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UPDATE: Saugus resident carves up a good time

Posted: October 30, 2012 2:23 p.m.
Updated: October 30, 2012 5:49 p.m.

Becky Hanney, 16, carves pumpkins in her Saugus home on Monday.

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Sixteen-year-old Saugus artist Becky Hanney was embracing a long-standing tradition when she put down her normal art materials and picked up a steak knife, orange peeler and nut pick last year.

She turned from sketching and acrylic painting to a new medium: pumpkins.

“One day last year I had a lot of time on my hands and a pumpkin,” Hanney said. “After that, it sort of all fell together.”

Hanney’s project this year was carving two pumpkins: one of Stewie and Brian Griffin, characters from the “Family Guy” animated television series, and the other featuring a popular Internet image.

It’s a far cry the origins of jack-o’-lanterns, which date back to the 1660s in the British Isles and were generally carved in turnips.

Some sources say the tradition originated to provide lanterns for a celebratory Gaelic festival held on Oct. 31 or Nov. 1; others say they were put in windows with fearsome faces to protect homes from spirits afoot in the night.

The tradition was brought to North America in the 1800s by immigrants who turned from turnips to easier-to-carve pumpkins.

The “pumpkin craft” tradition has turned quite creative — “how to” pumpkin-carving instructions and contest websites abound on the Internet.

It’s also become competitive. The Guinness World Records website shows record-holders for the largest jack-o’-lantern (American Scott Cully carved a 1,810.5-pound pumpkin on Oct. 30, 2010), most lit jack-o’-lanterns on display (30,128 in Boston on Oct. 21, 2006), and fastest time to carve a face into a pumpkin (20.1 seconds by United Kingdom resident David Finkle on Oct. 7, 2010).

For Hanney, the undertaking is no more than a hobby. Planning to become a psychologist some day, she normally shares her artwork by giving it to friends.

But the pumpkins will be an exception, she said Tuesday.

“I’m definitely keeping these,” she said. “It took me over 3 1/2 hours to do each one.”





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