Here are my ‘Top tips’ for not ruining your Funkin… (like I did… to 3). Chinoiserie designs definitely work best with the method of negative shading with a power tool like a Dremel. Trust me. I tried to carve real pumpkins with these designs and while I DID it the result is not the same, nor is the final product (semi) permanent. My Pagoda and Fan Tree pumpkins (PICTURED, which were real) turned out fine, cool actually, but are already molded and have been chucked. It was a sad day after all of this work.
1) Be prepared to make a dusty mess. I did this in our kitchen sink which I lined with a split open Contractor bag. Funkins make a MESS… dust everywhere. And you should probably wear a mask or you will (like me) have Funkin snot for days. No picture necessary… protect your nasal passages.
2) Carve out a secret backdoor first… the little spot where you are going to insert your lights… this gives you the chance to see the actual thickness of the foam which will obviously dictate how deep you are going to carve out before you go all the way through. Keep your little backdoor handy when you are carving to visually measure this thickness. If you are using battery operated lights you can replace your little “door” after putting the light inside.
3) DON’T use the pin prick design method… unless you have Owl eye vision or are carving something so simple your kids can follow along with ease. Trust me, I tried it. BUT… one of the benefits of a foam pumpkin is that it is FOAM! Foam takes impressions well so you can skip the pokey pin and the process of cutting out a stencil. Simply lay and tape your design in place and then (I use a Bic pen) TRACE the design firmly. The pen will leave the design you are going to follow on the surface. Voilá!
4) Take the Extra step… if the traced design isn’t as clear as you would like simply (after you have pulled off the template page) go over the impression lines with a fine tip permanent pen. It is a good idea to keep the template handy for reference in case it gets confusing. I take the extra step and “X out” the negative areas just to be sure. That way if I step away from it I don’t have to mentally remap my carving process when I come back to it. And trust me, you will be stepping away from it.. your hands and wrists will be sore.
5) Use multiple drill tips at multiple stages. I start with the small angular sanding drill bit (I am sure it has an official name but I don’t know what it it) and then finish sharp edges and tight corners with the metal flower bud (again no official name) bit.
6) GO SLOW!! I cannot express this enough. Use the lowest setting on the Dremel (#2) and hold the tool firmly. It won’t take long for you to get used to the foam density but the tool WILL skip around if you don’t keep a firm grip (thus the sore hands).
7) Outline with your tool first. I start by going around the area I am working on FIRST and then going in toward the middle. This way I have a clear picture of what is going to be removed. Again… go slow… and GO AT DIFFERENT ANGLES. Until you get your depth nailed down the last thing you want to do is go whole hog and straight in. This will send you all the way through your foam. Not good. You will start to get the hang of how deep you need to go pretty quickly which will make it easier.
8) Work from the Inside Out. Start carving out in the CENTER of the design. The integrity of the pumpkin will start to be slightly compromised as you go along. Tiny detail areas should be the last to carve. Start from the center and work your way out.
9) Light her up. Lighting your fabulous design. Since you are not going all the way through the light needs to be strong enough to shine through the leftover foam layer. A strong battery powered LED light (think push button emergency light) works great if you are not near an electrical outlet. But I found that I liked the orange glow from a cheap and cheerful 25ft. strand of Dollar Store halloween lights. They are small enough to fit through the secret access door and bright enough to make the design really pop. Plus, once plugged in I don’t have to worry about battery life.
10) Weather. Even though Funkins SAY that they are indoor /outdoor, once you carve out your design I would strongly recommend making sure that they are mostly protected from the elements. Your porch or covered entry should be fine but you might want to move them inside for any really bad weather. You just spent a few hours working on this fabulousness so that you can keep it for years… it never hurts to add the extra step to preserve them for as long as possible.
BONUS TIP: Cool factor… Paint the Funkin first… I was SO focused on getting these designs to work that it wasn’t until I was mostly finished that I thought about how much cooler they would look in fabulous bright colors (Pink! Blue! Green! Teal!). If you agree then PAINT FIRST and THEN carve. You need the design to show through the foam, and I am sure that the end result will not be the same if a layer of paint is added to the mix.
Finally… please don’t send me a nastygram when this falls to sh*t before your eyes. It can be REALLY frustrating. I warned you and you already know how many of these I ruined making this work. But it CAN work and it DOES work… you just need to be Patient and go slow. You CAN however feel free send me pics of your own designs (search Pinterest for Chinoiserie Silhouettes and try them!) I would LOVE to see your Funkins! At the least we can virtually pour ourselves a drink and laugh over the fact that we will never get these hours back but we ARE crazy crafty and awesome for trying.
Good luck my friends!