Ray Villafane’s relationship with pumpkins began rather early in his life. Born in a poor farming family, he found himself having to whittle his own toys out of wood as times were very hard for Pa’ Villafane.
As things got worse he was forced to give up using wood to create his toys and eventually had to make them out of pumpkins as the precious wood was needed to heat the small farm house during the winter. Because his toys rotted away a week or so after making them, Ray found himself carving nonstop just to keep his toy box from spoiling. Throughout his academic career, Ray’s classmates and teachers also recognised his natural artistic abilities. Ray graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York City in 1991. Despite all of the big name products Ray was sculpting, the public seemed to be most intrigued with his on going pumpkin carvings. Ray has won back to back Food Network Challenges for his pumpkin carvings and has been featured on many TV shows and news broadcasts including The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric. In 2010 Ray was even invited to carve pumpkins at the White House!
Collectibles and Action Figures
Villafane’s first “practice” sculpture actually became his first professional sculpture. In 2004, he sculpted a Logan version of the Marvel character Wolverine. The sculptor Randy Bowen of Bowen Designs contacted Villafane and offered to produce his statue. Between 2004 and 2005, Ray went on to sculpt several other statues for Bowen Designs including other Marvel characters such as Sabretooth, Magneto, and The Punisher. He continued to pick up new clients such as MacFarlane Toys and Sideshow Collectibles before signing exclusively with DC Comics. DC Comics toy division DC Direct, inked a two-year contract with Villafane in 2006. He renewed his contract in 2008 for another two years, sculpting action figures and collectible statues. Villafane presently continues to freelance working alongside other clients such as Hasbro and Blizzard Entertainment.
After seeing Villafane’s performance on Food Network carving pumpkins, a Florida-based sandsculpting company, Sultans of Sand, contacted Villafane to see if he had ever tried his hand at sandsculpting. His first attempt yielded amazing results and lead to further invitations to sandsculpt around the world. Villafane has taken part in sandsculpting events in Jesolo, Italy, twice in November 2009 and 2010 creating a Nativity scene and in the summer of 2009 creating the shows main masterpiece Dante’s Inferno. He was also commissioned by St. Basil Cathedral in Moscow Russia to sculpt alongside other sandsculptors from around the world. He also competed in the World Championship of Sandsculpting Competition in Federal Way, Washington in September 2010 taking 1st place in the double’s category alongside John Gowdy.
In addition to the Food Network Challenge shows, Ray also participated in the Food Network mini-series Halloween Wars that aired in October 2011. Villafane was also a guest on the Martha Stewart Show October 19, 2011 to teach Martha the 3-D Pumpkin Carving Style and where she referred to him as “the Michelangelo” of Pumpkin Carving. In 2010, The Evening News with Katie Couric sent their segment producer Steve Hartman to record one of his Assignment America segments on Ray’s pumpkins where he refers to Villafane as “the best pumpkin carver in the world”. In 2011, you could find photos of Villafane and/or his Pumpkin(s) in People Magazine October 24, 2011 Edition on Page 90, Star Magazine November 14, 2011 Edition on Page 6 and Men’s Health Magazine October 2011 Edition Page. He was also featured in the Wall Street Journal, the front page of the Las Vegas Sun and over in the UK in such publications as The Sun, The Telegraph and The Post. In 2010, his pumpkin photographs were featured in Rosebud Magazine. Readers Digest featured Ray’s pumpkins on their website in 2010 and MSNBC Today Show website featured his pumpkins in 2010 and 2011.
(Article source: Various)