash
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There are jack-o’-lanterns, and then there’s the work of Ian Fetterman.

Like any great artist, he takes his craft to a whole other level, carving intricate scenes and iconic characters into foam pumpkins that last long after the Halloween season is over. That’s why he’s been a hit at horror conventions across the country, and anyone who owns “Halloween: The Complete Collection” on Blu-ray may have spotted his pumpkins just behind the actors being interviewed in the special features.

Filling custom orders year-round, including last year in Scranton at FANtom Fest, October is especially busy for Fetterman, but the 35-year-old Easton native took some time to talk to NEPA Scene about his lifelong fascination with pumpkins, how he became so scary good at what he does, contributing to a franchise that has influenced him his entire life, and having his work appreciated by the very actors and directors he pays tribute to, along with his tips for creating more than just a frightening face on your own pumpkin this year.

NEPA SCENE: Do you remember your first pumpkin carvings as a kid?

IAN FETTERMAN: I do, actually. My dad, who is an artist himself, used to draw up these crazy faces on pumpkins, and I’d try to help him carve it. Needless to say, I wasn’t great at it at the age of 5, but my dad taught me, and it was only the beginning of the madness.

NS: “Halloween” is your favorite horror movie. What is it about that film that stuck with you?

IF: It was about when I was 5 years old, and back in the ‘80s, they showed horror movies starting on Oct. 1 up to Halloween, but I think it was John Carpenter’s score of the film that drew me in, along with the iconic William Shatner mask that just stuck with me at such a young age. Then my dad actually rented “Halloween” on VHS for me maybe a year after so I could see it uncut, but then I told my dad that there were parts of the film missing. He said no, there wasn’t, and thought I was crazy until, in 1994, Criterion came out with it on LaserDisc with the TV scenes. There wasn’t Internet back then, so you didn’t know all the goodies and info. So I wasn’t crazy, and when I was 14, my rad dad bought me the $100 LaserDisc of “Halloween” from a Suncoast Video. I still own it to this day.

NS: Did that movie spark your fascination with pumpkins, or does it go back further than that?

IF: Not so much the movie itself, but the holiday itself. It’s the best time of year – the cooler weather, the changing of the leaves. When I went to college for graphic design, I had a few fine art classes that I loved the most. I always was able to sneak in a pumpkin to each and every project that was assigned to the class. Well, one day on critique day, my one teacher was sick of them and dogged me on why I always had pumpkins in my art. My answer was short and sweet – because I like them. She didn’t like that answer, and all my friends in my class stuck up for me and had my back. If that teacher could only see me now…

NS: Most people just carve faces into their pumpkins. How did you end up getting into carving these intricate, detailed images?

IF: I started with patterns from Everyone that enjoys carving, check their site out. Then, one day three years ago, someone wanted a pumpkin that didn’t have a stencil, so I had to sit down and create my own, and I haven’t looked back. So that’s when I started to figure out my own stencils. It’s hard to know how hard one will be over the other. With most things these days, I can look at an image and know what I have to carve.

Start to finish of the closet scene from halloween. The original amazing art work by @jasonedmistonart Trick or treat!! #jasonedmiston #halloween #michaelmyers #johncapenter #jamieleecurtis #donaldpleasence #nickcastle #tommyleewallace #foampumpkin #pumpkincarver #pumpkincarving #ianspumpkincarvings

A video posted by IanFetterman? (@ianspumpkincarvings) on

NS: You now have a full-fledged business from these pumpkins. How did that business start and develop over time?

IF: Mostly by attending conventions and word of mouth. I’ve met some incredible people over the years that I can now say are my close friends. The con family all stick together.

NS: How do you transfer a drawing or a particular image like a movie poster into a stencil for carving?

IF: Well, I don’t want to give all my secrets away. Let’s just say it’s a lot like tattooing.

NS: As an artist, what are the biggest challenges of working in this medium?

IF: When I first started out, it was how I’m going to make this image work. I use to cut all the way through the pumpkin, so I never knew what it would like until the bad boy got lit up. But I eventually changed up my style and I use layers.

NS: What tools do you use in your work?

IF: I use a Dremel and X-ACTO knife and a few other tools.

NS: You’ve met a lot of the people involved in the films that you’re recreating in your work. What have been some of the most memorable reactions you’ve received from stars you’ve talked to?

IF: Everyone that I’ve met has been incredibly sincere and nice. Everyone is blown away by them, and it’s a huge compliment. George Romero was the first one that was really blown away three years ago, asking how I got the detail, and he wanted a picture with the pumpkins – just beyond a nice man. The late Roddy Piper was also blown away by the “They Live” pumpkin. He asked a bunch of questions and wished me the best of luck and success in the future.

NS: What movie do you get the most commissions for?

IF: “Halloween” is by far the most common pumpkin that customers ask for.

NS: You carve much more than horror movie images, though. What are some of the more unusual commissions you’ve been asked to do?

IF: I wouldn’t say anything unusual, just whatever the customer wants. I’ve just wrapped up finishing a Les Paul guitar, “Hocus Pocus,” and angel wings. I have some wedding pumpkins, along with a few others I have to finish up.

NS: Tell us how you ended up getting your pumpkins featured in the “Halloween” box set interviews.

IF: I’ve been talking back and forth with [producer and “Horror’s Hallowed Grounds” host] Sean Clark for months. Then, one night, “Halloween” was brought up, and he asked what I would do for an “H20” pumpkin. I said, “I don’t know. I would have to look.” I asked, “Why?” He said, “I have an idea and I’ll call you tomorrow.” The rest is history.

NS: How did it feel to contribute to an official part of the “Halloween” franchise?

IF: It was a dream come true – my work made it into my favorite franchise. I had goosebumps when I saw early footage on how it was coming along. I don’t know if anything will top that. I want to thank Sean Clark for making this happen.

NS: For those who are carving their own pumpkins this year and want to try something more detailed like what you’re doing, what advice can you offer them?

IF: Just be patient with it, and most of all, just have fun with it. I’m still learning my craft and trying new techniques to get better, so just have fun carving!

NS: Do you do any other kinds of artwork outside of your carvings?

IF: Unfortunately, no. I work at my other job 40 hours a week, and then I come home to the second job of carving 40+ hours a week, so I don’t have much time for a lot of things to do, but in the end, seeing the reaction on the customer’s face makes it all worthwhile.

NS: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

IF: Thanks for having me, and if anyone wants a pumpkin, contact Ian’s Pumpkin Carvings on Facebook, along with Twitter, Instagram, and I hope everyone has a safe and fun Halloween. Trick or treat!