MONROE, CT — Fawn Hollow Elementary School art teacher, Christine Scarpati, who will appear as a contestant on the Food Network show “Outrageous Pumpkins” this Sunday, introduced her fifth grade students to celebrity pumpkin carver Deane Arnold for lessons Wednesday.
Arnold, an artist and professional pumpkin carver best known for starring on the TV show, “Halloween Wars,” got to know Scarpati on the set of “Outrageous Pumpkins” during filming last year.
“I pay attention to other carvers,” Arnold said, adding he admires traditional anatomical sculptors most.
Scarpati only started carving pumpkins as a hobby six years ago, so she snuck in under Arnold’s radar.
“Chrissy was one I didn’t recognize, so I looked her up,” Arnold said of the first time he saw the show’s seven contestants. “How did I miss this woman?” He looked up at Scarpati, “how did I miss you?”
“I wasn’t trying to do anything with it,” Scarpati said. “It’s just something I really enjoyed.”
“It startled me how good she was, and how she wasn’t known to me, because I pay attention,” Arnold said.
Arnold said Scarpati was one of seven pumpkin carvers chosen from among the thousands across the country, whom the Food Network reached out to.
“They are already judged to be among the best seven,” he said, looking at Scarpati and adding, “you already won. You are one of the avengers. The fact that you’re there shows you’ve already proven yourself.”
Scarpati, a married mother of two, will appear on the show when Season 2 of “Outrageous Pumpkins,” with host Alyson Hannigan and judges Terri Hardin and Marc Evan, debuts on Food Network and streams on Discovery+ at 10 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 3.
But on Wednesday, Fawn Hollow’s fifth-graders were the stars, as Arnold led classes and Scarpati walked around the room and assisted children who needed help. Jones Family Farm in Shelton donated 140 pumpkins for the event, which was sponsored by the Fawn Hollow PTO.
Sheila Casinelli, the English language arts coordinator for K-5, attended the last class with her daughter, Victoria.
“It’s always a fun class,” Casinelli said of Scarpati’s art lessons. “Today the kids had a ball.”
Scarpati said around 120 students participated in classes throughout the day, in addition to “a lot of colleagues” who came into her classroom to see what the kids were up to. Among them were Superintendent of Schools Joseph Kobza and Assistant Superintendent Jack Ceccolini.
Learning from mistakes
Shards of pumpkin skin covered the floor and the black tarp covering groups of desks inside Scarpati’s classroom — and some children had it in their hair from a fun food fight with Arnold at the beginning of class.
In front of the room, Arnold carved his pumpkin, using clay loop tools under the powerful light of a studio lamp. He encouraged the children to cut away without worrying about making a mistake.
“Everything I do is a mistake, and every mistake leads to a solution,” he said. “I don’t learn from not making mistakes.”
“Can I do the mouth now?” one boy called out.
“Yeah,” Arnold replied. “Remember, it’s a little deeper in the corners for the dimples.”
Arnold looked at the impressions in his own pumpkin. “Now he’s looking like he has eyes and eyebrows, so he doesn’t need the goggles shape anymore,” he said.
As the children reached the point of adding in the finer details, Arnold said, “you can use each other’s faces for reference. I don’t want the mouth to be flat on the surface. I want it to wrap around and the dimples to go all the way back to his ears.”
“All the decisions you’re going to make now are on your own,” he said. “You’re not going to be perfect. It’s a cartoon face. You’re not following a formula.”
Turning his pumpkin, Arnold showed the class the profile of its nose. “That’s sculpting,” he said. “Go deeper and deeper.”
“I have teeth. Now I want to do a tongue,” Arnold said, making a funny facial
expression to show how he wanted his pumpkin to look. “The more you take away from the outside, the more the tongue is sticking out. When I move the end of this tool lightly over the tongue it brings it into sharper focus.”
When the lesson ended, Arnold said, “my first pumpkins were awful, but the process was the fun part. When I’m finished, the fun is over. You’re always going to get better. They’re always good,” he said of the carvings. “Does that make sense?”
Scarpati praised her students’ work, saying, “these pumpkins are amazing.”