From a simple face to Van Gogh's Starry Night: Meet Dalston Eastern Curve Garden's pumpkin carving master Eco
PUBLISHED: 10:03 29 October 2018
Dalston Eastern Curve Garden
Eco Zhang discovered "pumpkin culture" for the first time when she lived in America five years ago.
Now she has the honour of carving out the giant pumpkin that takes pride of place at the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden’s festival of light.
Last year she turned it into a mirror image of the garden itself, complete with greenhouse, pizza oven and Brian and Marie who run it.
This year it was a fairytale extravaganza – with scenes from Jack and the Beanstalk, Hansel and Gretel and Red Riding Hood.
“We don’t have that much Halloween culture in China where I come from,” said Eco, 30.
“That’s probably why I found it really interesting when I went to the States.”
Her first attempt was a “simple face, like most of the other kids are doing”, after being told to carve a pumpkin for her masters course in city planning and architecture.
When she moved to London three years ago she decided to have another go in her kitchen.
“I made the Starry Night of the Van Gogh painting,” she said.
“I thought maybe I can challenge myself a bit. It turned out to be really good.”
The following year she joined others at the garden in Dalston Lane, and carved out a map of London.
She was really moved by the reception it received from Marie and became a volunteer.
Being part of the garden’s community has helped combat the isolation she felt moving to a foreign city.
Eco, of Ridley Road, likes it at the garden so much she chose it as the research topic for her masters in urban planning at UCL.
To achieve such detailed illustrations, she draws her design on tracing paper before wrapping it around the pumpkin.
“I find the texture is really interesting. It’s easy to carve but it can have such diverse lighting effects depending on the thickness,” she said.
“Carving wood and stone requires special equipment, but anyone can pick up a knife and carve a pumpkin.”
Isn’t it frustrating that after putting in such a lot of hard graft it gets thrown on the compost heap after a week when it starts to rot?
“That’s just the pumpkin isn’t it. It’s a temporary creation and then they all go back to the world.”