When we think of carving pumpkins, our minds immediately imagine the nostalgic Halloween tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation and only happens once a year. Then we toss our molding fruit and wait for another season to begin again. But what if we could keep those carves forever? Alex Wer, otherwise known as The Pumpkin Geek, has devised a way to do just that. In fact, he has created an entire crafty business dubbed the “orange empire” from carving celebrities, famous characters (mostly from geek-genre shows and films), everyday people and more.
So… you carve pumpkins. How the heck did this all begin?
I’ve always loved carving, and a few years ago my wife asked me to carve her company logo for an open house. Well, it was Oct 3rd and I knew the kins would die well before Halloween. “Let me try the craft pumpkins from Michael’s so it’ll last” is what I said. At the open house, the carve was a HUGE hit and I got thirty-five orders that night!
What inspired the name “Pumpkin Geek?”
It just came to me. At the open house, people were asking for my card, like I actually did this for a living. My wife went to her computer, created a business card with a pumpkin and asked me for a name. “The Pumpkin Geek” just came out of my mouth and history was made!
Tell us a little about the pumpkins themselves, the materials you use and the process involved in carving.
They are “craft” pumpkins from Michael’s Craft Stores. I call the material “polyfoam,” but I kind of made that up. Basically I use a dremel (hand held drill with various bits) to do the carvings and shading. It takes about four to five hours per carve, and I get pumpkin dust EVERYWHERE!
Alex featured on Good Day Sacramento.
Who was your favorite person or celebrity to carve?
Zachary Quinto was the first celebrity to request a carve at the Trek convention in 2009. He came to meet me because her heard about someone doing a carve of him. He was very cool, hung out for about five minutes, gave me an autograph and complimented my work. When I got home, I realized he posted my info on Twitter, and I got about 170 of his followers to follow me! I’ve carved him about seven times for his fans, and have done some charity fund-raisers with him as well.
As far as favorite carves, Hugh Jackman Wolverine came out just like I wanted. Harry Potter and Captain Jack Sparrow are always a big hit. The Storm Trooper was extremely challenging because he is all white (portions I usually cut-through), but the client was thrilled with that one.
Who would you love to carve and hand a pumpkin over to (dead or alive)?
Easy…Jeri Ryan! She actually has her own carve, but it was done via mail. She has been incredibly kind to me. She not only follows me (yes, I Geek out every time she tweets me!), but she has run contests with me and actively supports what I do. She’s a total gem, and I’d like the opportunity to thank her in person.
The other person would be Oprah, for obviously reasons. One mention from her and I could actually do this for a living!
When you tell people what you do, how do they react?
Either, “yeah, my eight-year-old carves pumpkins too,” or when they see just how intricate my work is, “you have way too much time on your hands!” When I tell them I made almost $10,000 at my first Trek convention, they shut up about it. The other reaction is complete shock and awe over the work… I like those reactions better!
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received on your work?
A lot of people think I just project an image on the carve and it’s a trick, so when they realize I actually hand carve them, their jaw hits the floor. The most meaningful carve, however, is one my site. See the tab named “Jeremy“. The carve and story are there for readers to understand why. It was a humbling encounter.
Have any other artisans inspired you throughout your career?
Since my craft isn’t that mainstream, not really anyone I am trying to imitate.
If you could have any other profession in life, what would it be?
I’d say movie critic. I love movies and if I could get paid to see them, I’d be pretty thrilled!
Where did you grow up?
Ugghhh…STOCKTON, California! A comedian once said it was “God’s graffiti on California.” It was a nice town when I was there.
Impossible to answer. I’d have to break it down into genres and decade. I love Sci-fi, drama, chick-flicks, rom-coms, action and musicals. My favorite Christmas movie is the only one can easily answer: It’s a Wonderful Life. The movie shows how giving of yourself whole-heartedly will always be rewarded, especially when things are difficult. I’ve experienced that in my life personally. When Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed passed away, I cried. That movie always touches me.
What superhero power do you wish you had?
So, that does not include the one I already have which I cannot name? I’d say the ability to fly. I’ve had various dreams where I was able to fly and I’d wake up pretty invigorated!
Everyone gets asked this question: What would you do if you had a time machine?
Well, first I’d go tell Eve, “DON’T EAT IT!” Then stop the invention of gum. After that, tell the Wachowski Brothers there does not need to be a sequel to The Matrix, and finally, I’d order the portabella mushrooms last night instead of the Lasagna. What a disappointment!
Where can you find more from Alex Wer?
See more of Alex’s work on his web site: ThePumpkinGeek.com
Sept 24, 2011: Sacramento Horror Convention
Oct 2011: Los Angeles Haunted Hayride
Nov 5th-6th, 2011: Comikaze Expo – LA’s 1st annually Horror, Sc-Fi, Gaming & Comic Convention! Alex will be raffling off a custom carve of your choice at the convention.