Ordinary pumpkins become extraordinary in the hands of ‘The Carving Chizel’Oct 21, 2020 11h55 ● By Katherine Weinstein
Aaron Reimschiissel, “The Carving Chizel,” carved this “punk beast” pumpkin which was displayed at Primary Children’s Hospital last year. (Photo courtesy Aaron Reimschiissel)
By Katherine Weinstein | [email protected]
Growing up in Spanish Fork, Aaron Reimschiissel always celebrated Halloween with his family in a big way. His mother’s birthday happened to be on Oct. 31 and she celebrated every year with a special party. By carving jack-o’-lanterns for her annual celebrations, Reimschiissel discovered his special talent for transforming ordinary pumpkins into works of art.
This year, Reimschiissel plans to create his unique pumpkin carvings at Halloween events around the state including the Utah Water Conservancy Pumpkin Walk and the Pumpkin Walk in Daybreak. Last year, he carved pumpkins at Pumpkin Nights in Salt Lake City. He specializes in carving very large pumpkins that often can weigh several hundred pounds. These pumpkins have extremely thick and hard rinds which allow for sculpting depth and texture. He has carved everything from faces to monsters and animals to elaborate castles out of pumpkins.
“I try to do something a little bit different each time,” explained Reimschiissel, who uses the name “The Carving Chizel” professionally. He never knows what the pumpkin will look like in advance. “Within just a couple of minutes I have to decide what to make. I have to look at the shape and see what fits into it. That’s the biggest challenge. A face can fit any type of shape. You have to adjust with the pumpkin,” he said.
At age 16, Reimschiissel tried his hand at three-dimensional pumpkin carving and sculpted a Dracula face in a pumpkin. That pumpkin was featured in a local newspaper article and he was asked to carve pumpkins at another Halloween party. It was there that he met members of the Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers Association. He has been carving for them ever since.
Reimschiissel credits his mom, who enjoys crafting and drawing caricatures, with encouraging his interest in art. He has studied drawing as well as sculpture. Reimschiissel continues to study form and shape to build his repertoire of pumpkin designs.
“Right now I’m learning about skeletons,” he said. “I just bought one to learn more anatomy. I have a lot of ideas in my head!”
Reimschiissel’s wife, Chelsea, had never seen 3D pumpkin carvings before she saw his work. “It’s so cool how creative he can get,” she said. “He never goes in with a plan. Most of the time he just wings it which is amazing to me. He gets asked all the time how he plans [his designs] but most of the time he just shows up and carves.”
The spontaneous nature of Reimschiissel’s art and the fact that he is often carving in front of an audience is the most challenging aspect. “When people are watching there’s a level of thinking ‘you have to make it look good!”” he said. He recalled a particularly difficult carving project in which he sculpted a winged devil out of a pumpkin and ended up inserting a separate piece of rind to make the head.
Reimschiissel’s two young daughters, Kaiyah and Kinlee, are his biggest fans. Kaiyah, who is 9 years old, is showing an interest in carving pumpkins as well. “They have so much pride in their dad’s pumpkins. The best thing is bringing them to events. They get so excited and will just stand there forever watching him. They like to tell people that’s their dad,” Chelsea said.
“It’s fun to see the kids’ reactions,” said Reimschiissel, describing the aspect he likes best about carving in front of an audience. In 2019, he carved a “punk beast” pumpkin at Thanksgiving Point. The Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers Association later took that pumpkin and displayed it in front of Primary Children’s Hospital. Being able to share his work with the hospitalized children was one of the highlights of his carving career.
He is looking forward to the upcoming Halloween season and carving more unique pumpkin creations. Images of Reimschiissel’s carved pumpkins as well as updates on the Halloween events he is appearing at may be found on facebook.com/thecarvingchizel and instagram.com/Thecarvingchizel.