September 21, 2012

How to Make Halloween Folk Art from Dollar Store Pumpkins

I LOVE decorating for Halloween and look forward, all year, to opening up my boxes full of Halloween folk art pieces.  I'm a big fan of antique German papier mache and the contemporary works of Nicol Sayre, Dee Foust and Rick Conant. Drawing my inspiration from those whimsical, collectible pieces from both past and present, I've come up with an easy and very inexpensive tutorial for making pumpkin primitives at home.

Dollar Store Pumpkin Folk Art

  • A foam pumpkin from the dollar store (or you can use a larger one from the craft store)
  • Pumpkin carving knife (or other small serrated knife)
  • Sharpie pen
  • Paper Mache paste (recipe below)
  • Newspaper, cut into strips
  • Acrylic paints (orange, yellow, brown, black)
  • DecoArt Americana Staining/Antiquing Medium
  • DecoArt Americana Acrylic Paint in "Asphaltum"
  • Folk Art Pumpkin Eyes/Mouth printed on plain white copy paper
  • (download for free HERE)
  • Tacky Glue
  • Black Wire
  • Pencil
  • Bamboo skewer or awl

Step 1:  Using a pumpkin carving knife or other small serrated knife, carve and remove a lid from the foam pumpkin 

Step 2:  Using the printed eyes/mouth as templates, trace facial features with a sharpie on to the pumpkin.  Using the serrated knife, cut out the eyes and mouth.  Gently brush off the bits of stray foam.

Step 3:   Apply a layer of paper mache to the pumpkin, inside and out, by dipping a strip of newspaper in to the paste (recipe below), and slightly overlapping the previous piece on the pumpkin.  When piece has been entirely covered, transfer to a 200 degree (F) oven and allow to dry for 1 hour.
After years of experimenting with different paper mache paste recipes, I've struck upon a favorite:

Paper Mache Paste
(From Family Fun Magazine)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups cold water
2 cups boiling water
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

Whisk together flour and 2 cups cold water in a medium bowl.  Add this mixture to a saucepan of 2 cups boiling water, gently whisking, and bring to a boil again.  Remove from heat and stir in the sugar.  Let it cool.  Paste will thicken as it cools.  When it does, it's ready to use.

Step 4:  Mix a combination of orange, brown and yellow acrylic paints to achieve the desired vintage orange color.  Paint entire pumpkin, both inside and out.  Painting the inside orange will help give depth to the finished piece.  Dry for 1 hour.  

Step 5:  Mix paints to achieve a vintage yellow color.  Paint the inside of the pumpkin, and the inside of the eyes and mouth with the yellow.  For the nose, first paint a yellow triangle.  Allow time to dry, then paint a smaller black triangle inside with acrylic paint.  Allow piece to dry completely.

Step 6:  Apply tacky glue around the edges of the eyes and mouth and glue in to place inside the pumpkin.  Create a stain by combining the staining medium and a small amount of "Asphaltum" colored acrylic paint (or other antique brown color).  Brush the stain over the entire piece, inside, outside, and over the paper eyes and mouth.  Use a paper towel to rub away any excess, and to achieve the desired level of antiquing.  Allow piece to dry completely.

Step 7:  Use an awl or bamboo skewer to punch a hole on opposite sides of the pumpkin, near the rim, for the wire handle.

Step 8:   Thread a piece of black wire (approx. 12-14" long) through one side (from the outside).  Bring it through and back up, and twist to fasten to the larger piece, leaving an inch of excess.  Repeat with the remaining side.  Use a pencil to create a corkscrew with the excess pieces on either side.  You can also wrap the arch of the wire handle around the pencil to give it a corkscrew in the middle.  

Just look at that goofy jack-o-lantern grin!

There's something lovably quirky about these guys.

Don't ya think?

This post was originally shared over at The Rhinestone Beagle last year.


  1. hey these are great you nailed it this time

  2. These are super cute! Thanks for explaining how to make these. I might just do this in the future.

  3. Your pumpkins look so authentic! Thank you for the tutorial!

  4. You continue to amaze!!!! I love these guys.

  5. Really cute, thank you for sharing this Halloween project!

  6. Wowwwwwww
    These look soooooooooooo wonderful.
    Cute in a freaky kind of way
    Love it :)

  7. These are amazing!? What a fantastic project! I'm pinning : )

  8. Those are so amazing and authentic looking ... I honestly can't believe you made them! They just look incredible.

  9. I saw these fake pumpkins at the Dollar Store, and thought, "boy they truly do look fake." And now? I'm looking at those $1 pumpkins with new eyes! I adore what you created - these look like expensive folk art. Great job!

  10. You are amazing! These are fantastic!

  11. These are so wonderful Jenn. I love the look of vintage Halloween. I hate the price that's usually associated. Problem solved. Thank you for the tutorial.

  12. Jenn I just love these pumpkins! Thanks for the fabulous tutorial!

  13. Oh Sweet Goodness I love these! Thank you for sharing -- these are my favorite use for these pumpkins and I just picked up 3 to recreate!

  14. Your pumpkin creations are fabulous! And your tutorial is great.

  15. Jenn,

    These are too cute! I love them.


  16. That is truly inspired! What a fun and creative project. I don't care what the rest of the blogging world says, you're Ok in my pumpkin patch!

  17. Amazing! Thanks for sharing such a fun and economical idea.

  18. Amazing! Thanks for sharing such a fun and economical idea.

  19. These are absolutely perfect! Your instructions are easy to follow and thank you for the link to the eyes! I also love Nicole Sayre and many of the Bethany Lowe artists. I can't wait to find these pumpkins in the stores and get started. I saw that JoAnn is putting out Fall items now. Excited! Would love for you to check out my blog


  20. These r awesome! And in my price range. Lol. I'm running right to the dollar store. I hope they still have some of those pumpkins. Thanks for sharing! Any more vintage halloween projects? Luv, luv, luv vintage halloween. ; D

  21. I absolutely LOVE these! Thank you sooo much! By the way, how did you put the paper in for the mouth and the eyes? Did you use the paper mache or did you use cardstock and hot glue it in there? Thanks again!


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