CUBA — While other kids his age were carving pumpkins with triangles for eyes, square noses and half-moon shaped mouths, Eric Jones was carving elaborate haunted houses on gourds, without patterns.
The artistic flare for carving pumpkins has flourished over the years for Jones, who recently participated in a Food Network Pumpkin Wars carving contest that will air next year.
In the meantime, Jones continues to carve jack-o’-lanterns at regional events, which included the carving of a large pumpkin Tuesday at Cuba Memorial Hospital Skilled Nursing Facility. Jones chose to demonstrate carving a whimsical face on a pumpkin at the facility which is the home of his 99-year-old grandmother, Lorraine Butts.
Visiting the event were Jones’ mother, Lene Jones, and his aunt, Lois Arnold.
“His mom (Lene Jones) asked him if he would come and do this and he said yes,” Arnold said of the pumpkin carving.
She noted her nephew is a 1993 graduate of the former Richburg High School and graduated from Alfred University. He operates Eric Jones Caricature and works in the Olean and Cuba area. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children.
Arnold said she remembers her nephew’s early pumpkin carvings at his home.
“It was very embarrassing, we all carved pumpkins (with basic designs) and he’d turn his around and it was a haunted house,” she remembered. “He’s always been very artistic.”
She noted another nephew, who is a videographer, sent a video of Jones carving a pumpkin and sent it to Food Network earlier this year. The network liked what they saw and called him to travel to the competition, which will be televised in 2020.
When asked if he hoped his Food Network appearance will open doors for him, Jones replied, “It already has. I’ve been invited to another show on the Food Network which films the episode in November, it’s called Outrageous Pumpkins.”
In addition, he has also been asked to carve at the Buffalo Museum of Science on Friday. Locally, Cutco Corp. has sponsored Jones to carve displays for the business.
On a related note, Jones said it’s difficult for him to pass by a pumpkin stand or patch without picking out a few for his work.
“I have a whole garage full of pumpkins,” he admitted. “I look at the shape, the density, or if it’s too ripe. You can see the face of the pumpkin from the shape of it before.”
Meanwhile at the nursing facility, Jones’ grandmother was thrilled with her grandson’s pumpkin design and smiled throughout the hour it took for him to carve the creation.
“It looks so real,” Butts said while looking at the pumpkin and clapping her hands.
Jones later replied, “This belongs to Grandma Butts.”
Staff who commented on activities and how they benefit the residents included Dr. Rajan Gulati, medical director at the facility.
“We do have a lot of people who normally don’t go out so this is a social activity for them,” he said. “It’s good for their mental well-being because they can watch what is going on. We have a lot of social activities for them.”
Activity director Barbi Baccus said Jones’ visit to the facility, and his unique presentation, was very fortuatous, thanks to Grandma Butts.
“Yeah, it kind of fell into my lap,” Baccus said of the visit.
For more information on Jones and his work, visit his website, GiveAcaricature.com.
(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)