Professional Pumpkin Carver Gives Tutorial on Potato Eyes

A professional pumpkin carver based in Rochester, New York, explained the method behind the potato and carrot eyes he carves for his creative pumpkins.

Adam Bierton expertly carves potatoes into the shape of eyeballs, before inserting tiny rounds of carrot into them to complete the look, which gives his pumpkin carvings unique faces.

Adam told Storyful that these eyeballs “are a great way to enhance your pumpkin carvings for Halloween and with these tips and few right tools anyone can make these at home.” Credit: Adam Bierton via Storyful

Video transcript

ADAM BIERTON: I'm going to give you a quick tutorial on the potato and carrot eyeballs that I make. So I use these ice cream scoops-- or they're serving scoops from a restaurant store. And I've gone ahead, and I've taken out the little doohickey. And I've even sharpened this edge, which isn't completely necessary. It definitely helps.

But even if you have a melon baller in your cupboard or in your kitchen drawer, this is perfect for smaller eyeballs and it works just as good. I'm going to use two different sizes because I think that adds a little bit of character to the overall pumpkin. What I'm going to do is I'm going to hold this tightly and just start to inch this in, sliding back and forth.

And the objective is to get into the front of the eyeball and make a clean cut because the potato tends to snap. You don't get a full cut. It breaks. You see that break? The potato eyeball. And you can see that there's a little break in there, which I'll end up polishing out with one of these green Scotch-Brite pads for usually just doing dishes, but this helps polish these up really good.

So I'm going to do another one because I'm not completely happy with that eyeball. Try to get a little bit better of a cut here. Again, creeping up to the front first. I'm letting it snap somewhere else. So it snapped down here this time. This should be a cleaner eyeball, which-- which takes less polishing.

So that's a piece of potato eyeball. I've taken two out of this one potato. I have two different size potato eyeballs, and these would be great to bring this guy to life. You can see that I literally cut these less than a minute ago. These potatoes are already starting to brown and oxidize, and that's another one of the main questions that I get, like, how do you keep your potatoes white?

And the trick is-- is this ReaLemon juice. It's actually a real fake lemon juice from concentrate. You can pick this up at the grocery store, but it works great. And I have a little bowl here. I dilute it with a little water. It doesn't have to be pure, pure. But I let all of my potato pieces just take a little bath and hang out in there while I'm preparing my other materials.

The other tip for these potato and carrot eyeballs is this little eyeball kit that I have here. It's not sold in stores, but you'll see that I have a variety of different tubes here, ranging from very big all the way down to very small. And this tubing can be found at specialty hardware stores or even like craft stores, like a Hobby Lobby sometimes carries them. And I've collected these over the years.

But usually the thinner the wall the better, and these are brass tubing. That works wonderful for these eyeballs. The next step is to polish our potatoes, and they're are two different sizes. And what I'm going to do-- I'll let one soak, but I'm using a Scotch-Brite pad that you-- you know, you find at the hardware store or even the grocery store. This works really well for smoothing out any tool marks on the pumpkin, and you can see immediately just a couple passes. It'll start to smooth out any rough spots.

And I'm actually going to use this in conjunction with the lemon juice to kind of just polish this and reshape this eyeball until it's nice and smooth. You got to be careful. These things are extra-slippery. You'll notice I'm wearing rubber gloves. I don't usually wear gloves, but in the high point of my season here I usually have nicks and cuts. And the lemon juice really just bugs me when I'm-- when I'm making these.

So I like to glove up and keep-- keep my hands intact for the rest of the month because there's a lot more hours of carving ahead of me. You can see I'm just rotating the potato and kind of polishing. This gives me an eye on the shape, pun intended. I'm just going all the way around, taking everything off, and smoothing these things out really nice. You can see how beautiful that is.

And any time I make a cut or a polish I'm going to pop it back into its bath and let it hang out. So here's the second one. This is the smaller one. And that had that high spot on there, so I'm going to start there, using circular motions, otherwise this stuff really kind of eats into this potato and can distort that perfect sphere that we got with our scoop. So just be careful because you can see how nice and smooth that comes out.

And I can refine these even further, but for the sake of the tutorial, we're just going to keep on going. So now that I have those polished, we're going to jump over to our toolbox here, and I'm going to find a tube that makes sense for the size of the eyeball. And I want to start with the retina, the bigger part of the eye.

So my two better eyeballs that have been polished-- they're two different sizes, but I'm going to use the same pipe for the retina, and I think that this size is pretty good. Usually I will build my design and then place the retina because the way that you put this in-- sometimes you don't want to go dead in that center. You want to go off-center. And you still want to go straight through because you're playing with perspective here to kind of trick the eye with these pieces.

So without knowing exactly where I'm going in here, it's a little bit tricky, but I will I'm going to make these off-center. And we use this pipe or this tube to cut a hole right through the center here, and you can see that that's a perfect-- perfect hole. And I still have this drop. And again, any cut that I make goes back into the lemon juice so it can soak into that fresh cut. I'm going to reference this one quickly just so we're on the same page here.

Now, these are off-center, but I think that they're more fun that way, so two this way. And this guy could be kind of looking to the side or something. And I'm just doing this quickly for the tutorial here, but these potato pieces will end up coming useful for the eye catch that we do, which I'll explain in a minute.

