CIRCLEVILLE — While there is a plethora of arts and craft booths featuring finished artwork, you can also see artists at work during the Circleville Pumpkin Show.
Thursday, visitors could watch 3D pumpkin carving and fabric rugs and learn about making glass pumpkins while visiting Franklin Street.
For Jack Pine, a graduate of Logan Elm High School, creating a glass pumpkin for a friend inspired him to make pumpkins to sell at the show. He has had a booth at the show for about 30 years.
He talked his journey from high school artist to glassblower at the show’s arts and craft exhibit.
Pine grew up in Tarlton and did a stint in the U.S. Army, before going to school at the Columbus College of Art and Design. While there, he focused on ceramics.
His father was an employee at DuPont who would airbrush designs on semi-trucks as a side gig.
“That’s pretty much our family line,” he said of working at DuPont. “They work for the mills. They work for the factory. He really encouraged me to try something different.
“I mean, he wasn’t ashamed of what he did ... But, he encouraged me to try something different and get into school,” Pine said. “I was one of the first people in my family that actually got into college.”
After graduating college, he travelled to the West Coast and ended up working with a few glass-blowing studios.
“I feel madly in love with the whole process,” he said. “I thought it was just the neatest thing in the world. So, I knew that it was my destiny.”
Pine got into making pumpkins, after making a simple orange pumpkin with green stem for a friend who planning on giving it to their child as a birthday present.
“I was like, ‘Huh, I bet this would be a big hit in Circleville,’” he said with a laugh.
Eventually, Pine was homesick and ended up relocating to Laurelville, in the Hocking Hills. There he has Jack Pine Studio, which has about six employees and is open to the public almost year-round.
Around 2020, he decided to make a special pumpkin of the year.
“This year, I wanted to go back to traditions,” he said.
The pumpkin is orange but with a few threads of burnt orange glass, giving it the look of tree branches. A piece of glow-in-the-dark glass, representing the moon, sits near the center of the pumpkin.
Pine said he enjoys what he does and attending the Pumpkin Show.
“I owe Circleville a bit of gratitude for making me who I am,” he said. “This helps shape who I am. I like to see when people come up and they say, ‘Do you know I was in a gallery in Colorado and there was one of your pumpkin?’”
In a parking lot down Franklin Street from where Pine spoke, Gus Smithhisler could be seen carving characters from the Ice Age movie series into a large pumpkin.
The Columbus resident is a graduate of Ohio State University. He used to draw as a child but became an engineer.
“I started growing these giant pumpkins about 20 years ago,” he said. “I was carving out the seeds with a big knife, and it was the middle of August. I’m like, ‘Well, they’re pumpkins. Someone should carve one.’ And they said, ‘Go ahead. You have the knife.’ So I’m an accidental artist.”
Smithhisler collects the pumpkins he carves from weigh offs and festivals in Ohio and other states that are held prior to the Circleville event.
He can do about two carvings a day. On the last day of the festival, Smithhisler will have a guest carver at his booth carving a pumpkin.
While animals are Smithhisler’s favorite to carve, he also does logos, cartoon characters and other things.
“I like to do animals, because I’m not as restricted,” he said. “Logos and stuff like that, are things that people know really well. You have to be really careful and real precise. The same thing with cartoon characters. You have to be real precise. When I do animals, I can be a little more free and have a little more fund with them.”
To carve pumpkins, Smithhisler said he uses simple filet knives and loop tools, which are used for clay sculpting.
The Squashcarver, as Smithhisler also goes by, has been at the Circleville Pumpkin Show for over 15 years. He said he keeps coming back because “it’s the Pumpkin Show.”
“They didn’t have a carver when I first started,” he said. “Nobody was carving pumpkins and I worked with the growers group to carve some and then the visitors bureau picked me up. Now I have my own sponsors that sponsor this space. So, and it keeps growing every year.”
Smithhisler said he loves the Circleville Pumpkin Show, with his wife, Holly, nodding in agreement.
“I look forward to it every year,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, but a big payoff. I just enjoy the crowd and talking to people and everything.”