When a love of Halloween and pop culture combine with a talent for pumpkin carving, the result is Brook Rice's pumpkin display.
Rice, who moved to West Linn with his family about three years ago, is the man behind the Pumpkin Display at West Linn, a set of 200 intricately carved pumpkins featuring some of the most iconic characters from popular culture — Calvin and Hobbes, Darth Vader, Edward Scissorhands, Aquaman, Mario, the Joker, Spiderman and Bart Simpson.
Rice's creations aren't all movie and comic characters though. He also carves intricate patterns, sayings and other more traditional spooky Halloween designs.
Rice first got into carving pumpkins about six years ago at a carving party.
Hundreds of pumpkins later, he is hosting a pumpkin display at his house that attracted over 300 people last year.
"At the party, I used a pumpkin master's pattern and I poked the holes and it was this neat little raven in front of a window," Rice said. "I thought it was the greatest thing because before that, I had just done simple jack-o-lantern faces and it took me 10 or 20 minutes to do it, but that was the first one I was really proud of and from there, I researched online and learned more about pumpkin carving and different patterns."
One year later, Rice realized he did something a lot of people took interest in.
"In Boise, in 2014, the year after I carved the raven, I became sort of hooked, so I bought a whole bunch of pumpkins and I carved 20 of them, and I put them outside of my house, and that was only on Halloween; it wasn't elaborate," he said.
That year, young trick-or-treaters were too frightened of his other decorations to come to the door, Rice said, but were dragged along by their parents who wanted to see his pumpkins.
"From that point on, I knew that I was kind of on to something, but I wasn't sure what. Then I went online and researched and realized there were displays set up that were getting hundreds and thousands of people visiting, but it wasn't until last year, 2018, that I got really serious," Rice said.
Last year, Rice, a technical writer, had some time off between jobs, which lead to pumpkin-carving taking on a new role in his life.
"Carving kept my mind off of other things, so it became, in a way, like a form of therapy for me," he said.
Using his new found therapy, Rice carved about 100 pumpkins last year, bringing the total number of pumpkins in his display to 150. Though his display features some real pumpkins, most of his carvings are foam pumpkins, which won't get moldy and last from year to year.
"Because I have a full-time job, I haven't carved as many pumpkins this year, but the quality has gotten a lot better because I've learned new techniques and I'm getting better at my craft," Rice said.
Not every pumpkin Rice carves makes it into the display. He gets requests for carvings from friends, family, neighbors and charity organizations.
Occasionally he will also sell his pumpkins.
With over 200 pumpkins this year, Rice said he is running out of room to fit many more in his garage, where he displays them, but he has found a way to deal with the limited space for now.
"To keep my display fresh, I'm probably going to rotate about 30 or 40 of them, so there's something new every time," he said.
Carving a pumpkin can take Rice anywhere from 30 minutes to eight hours for the more intricate ones he said.
"Some of the simpler patterns, I can knock out in 30 to 40 minutes, but I don't feel like I'm challenging myself if I do very many of those," Rice explained. "If I spend three to five hours on a pumpkin, it generally turns out pretty well and I can do it in maybe a day or two."
Rice said he can sometimes be a bit of a perfectionist and will give up on a pumpkin if it doesn't turn out like he thinks it should. But, he said, this doesn't necessarily mean the pumpkin will go to waste.
With the foam pumpkins, he can cut out the first attempt, turn it around and try again on the other side. He said he will put cardboard over the hole in the back and turn it into a door decoration.
Rice's display will ru n6-9:30 p.m Oct. 26-27, Oct. 31at his house, 2885 White Salmon Court in West Linn.
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