KCAD Alum Rebecca DeGroot An 'Outrageous' Pumpkin-Carving Finalist On Food Network Show

Posted October 23, 2023 in Studio Arts, Alumni

Woodturner Rebecca DeGroot is good. Scary good.

Think spooky, spider-like legs emerging beneath a beautifully carved table or the fierce spikes nestled inside a lovely wood-turned bowl that have made her famous in many professional woodturning circles.

“I started down this road of creating many-legged or spiked pieces when I was a student at Kendall and it’s really just taken off from there,” said 33-year-old DeGroot, who graduated in 2014 from Kendall College Art and Design of Ferris State University.

It’s those wicked woodcarving skills that earned DeGroot a place this season on Food Network’s “Outrageous Pumpkins” series.

Woman with purple hair poses in front of hay balesRebecca DeGroot posing on the set of Outrageous Pumpkins (image courtesy of Food Network)

Since Season 4 premiered Sept. 24, DeGroot and seven other pumpkin carvers have competed weekly to fashion their most impressive gourds in an attempt to win a $25,000 prize and the champion’s title.

She was one of just four remaining contestants facing off in Sunday’s season finale but fell just shy in her bid for the grand prize.

“It’s been really great, and I’ve had a lot of fun,” said DeGroot, who now lives near Houston. “Everybody involved in the show has made it a really positive experience.”

Group of people sitting on hay balesDeGroot (far right) and the other contestants on Food Network's Outrageous Pumpkins (image courtesy of Food Network)

DeGroot only dabbled in pumpkin carving before earning a spot on this season’s show. She has since perfected her own 3D style, removing the skin and carving into the flesh of the pumpkin without breaking through into the cavity.

“I really enjoyed the episode where I made the 3D octopus and had to take the Superhero Challenge,” she said. “I struggled at the start with my Batman and Riddler pumpkins; I was too ambitious with those. But I made it into the next round and that’s what’s important.”

A pumkin with a highly detailed face carved into itOne of the many out-of-this-world creations from Rebecca DeGroot on Food Network's Outrageous Pumpkins (image courtesy of Food Network)

DeGroot grew up in Hesperia and started woodturning with her father as a young child. Dad’s rule was simple: if she could stand on a bucket and reach the lathe, he would teach her how to turn. That’s exactly what he did, and at 5 years old DeGroot spent her evenings in the shop turning honey out dippers with her father.

Wooden sculptures that look like spiders

(above and below): Otherworldy woodturning creations from Rebecca DeGroot (images courtesy of the artist)

Wooden sculptures that look like insects

While attending KCAD years later, she found herself back in the school’s basement woodshop and she took back to it like reuniting with an old friend. After graduating with dual degrees in Art Education and Sculpture and Functional Art, she moved to Texas and worked for nine years as an art teacher while also nurturing her passion for woodcarving and woodturning as time allowed.

After recently leaving teaching, DeGroot is now focused on her career as a full-time tattoo artist. But she still manages to make time for woodworking and demonstrating her craft at symposiums across the United States and the world.

She enjoys creating pieces that don’t follow societal rules.

“They can be something that’s fun and interesting to me,” she said. “It might be something like putting six spider legs on a table instead of just regular, old spindle legs. I think it makes people consider these traditional, domestic objects in a different way.”

And pumpkins? She’ll always have a special place in her heart for pumpkins.

“A pumpkin carving is temporary, so you really can’t treasure it as much as you would a wood or stone carving,” DeGroot said. “But knowing it’s a temporary thing actually opens up a whole new world of freedom and creativity in your design … it’s kind of cool.”

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