The Pumpkin Pro

Alex Wer the pumpkin geekWhat crafter, artist, or DIYer doesn’t dream of making a living off their creativity? From the women who invented those awesome fabric snowballs to the vast empire of Young House Love, you always wonder how they managed to turn fun time into full time.

Today, we are delighted to introduce Alex Wer, a.k.a. The Pumpkin Geek. It all started in 2009, when Alex’s wife asked him to carve an artificial pumpkin for her office’s open house. It was a huge hit, and orders – from company logos to children’s portraits – started rapidly accruing. Alex’s carving talents and his expansion to Comic Cons earned him a Geekie Award in 2013. In 2017, he left his day job to be a full time pumpkin carver.

Katie caught up with Alex to ask him about his incredible creative journey that we’re NOT envious of. Well, maybe we’re a little envious. OK…we’re totally envious.


You started carving pumpkins as a favor as your wife, and now you do it full time. Did you ever imagine your career taking this turn?

Of course I never imagined it! At the beginning of what I call my “orange obsession,” it was just – how detailed can I get? Or, how photo realistic can I get? Then, my wife and I were talking and I said, “If I do a Comic Con instead of just waiting for people to find me, I’m going to be in front of tens of thousands of people. That will be a true test to see if anybody is really interested in what I do.” That conversation sparked what is now my full time job.

20000 leagues pumpkin by the pumpkin geekHow many Comic Cons do you attend each year?

I do two Comic Cons a month. I just came back from Baltimore and I think that was my 18th or 19th convention this year. I’ll be in Atlanta at the Walking Dead convention the last weekend of October. That’s my last convention for 2018, but I’ll start again in January.

What tools you use when you carve the pumpkins?

I use a Dremel. I basically have two Dremels with two different bits, so I don’t have to change them. I use a standard drill bit for cutting out things and then I use a shading and graving tool to flatten areas of the face when I need to smooth it out. It’s pretty much just two bits.

Can you describe the process of carving a pumpkin from start to finish?

Let’s say someone wants an Indiana Jones pumpkin. Unless they have a specific image they want me to use, I look online for Indiana Jones images that I think might work and will look good. Once I find the image, I create a template by enlarging it and stenciling it onto the pumpkin. Once it’s drawn onto the pumpkin, I start carving.

harry potter pumkins by the pumpkin geekWhat happens when you make a mistake?

I’ve been doing this long enough to tend not make mistakes. I tell people to think of me as a tattoo artist. Tattoo artists, once they place the image template on your skin, are just filling in the gaps. I’m basically tracing with the drill.

How long does it take to finish a carving?

The drawing and the carving portions – probably about 4 hours. The online research portion can be 5 minutes, to 5 or 10 hours. There are some images and some characters that are very hard to find, and sometimes finding the image takes me just as long, or longer, as the physical carving portion.

lord of the rings pumpkins by the pumpkin geekTell me about your five layer carving process.

If you look at my carved pumpkins, the brightest, almost white, portion is cut all the way through. That’s the first layer. Then there are three graded layers coming closer to the surface. This is where I define cheekbones, eyebrows, hair texture, things like that. Then there’s the fifth layer, which is untouched for dark eyes, black hair.

What is your most popular design?

People are really shocked when they find out about my number one design. Number 3 is Beetlejuice, which makes sense. Number 2 is Harry Potter, which also makes a lot of sense because in the Comic Con world, Harry Potter is popular with both adults and kids.

Number 1 is Tom Hiddleston’s Loki from The Avengers. I did conventions in Seattle and Chicago and he was at both conventions. I had no idea he had such a fan base! There were women who traveled from Indonesia, Australia, the UK, just to meet him! In one day, I got 17 orders for Loki. Before that, I don’t think I’ve ever had 2 orders for 1 character in the same weekend.

loki by the pumpkin geekWhat locations have your pumpkins shipped to?

Obviously anywhere in the US. I’ve also shipped to Hawai’i, Canada, Germany, and the UK. I just shipped 2 to London. I’ve shipped pumpkins to 7 or 8 different countries.

