Notes From A Virgin Pumpkin Carver

Honestly, I’m not sure how I ended up on a pumpkin carving team at GUTS 2012. I think I may have just been standing at the wrong place at the wrong time when the AIGA Charlotte Board asked for volunteers. In fact, someone might have just volunteered me in my absence. All I know is the week of the event I was having an email exchange with former AIGA Charlotte President Taylor Nall and AIGA Charlotte wunderkind Adam Iscrupe about a game plan that would lead us to GUTS glory. Little did my teammates know that they had been saddled with someone who brought little to the pumpkin-carving table.

There are a couple of reasons for this, the first and foremost being that I had never carved a pumpkin before. Now, it’s possible I may have carved a pumpkin as a child, but if so I don’t remember it at all. So, like a true Generation Xer, I’ll just go ahead and blame my parents for yet another personal shortcoming.

The second reason I figured I’d be mostly useless to my knife-wielding teammates was that I suffer from a well-known but hopeless malaise known as Copywriter’s Disease. The key symptom of this illness is the visualization of fantastic ideas coupled with the absence of a way to execute them. While there is no known cure for this malady, the popular prescription is obvious: team up with a designer. Of course, this has side effects, mostly in the form of comments such as, “Um, I get the idea but let’s try this solution instead,” “I love your enthusiasm but I’m not sure that’s viable,” or “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.” All three of these, however, are preferred over the soul-crushing despair of a blank stare.

So—needless to say—I remained mostly silent during the email exchange, reverting to my stock response in such situations: “Just tell me what to do, and I’ll do it.” Luckily when we showed up on that Thursday afternoon, Taylor and Adam had all the tools we needed. Oh, and our pumpkins, too. (That’s right. I didn’t even bring a pumpkin.) We checked in, prepped our table, and started brainstorming before the starting bell.

AIGA Charlotte GUTS 2012 Team

Now while I don’t want to throw my esteemed teammates under the bus, I also want to be candid: we were totally winging it. But once the concept was decided upon and the green light was given, we dug in. Adam gave me a specific assignment: carving out streaks for our jack o’ lantern’s eyeballs, based on lines he had drawn. Again, it was the perfect set-up for me: don’t think, just complete this rudimentary task. Luckily, our efficacy as a team gained steam the longer we carved. The proper tools were decided upon for each task, bold but critical decisions were made on the fly, and we completed our magnificent pumpkin zombie tableau with time to spare.

AIGA Charlotte GUTS 2012 Pumpkin

We stood back from our table and beamed with pride. This was before we started touring the other tables. It was then that we realized we were amateurs. Intricately carved pumpkins rife with slick props stared back at us. Really, descriptions don’t do these pumpkins justice. Do yourself a favor and just visit the 2012 GUTS Winners’ Circle.

The deserving winners were announced, the silent auction started, and I retreated to a beer, my creative high now crashed back to earth. Right then and there, our team vowed that next year we’d kick it up a notch. But lo and behold, the ultimate silver lining presented itself as we made our way back to our table: we had received a bid. I don’t remember how much it was—I’m pretty sure it was over $50!—but it didn’t matter. Someone wanted our pumpkin, had paid cold, hard cash for it, and now some kiddos at Levine’s Children Hospital would benefit. Win, win. Suddenly my competitive streak melted away, and that was the moment when I realized I’d had a great time serving as Adam’s pumpkin carving minion, and that it was all for a fantastic cause.

Fast-forward to today, and I’m sad to report that our team uneventfully has disbanded, and I’ve been left behind. Adam will be competing in the individual competition in 2013. While it stings a little, I understand that I was probably holding him back. Truth be told, I’ll be better off left to enjoy the event, walking around and watching all the creative do-gooders spill their pumpkins’ guts. At this point, with registration closed for individuals and teams due to the event’s popularity, GUTS 2013 promises to be a pumpkin carving competition for the ages. Make no mistake; GUTS is a true spectator sport, too.

Of course, I still got volunteered for something this year. But this time it’s for something far more befitting a copywriter: clean-up. You know, it’s probably just better that way.

Patrick Saleeby serves as AIGA Charlotte’s VP of Communications. When he’s not posting photos of his dog Scarlett over social media, he works diligently as a freelance copywriter. He is also a partner in Suzie Q and the Clapping Cobra, a small local design shop. 

By aigacharlotte
Published October 22, 2013