Artist embraces an orange medium

Nancy Rollings Saul

Rene Hubal has loved Halloween since she was a child.

“After my son was born,” she said, “I got into it a lot more.”

Hundreds and hundreds of pumpkins more. Tyler Hubal is now 15, but his mother’s enthusiasm is still going strong.

When pumpkin carving kits first came out, Hubal started carving for the Pumpkin Masters contest.

She won the $1,500 grand prize in the 2007 contest. The same pumpkin took first place in another category, bringing her total winnings for 2007 to $2,000.

“I put the money aside for the next year to buy candy and pumpkins,” she said.

The contest has 150 judges, Hubel said, so she can’t imagine how many entries there must be.

Pumpkin Masters’ 2008 carving kits feature pictures of two pumpkins that were carved using designs derived from some of Hubal’s entries.

Hubal said her son and her husband Edward are very supportive of her hobby.

“They give me ideas,” she said. “The first time I won an award, it was my husband’s idea.”

The theme was “Ghost Bar: Boos and Spirits.”

Hubal translates the ideas into the paper designs she uses to carve her entries.

For the contest, she prepares a paper pattern, applies the design to a real pumpkin, photographs the completed jack-o-lantern and sends the photo to the contest.

The actual pumpkins go into the garbage a short time later, because they won’t last long after they’re carved.

“My favorite designs, I will do on (artificial) ‘Funkins,’ so I can keep them.”

Hubal decorated her yard with 23 pumpkins last year at Halloween, and only four of the pumpkins were real.

When Hubal wants a real pumpkin, she usually drags her husband out to Bart’s Pumpkin Patch east of Mount Pulaski.

“I take my designs with me, and I fit them to pumpkins,” she said. “We spend hours out there.”

Hubal does craft shows with her mother, Maggie Clinge of Harvard. Last year, she carved smaller artificial pumpkins and sold them at the shows.

“I got a few custom orders from the craft show for names and that sort of thing,” she said.

“I did a Harley logo for an anniversary gift,” Hubal said. “I’m not allowed to sell that, because it’s their logo. That was one of the hardest carvings I’ve ever done.”

A carving can take from one to three hours.

“I basically use the (carving) kit,” she said. “The tools are the right size, and they make them stronger and stronger every year.”

Edward Hubal photographs his wife’s contest entries, using a digital camera on a tripod.

“Make sure there’s a light on in another room,” Hubal suggested. “It keeps the room dark, but if it’s too dark, it makes the picture distorted.

“The ones I win with the most are shadow and lettering pumpkins.”

Shadow pumpkins have one design on the front and another, carved smaller and toward the top of the pumpkin, in back. When a light is placed in the pumpkin, the back design throws a pattern onto the wall.

Her grand prize entry, “There’s No Business Like Crow Business,” is a shadow pumpkin that casts the images of two crows onto the wall.

Hubal said Pumpkin Master entries are accepted only until Thanksgiving. Awards are announced by Jan. 31.

“Once Pumpkin Masters has your pattern, they own it,” she said. “If they print your pattern (unchanged) in a book, they will give you another $250 award.”

When she has the time, she sometimes takes custom orders, but she hasn’t advertised.

“Mostly, my orders come by word of mouth,” she said.

Hubal’s grand prize entry can be seen at

Lincoln Courier