Are you on a first name basis with employees at your local craft store?

Yes, I am! Everybody there knows me, and have known me for about 8 years.

What’s your favorite pumpkin?

It’s hard for me to say! I enjoy projects of fandoms that I’m not necessarily familiar with. For example, I had heard of Doctor Who, but once I started doing conventions I realized Doctor Who has a big Comic Con and geek fandom. So it’s always fun for me to do something that’s outside of my fandom. And, of course, Star Wars and Spiderman were things that I grew up with. So I love doing those pumpkins.

favorite pumpkins by the pumpkin geek


Images courtesy of The Pumpkin Geek

Let’s Get Small

lets get small

Book lovers dream of that big, beautiful library with the cozy chairs and the rolling ladder. But books can tend to take up quite a bit of space. Today, we have a solution for you! It’s the My Miniature Library kit by Laurence King Publishing, illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini (ages 6+, retails for $20). Katie took the miniature kit for a tiny test drive…

my minature library kit by laurence king publishingThe packaging for My Miniature Library is a delightful cardboard box in the shape of a book. When you open the box, you are greeted with a small instruction booklet, 18 sheets of books covers and pages, and a cardboard punch-out bookshelf.

kit contents of my miniature libraryThe 9″ x 12″ box containing the kit (and this is really cool) is also the set of the library. Prop it up on its side, and it becomes your library, complete with chevron hardwood floors, birds in flight wallpaper, and a window framed with fall leaves. When you are done playing with your miniature library, you simply pack everything inside the box, close the lid, and slide the kit on a shelf until next time!

set for my minature libraryThe kit contains the makings for 30 tiny books: 20 pre-written (both fiction and non-fiction), 8 books with title prompts you can author yourself, and 2 completely blank books for whatever topic you desire. Here’s a set of the pre-printed book sheets (which were primarily fairy tales):

ready made book sheets for my miniature libraryAnd here’s a set of the design-your-own sheets:

make your own book sheets for my minature library kitGenerally, the instructions are very clear, concise, and easy to follow. Especially the cardboard bookshelf. The books are where I started to run into some trouble. To create a miniature book, you first cut out the 2 strips that become the book pages, and the cover of the book. Then you carefully accordion-fold the book pages together, and glue them inside the front and back of the book’s cover.

book folds You have to carefully cut the 2 page strips in order to not lose any of the text or images. You also have to cut out the cover. For 30 books, that’s 90 pieces of paper to cut. That’s a lot of cutting.

Also, folding the 2 page strips is a bit tedious. These books are small (1″ x 1.5″), so it takes nimble fingers to make sure the tiny pages are folded just right. The covers have a tiny spines that require more nimble finger work.

It took me around 6.5 minutes to make a book from start to finish. Multiply that by 30 and you are looking at well over 3 hours to make all 30 books. Also, the packaging doesn’t mention needing glue to attach the pages to the cover. That piece of information is buried deep within the instructions.

However, when finished, the library is positively adorable. The stories are cleverly edited, so nothing is lost in the retelling. I love the option for children to write and draw their own books. The quality of printing is top notch, and the book illustrations by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini are just incredible. Here’s an illustration from Hansel and Gretel:

hansel and gretel illustration by daniela jaglenka terrazziniAnd here is the finished library, bookshelf and all. We placed my toilet paper tube portrait of Johnathan Swift (who you first met here) in the library so you can get an idea of the size ratio.

finished my miniature libraryHowever, I disagree with the recommended age of 6+. I think children 10+ are better suited for the complicated cutting and folding to put these books together. With an estimated 3 hours to craft all 30 books (and that’s after all the cutting is done), I can imagine many children would give up well before all of the books are finished. Children under 10 might also have trouble writing small enough for the design-your-own books portion of the kit. Still, there’s no denying the awesomeness of your very own library with readable books and gorgeous hardwood floors!

Recommended, with caution. Be prepared with good scissors, strong cutting and folding fingers, a glue stick, and lots and LOTS of patience.

