A pumpkin takes three to four days to carve, according to Flo and Rich Newman, and remains intact for a week at the most before it begins to rot.
While it's unfortunate that their pumpkin artworks have such a short shelf life, occasionally the inevitable rotting can be helpful. "On one of the political pumpkins, Bush's head was the first part to rot and it started sort of hanging," said Flo in a recent interview with the Advocate. "We were like, 'Yay!' It was pumpkin justice."
For centuries people have been fashioning pumpkins into jack o'lanterns to celebrate Halloween, and some of them, like the Newmans, have turned the carving process into an art form.
This fall, the Newmans added a new twist to their usual October activity: music. The two Amherst-based singer/songwriters have been recording together as TagYerit since 1995. When they realized that the pumpkin part of their website was getting more hits than the music section, Rich had a eureka moment.
"Rich suggested that we should carve the themes of our songs on pumpkins," says Flo. But the duo didn't just stop at becoming song-carvers: they created music videos featuring pumpkins instead of backup dancers. The videos use stop-action photography to chronicle their slow, detailed process of carving images into pumpkins.
TagYerit has three videos completed so far, including "Deranged," in which a zombie-like cowgirl roams the plains, and "Tubeman," which features mysterious men on inner tubes off the coast of Cape Ann.
The Newmans have been carving pumpkins for over 25 years in celebration of Flo's birthday: Halloween. But it wasn't until the last 10 or 15 years when their sizeable brood of young nieces and nephews put in pumpkin requests, according to the Newmans, that their pastime became something akin to an obsession. If you look at the pumpkin portion of their website, http://www.tagyerit.com, you'll see some of the hundreds of pumpkins the Newmans have carved, ranging from those with typical scary Halloween themes to political jack o'lanterns.
Describing their process as opposite of that of wood carvers—the husband and wife team are wood carvers by day—Flo and Rich are capable of carving scenes that look three-dimensional.
"When you want it to be sculpted looking, think about the light and translucency," said Flo. "Any area that you want to be kind of light, you cut it all the way through. It's the exact opposite of wood—we have to carve a photo negative with pumpkins."