Friday, October 29, 2010

Quick-and-Easy Halloween Jack-o-Lantern

We're all ready for Halloween--hooray! The bags of candy are hiding in the guest bedroom, where I am (unsuccessfully) trying not to steal from them:

Candy Corn and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are my weaknesses. The autumn-leaves garlands are up in their customary place above the front porch:

A well-beloved craft made by pudgy hands long ago hangs on the front door:

The witchy black cat lurks nearby in the window:

And the pumpkins sit on the front porch in urns, waiting to be carved into Jack-o-Lanterns:

But if I don't get around to all the cutting, gutting, and carving, I don't have to sweat.

I have the Jack-o-Lantern thing covered. My secret is a crafty idea I'm happy to share with you.

This idea popped into my head one year when my kids were little. In those days I made all their costumes--and matching treat bags--from scratch. After several weeks of inventing and executing three custom-made costumes, I had little time or energy left to carve pumpkins. And so I invented...

Fishbowl Jack-o-Lanterns!
Time to make: half an hour or so (a little more if you have a preschooler "helping")
Time to dry: an hour or so, depending on your weather


one cheap glass fishbowl (from your local crafts store or florist)
orange tissue paper (a sheet or two should do it)
black construction paper (half an 8"x11" sheet is plenty)
liquid starch (find it on the laundry-products aisle of your supermarket)
cheap crafts brush, with the bristle part about 1/2 inch to 1 inch wide
small glass or china dish (to hold liquid starch)
newspaper, towel, or old tablecloth (to catch any drips)


1. Cover your work area with newspaper and assemble all your materials (my granite counter top isn't fazed by liquid starch, so I don't bother putting anything down):

2. Cut up tissue paper into a pile of squares or rectangles roughly an inch or two per side. (Don't worry about the exact shape or size; irregularities work just fine for this project.)

3. Pour a few tablespoons of liquid starch into a dish.

4. Turn the fishbowl upside down and paint a small section of the bowl with liquid starch. Apply a square of tissue to the painted surface, then paint more starch over the tissue to fully adhere it to the bowl. Continue applying the tissue a piece at a time, in a slight overlap, so no clear-glass gaps show:

5. When you get to the "equator" of the bowl, flip it right side up (the bottom, oldest squares should be tacky-to-nearly-dry by this time), and continue applying tissue right up and over the rim of the bowl. Paint the inside lip of the bowl with starch and fold the topmost squares up and over the bowl, sealing with more starch.

6. Use the black construction paper to trace and cut out the Jack-o-Lantern's facial features (or go freehand, if you have the artistic skeelz). You want at least eyes and mouth, but you can add nose, eyebrows, worry lines, scars, or whatever else you want. Paint the back of each piece with starch, stick on the fishbowl, and paint over the black paper with some more starch.

7. When starch is completely dry, put a votive candle (or a fake, battery-operated candle) inside the fishbowl, and set in a window or somewhere away from the flow of traffic. Add visual interest by varying the heights of the Jack-o-Lanterns using cake stands or inverted, clear-glass bowls:

Then, stand back and wait for the compliments to roll in!

Here's the night view of the "pumpkin":

When Halloween is over, store the Jack-o-Lanterns for next year. One might occasionally break (after all, we're talkin' cheap glass, here), but over the last 18 years or so I've only lost two Jack-o-Lanterns.

And they are so quick and easy to make over again, it's a snap to replace them.

You might even have time to carve some real pumpkins, as well.

So, Halloween is Sunday? Bring it!


  1. Juli,
    These are great! I LOVE the facial expressions you created for your jack-o-lanterns. Perfect!

  2. Love the look in your window!



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