Doors Within Doors

doors within doors

Art museums, science centers, parks, zoos, aquariums – these places share a common thread in that they are fully immersive environments that encourage individuals to follow his/ her/ their own path, exploring, discovering, and learning.

Then, Meow Wolf.

Take the concept of immersive learning and infuse it with powerful storytelling, artistic expression, unbound creativity, and fierce playfulness. Then crank it to eleven. THAT is Meow Wolf. Katie and her son recently discovered Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Take it away, Katie!


Meow Wolf: House of Eternal Return. Crazy name for an art exhibit, right? Turns out it’s not only crazy, it is a hands-on, completely captivating, artist inspired, mystery to be solved, fantastical world, storytelling experience that’s *really* hard to explain to someone who hasn’t been there. With that said, I’m going to try to explain it, because I was absolutely blown away by this place.

meow wolf exhibit sign

Some history about Meow Wolf: it was formed in 2008 by a group of 12 artists living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, who chose their name by literally pulling words out of a hat. Now operating as an art collective of nearly 200 people, they create unique art experiences for audiences of all ages, or as they so wonderfully describe their vision on their website: “Meow Wolf champions otherness, weirdness, challenging norms, radical inclusion, and the power of creativity to change the world.”

With support from Game of Thrones author and Santa Fe resident George R. R. Martin, who purchased a defunct bowling alley and leased it to the group, Meow Wolf turned the once forgotten building into a permanent art exhibit, House of Eternal Return, which opened in March 2016.

meow wolf sculptureEmployees working the House of Eternal Return ticket counter encourage you to touch everything, explore everywhere, and fully engage yourself within the over 20,000 square foot exhibit.

When you enter, you are immediately greeted by a massive two-story Victorian mansion owned by the fictional Selig family, who vanished after conducting forbidden experiments inside the home. If you look closely at the house, you’ll see small credits given to George R. R. Martin. Wolves and dragons appear in the scrawling woodwork. The front doormat reads “Beyond Here There Be Dragons.”

meow wolf houseYou start investigating the mystery of the Selig family disappearance by finding a mailbox and reading messages written on the cards inside. The cards provide hints and clues to search for while you wander through the maze of rooms and hallways.

meow wolf mailboxDeeper inside the exhibit, there’s a mechanical raven (another Game of Thrones nod, perhaps?), which occasionally flaps its wings and chatters at the visitors below.

meow wolf ravenMy son and I spent nearly four hours wandering through the House of Eternal Return. The exhibit has dozens of hidden doors and portals to unique and fascinating places, which through the story strangely connect in some weird way to each other. Crawling through the fireplace brings you to a cave where you can play music on the rib bones of a giant glowing mastodon.

meow wolf illunimated skeletonWalking through the open door of an ice machine takes you into a room full of lights and mirrors, where you push buttons to change the lights and play different notes of music.

meow wolf blue lightsGoing through the refrigerator leads you down a sterile white hallway into what appears to be a rocket ship, ready to take you to futuristic tropical destinations.

doors within doorsThere are also strange space monsters that blink their eyes at you when you walk by.

meow wolf furry alienWalls of fabric that reveal an ever-changing light show when you touch it (or floss dance between the wavy cloth).


You can also try stuffing yourself down the slide portal inside the dryer, which ends in a small room with walls completely covered in laundry. For those of you wondering, yes, I did manage to squeeze my way into the dryer, much to my son’s amusement. There is another door into (or out of) the laundry room, but my son and I couldn’t figure out where it was after leaving the room.

meow wolf dryer portalThe entire exhibit is a mystery you have to attempt to solve, but honestly, I don’t believe there is one definite solution. Visitors interpret art differently, so what one person thinks is the answer, another may believe something completely different.

I can’t say enough about the House of Eternal Return: it is a must-see place. This post barely scratches the surface with all there is to see and experience. Pictures really don’t do it justice because everywhere you look, there’s something distinctly different and jaw-dropping. It’s funky and fun, inspiring and incredible. If you are in Santa Fe and visit Meow Wolf, plan on spending many hours exploring and getting lost within this one-of-a-kind immersive art labyrinth.

I can’t WAIT to go back.