Temple's pumpkin master
While most people use a butcher knife to make scary Jack-O-Lanterns, this local artist uses a variety of tools to create amazing sculptures.
WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 29, 2021 A REALLY SPECIAL ISSUE
Temple artist Kristina Patenaude is competing on The Food Networks’ Outrageous Pumpkins, a competition that features the seven best pumpkin carvers in America. The show premiers at 9 p.m. Sunday.
Temple artist to compete for pumpkin bragging rights on Food Network show
By DAVID STONE, Our Town exclusive
When Kristina Patenaude isn’t painting or turning russet potatoes into works of art, she carves pumpkins.
No, not your typical jack-o-lanterns. Her creations are truly incredible — so amazing they caught the eye of a Food Network producer. She was invited to be on Season 2 of “Outrageous Pumpkins,” a competition that features the seven best carvers in America.
The show has been filmed and will premier at 9 p.m. Sunday on The Food Network and on Discovery Plus. The winner receives $25,000 cash, but Kristina said she and the other competitors aren’t in it for the money.
“We’re in it for bragging rights,” she said with a grin.
Kristina, a native of New Hampshire who has been in Temple for about 10 years, carved pumpkins as a kid but never considered her work special. That changed during her college years.
“I was going to an art school that was connected to a culinary academy, and one day I noticed that there was going to be a pumpkin carving competition,” she said. “I didn’t realize it was for culinary carving students, it just sounded like fun. So I entered and I won. I don’t think the culinary students were pleased.”
That was 12 years ago. After college, she moved to Las Vegas and learned a few lessons about pumpkin carving in the desert.
“Vegas is a fun place, but not a great environment for pumpkin carving,” she said. “It’s very arid so the pumpkins die very quickly. I learned to sculpt the outside rather than cut all the way through the shell. It makes the sculpture last a lot longer instead of just a day.”
After moving to Temple, Kristina opened her own graphic arts business and also is busy with her art.
“My artwork is seasonal,” she explained. “I love to carve pumpkins during the fall, but I also do woodwork, work with clay, paint and make jewelry. I have an online store and I sell jewelry through Etsy and Instagram.”
Her jewelry includes traditional items such as earrings and necklaces, but she also creates rings and things out of russet potatoes and carrots.
“I’d love to create a crown and crown jewels out of potatoes,” she said. “I know that’s kind of out there, but it’s something I’d love to do.”
When fall rolls around, however, jewelry takes a backseat to pumpkin carving. And, the number of pumpkins she carves seems to increase every year.
“I started out doing just a few every year,” she explained. “I would make them for my husband and he would display them on his desk at work. One day a client offered cash for one. It’s grown from there.”
Today, she makes custom pumpkins using logos for businesses and corporations, and she continues to experiment with different carving techniques.
“The are five major carving styles, and I like to do them all,” she said. “Most carvers pick a style and stick with it, but I experiment.”
“ I like to push the limits and create sculptures people haven’t seen before. I like creating pumpkins that spark the whimsy in people.”
Kristina said she creates Halloween and fantasy characters to bring out people’s imagination. She uses clay tools called ribbons to create her ghoulish art.
“There are a lot of different ribbon tools, and I also use fruit carving knives,” she said. “It depends on what you are creating and the size of the pumpkin.”
For really large pumpkins, small chainsaws and Dremel rotary tools are used.
“I don’t use power tools a lot because I wear glasses,” she explained. “Power tools create a spray, and I don’t like to have to stop and clean my glasses so I can see.”
October promises to be a busy month for Kristina. Not only is there the new TV show, she also will be carving to entertain holiday crowds. On Oct. 16, she will be performing live at Temple’s Robinson Family Farm. Most other nights during the month she will be a featured entertainer at Pumpkin Nights, a month-long event at Austin’s Pioneer Farms.
Pumpkin Nights features seven hand-carved pumpkin themed displays using more than 5,000 gourds.
“It’s almost a mile-long trail of pumpkins and Halloween lights and decor,” she said. It’s a really awesome festival with food, games and entertainment. I’ll be performing next to fire dancers.”
Above are the seven pumpkin carvers competing for bragging rights and $25,000 cash on The Food Network’s Outrageous Pumpkins. That’s Temple’s own Kristina Patenaude in the center wearing glasses. Below are several of her pumpkin carvings.
Below are a ring and a flower Kristina carved from potatoes. Yep, real potatoes.