But essentially that's it for the potato pieces. These are going to just go right back into the lemon juice bath. And I'm going to jump over here to my carrot, so I just need a little less than an inch length for each one of these eyeballs. You'll see that the center of the carrot has this great texture that kind of goes right into the end of the middle, and it almost looks like the iris of an eye. So I just love these eyeballs.

Again, I'm going to take my pipe, which is not this size. It was this size. So we're using the same size tubing for our carrot that is going to fit into the female end of this-- this potato. I want to do this quickly. We're going to pop these out. That's one. Again, I'm using the center of this carrot because I love the texture. I try to get them straight up and down if you can. I'm going to pop those out.

These pieces will become obsolete, essentially, but I even dipped these in a little lemon juice because I think it just helps keep them moist while I'm working. And also the lemon juice acts as a little bit of a disinfectant to kind of slow the decay process. So I'm going to square these two ends up. That way, I got a nice area here, and those will set across.

I will show you real quick how this all comes together. So again, using just the tubing, I've been able to cut a hole in the potato and the exact same size out of a carrot, and this will fit in there snug as a bug in a rug. And if I push it back slightly, you can kind of see what's going on. That will become an eye.

This-- this eyeball was cut way off-center, which either could work or not work, but the fun about this is that it's just a pumpkin carving. So have fun. Again, I'm going to rinse these. Otherwise they start to tarnish or patina. Keep everything nice and tight.

And then I'm going to find a tube that works for the pupil, which is probably going to be this one. So this is the tube that I will use to cut out the center of this hole, and that will create the black mark of the black center, the pupil. Is it the pupil or is it the retina? It's the pupil. Anyway, bingo. Beautiful.

I'm going to get even a smaller tube down here to push my carrot pieces out. I'll cut this one quickly. Same thing. So these are going to become the eyeballs.

And I'm actually going to save these carrot pieces, too. I'd like to use every piece of the fruit that we can. I'm going to just pop those in the lemon juice, and I'm going to use an X-Acto blade here. And what I want to do is just put a little 45-degree chamfer on the inside of this carrot, this doesn't have to be done, but I feel like it adds just another layer of depth to the eyeball and really makes it come alive.

So I'm just working my way around the whole carrot here. This little piece will come right out. Or will it? And you can see that that has just a little bit of an angle to it, which will-- these little striations will catch light and, I think, will just perform better than a flat-- a flat cut, so. Just like that.

So there's our carrot pieces. This Scotch-Brite pad is really good for taking out any tool marks and kind of softening them. You want to be careful because these edges are very delicate. But that-- that chamfer cut actually frays the potato or-- I'm sorry-- the carrot out just slightly, which is what we want.

So it's really only a few moves, having the right tools, a little bit of lemon juice, and-- and some time. So here's our potato pieces that we cut. And again, I-- I cored out these potatoes to be slightly off-center because I think it just performs better, but you'll see how this ordinary piece of potato and a piece of carrot will-- will come together to make a really creepy eyeball.

And I hope you guys can see it there. I don't know how my angle is. But both of these will go right in to the potato, and I'm going to set them back slightly. And there we go. We've got a set of eyeballs. I'm just going to push this one back slightly. And bingo-bango. You got two-- two eyeballs from carrot and potato.

These eyeballs are just good the way that they are, but you'll see that there's usually another little-- a little, tiny piece of potato in most of my eyeballs, and that is to give the illusion of the eye catch or the reflection on your eyeball, which everybody has, no matter what light.

So I'm going to drop down on my thinnest tube, and I'm going to use that for the carrot pieces. This one I'm going to take out because it's a little loosey-goosey. But I'm just going to find the side of one of these walls and cut through. I don't want to go out here. I want to stay within the pupil, try to make a nice clean cut. And I'm going to use a piece of steel rod here to get rid of that-- that carrot.

Now, if you remember, we saved a few of these potato pieces, and I'm going to use one of these to steal the eye catch. And the same thing. Instead of that piece in here being a drop, it's actually going to be a piece that we use. So it's a nice, thin, little snake of a potato.

So this is going to get chopped down. I'm gonna put this back into our eyeball or our potato, rather, and I'm going to try to pick this up at the edge of my X-Acto knife. I'm going to slip it right in and try to nest it right in there. So this-- this will become the eye catch that you see on everybody's eyeball.

And this is how-- it's important to remember-- when you're-- when you're doing these, it's only going to read in one direction. If it's this way, it just looks like a couple of vegetables, but if you catch it just right, it'll look insanely realistic. And that's what I love about these pieces. I've been kind of refining this over the last few years.

So you want to match these-- these eye catches. So again, normally, I would have my design set first, but I'm just going to try to find a similar location for the second eyeball, take a little tube of the carrot out, grab a potato, use the same tube. This time this comes out, and you're good to go.

Now, I didn't soak that one in lemon juice. You-- you at least want to dip it because that'll oxidize, too, but we're going to chop this one down, pick it up, and try to nest it right in there. And because these are wet, this will kind of just stay in there, but sometimes, if I'm doing a carving that I know I'm going to use for a day or two, I'll use a little bit of super glue. Super glue works really well on eyeballs.

So anyway, there you have it, potatoes, carrots, a couple of the right tools, and even you at home can make a set of beautiful potato and carrot eyeballs. Ooh.

Hope you guys have fun. If you have questions, hit me in the comments or DM me. I'm here to support you guys, give you all the tips and tricks that I've learned over the last 20 years as a professional carver, and happy Halloween.