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LAist Interview: Jim Olson, pumpkin carver

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Pumpkin carving is a time honored Halloween tradition in which millions of Halloweeners take a knife to the seasonal fruit and do our best to carve our own David. If my experiences are anything like yours, the resulting carving is less a work of art than an exercise in futility. That is why I was so amazed by Jim Olson, a 32-year Los Angeles resident, who set up shop Saturday and Sunday at The Grove where people can enter to win one of his carved creations. I sat down with the Minnesota native as he carved a pumpkin, chatted with onlookers and shared a few trade secrets.

How long have you been doing this?

25 years.

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What got you interested in carving pumpkins?

I'm an artist. 25 years ago I had a pumpkin and it sat on my counter for a week. I kept looking at thinking, What am I going to do with that pumpkin? I took out my pocket and started carving and six hours later I had a three dimensional face. It was just as if I had carved it out of a block of wood. And that was the start. I took some pictures, showed them to a couple friends, and they told me about some contest so I [carved another pumpkin] and won. Out of 4,000 entries, my pumpkin got first prize and I won $10,000.

Is six-hours the longest amount of time you've spent working on a pumpkin?

Yeah. But here's the interesting thing about that. I can't set this pumpkin aside and not work on it, because the flesh becomes rubbery and it wants to tear and doesn't want to cut. Once you start, you've got to stick with it until it's finished.

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