If anyone has found a wonderfully seasonal niche and made magic out of it, it’s Master Pumpkin Carver Brent Heuser. Taking the traditional activity of pumpkin carving and sculpting it into a true business, he has created countless one of a kind pumpkin carvings of Lady Gaga and RuPaul, among others. I was able to catch up with Brent between carving appointments and we chatted about his path to pumpkin carving, what may be his next creatively unique venture, and how this talented artist (ne’ actor/dancer) has found that it’s not just the holiday season where you can make people’s wishes come true.
Michael Cook: So tell me..how did your mastery with a knife on pumpkins come to become a full on profession? Have you always loved pumpkin carving?
Brent Heuser– I have always loved carving pumpkins! We always did it around Halloween growing up. I’ve always drawn and was a very creative kid. So I’d say that prepped me for where I am now. However, four years ago is when I really took to Pumpkin Art and constantly trying to outdo my own work. Im an actor when I’m not carving squash, and I was on the road with Chicago the Musical, and we had a bit of time off the tour in between cities. I was in Elyria, Ohio with my family and that’s when @BrentPumpkins was born! I carved tons of Disney Princesses and characters and cartoons and posted them on social media. People came out of the woodwork to ask if I was selling my jack-o-lanterns, and four years later, here I am still carving!
When did you know that this would become a true profession and that you were on to something?
Every year has gotten a little crazier than the one previous. It actually really blew up in Ohio my first year. I’d say for thirteen to fourteen days straight I was carving a my parents dining room table making a total mess of their home. That year I was featured on the local news station for my work, and really thought I had something very niche, that I enjoy doing. It was making the crossover back to New York City that really sparked it further. I started making connections with really amazing artists, and restaurants, that all wanted signature pumpkins. This year has by far been the craziest with my residency at The High Line Hotel.
The Lady Gaga pumpkins are absolutely epic. Tell me about that one. I hear her family certainly loved it.
Yes, there are more than one Gaga pumpkin! I have always been a huge Lady Gaga fan and try to feature a pumpkin with her likeness every season. When Joanne was being released, I decided to carve the album cover in a pumpkin and take it down her family’s restaurant “Joanne Trattoria” I did my best not to seem like a total stalker, and left the pumpkin with the Head Chef. They were blown away! What I didn’t know was that she was having her album release party there two days later, and they used it as a centerpiece. Her father posted it online saying it was a very special gift. I got to meet him as well and ended up carving a pumpkin for him with the tattoo of Joanne’s name complete with angel statue behind it. I have not gotten a chance to meet the diva herself, but hopefully some day!
Your Shea Coulee pumpkin crossed both drag and political lines! What other queens would you like to carve?
Thank you! That pumpkin was a personal favorite of mine! I would actually love to carve Trixie and Katya, maybe in a swarm of bees saying “Oh Honey,” or something of the sort. I carved RuPaul a couple years ago and I’d love another chance at that one. Also, I think Sharon Needles on a pumpkin would be, like, the most perfect thing ever.
What are some other favorites you have done? any dream carvings to do?
Ryan Phillippe’s butt shot from Cruel Intentions is absolutely a stand out this year. I also do a lot of sentimental pumpkins, ironically. Animals that have passed, even loved ones names. At my residency at the High Line Hotel, we take reservations for forty five minute carving sessions. A couple wanted a photo of their two Yorkies carved. I etched away and they were so incredibly happy. I later noticed they only had one of their Yorkies with them… I found out the other one had passed away! I could have cried! They wanted something to remember their little pup by and it was so awesome to make that for them.
What makes the perfect pumpkin carving?
Blood, sweat, tears? Ha, um a few things in my opinion. A great joke pumpkins is my favorite. There is a pumpkin floating around the in social media land that just has an iPhone battery on 1% and the caption reads “Something truly terrifying. There is another with an N and W on it, and it says next to the N “Service Delayed” and the W says “17 mins.” Pumpkins like that rock my world because the joke is so concise and really makes me laugh. Also makes me jealous I never thought of it! Past that, I think knowing how to really bring an intricate design to life on a pumpkin definitely makes the perfect carving. Making it almost seem like a living photo.
Tell me about your master residence at the High Line….
The High Line Hotel has started a brand new night (probably never before done event) called Pumpkin Service. Every Thursday and Friday for all of October, and Halloween of course, I take reservations for 45 minute carving sessions. I feature some of own intricate designs and the guests get a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and a signature carved pumpkin from me, whatever they want! My good friend Oakley Boycott assists me and takes over my @BrentPumpkins Instagram stories and we make a whole night of these pumpkins! The hotel and the owners have been so good to me after I worked with them last year carving at their annual Pooch Parade (dog costume contest) and they decided to feature me for all of October at their hotel. It has really made me elevate my art and my talents even further. I’ve also carved quite a few sentimental pumpkins for the reservations. Couldn’t be more grateful.
What do you do when you are not carving pumpkins?
I’m actually an Actor! I audition, I take ballet class, I sing, I write things. As far as art goes, I paint, I draw, but I’m looking this year to expand further beyond the squash and move to other forms of art. I think I’d love to conquer ice sculpture, maybe blow glass. I want to take some pottery classes first I think, and started to expand @BrentPumpkins to porcelain illuminated lanterns. I don’t see any other form of art as too difficult, just have to have the time and patience to hone that specific skill. Four years ago I started carving pumpkins and it has, oddly, made a huge name for me. That came from just trying it, so I’m excited to do just get out there and do more.
Five years from now. where do you want to take this?
Five years from now I want to be the first person’s DM’s you slide into you think of when you see a funny Pumpkin Meme… Although twenty other people have probably already sent it, send it anyway! Haha, but other than that sky’s the limit! I see myself doing much crazier forms of art and also interacting with people and art. Pumpkin Service at the High Line Hotel is more than just carving pumpkins, it’s an experience. I chat with people while I’m carving, I learn a little bit about them, and I personalize a piece of art for them to take home. I think that interaction is lovely, and I want to incorporate that into other forms of art, whatever they may be. Maybe signature sculpted ice blocks? Who knows, until then I just want to carve some incredible art.
@BrentPumpkins on Instagram