Pumpkin carving has become one of mainstream society’s primary rituals to celebrate Halloween. Every year, people get together with their friends and family and see who will be the first to break the carving knives that came with the Target template book. While the go-to pumpkin carving is a smiley face or attempt at an intricate Harry Potter theme, there’s always people on the block whose pumpkins look like Bernini sculpted them himself. Some people take pumpkin carving still more seriously. T
he Byers-Evans Museum, a Victorian home-turned museum, offers a class on creating ornate Victorian pumpkins. When walking up the steps of the 13th and Bannock museum, the wrought iron gates and arbor are beautiful examples of Victorian architecture. The brick building of the house is painted burgundy and white making it stand out to the naked eye and contrasts perfectly with the autumn leaves falling from the cottonwoods on the property.
John Bardeen, who has over five decades of professional pumpkin carving experience, conducted the class on Victorian pumpkin carving. Bardeen and his family have a long history of Victorian style pumpkin carving that started back in Wisconsin. There, he is co-owner of Grampa Bardeen’s, which is a family owned pumpkin carving tool company that sells old-fashioned kits. The company has been owned and operated since 1943, and between John Bardeen and his siblings, they have over 350 years of experience.
The tools that Bardeen uses are unique and industrial. The cutters and scoopers are not made of plastic like the ones that are sold in the supermarket templates, but out of metal and sea-glass textured material. “There was an issue with what the color should be, but then one day I was drinking an IPA beer and realized that is the perfect color,” Bardeen said. He has created all of the prototypes for the business and the templates as well.
The method dates back to John’s father, Paul Bardeen. It includes intricate use of tools and pristine edges to create a perfect piece. Bardeen has been deemed a Master Carver, and his work has appeared on Monday Night Football, The Today Show, and Good Morning America. The pumpkins he carved at the Byers-Evans Museum had a political touch to them with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s faces carved into pumpkins, and some saying “Go Vote.” Another outstanding example of his work was the pumpkin that had an extremely precise American f lag carved into it. Who better to learn pumpkin carving from than a master carver? John Bardeen and family have created an incredible small business venture that keeps their family tradition alive. The method and tools used are inspired from Paul Bardeen, John’s father and grandfather to the children who help out with the business. The work is nothing short of awe-inspiring and can be easily replicated once knowledge of the method exists. Grampa Bardeen’s is an online store where the kits can be purchased that come with tools, outlines, and tips. The experience was well worth it, and hopefully Bardeen will return in years to come.
Photo: Ashley Bauler