- Susanna Pihlaja picks the best aspects of the festive traditions found during the dark season, crafting a way to light up the darkness that is distinctly her own. Pihlaja’s celebrations consist of carving jack-o-lanterns and winding down mentally.
With grace in her movements and a playful smile on her face, Madame Pumpkin nonchalantly grabs a pumpkin and turns to the camera.
The character is an alter ego that the Uusikaupunki artist Susanna Pihlaja whimsically created for herself for a fancy dress party. Nowadays, the cheerful Madame Pumpkin makes an appearance once the autumn leaves have fallen.
“In the past, I often battled with seasonal depression, but now I’ve managed to find something inspiring even during this time of the year. I think the more bare-bones aesthetic of nature is enthralling,” says Pihlaja.
As the name would suggest, Madame Pumpkin crafts seasonal decorations out of pumpkins. The dream-like jack-o-lanterns are visually stunning works of art—at times, Pihlaja incorporates animal characters seen in her own backyard, such as deer and swans, and sometimes she finds inspiration from the world of fiction.
In the hands of Madame Pumpkin, even the more traditional jack-o-lanterns are not carved into scary faces, but rather they look mischievous.
“I don’t find this time of the year frightening. It’s more about looking within and seeing what makes me feel good. The older I get, the more I’ve started to live in tune with the seasons. Rituals like these, such as pumpkin carving, are in line with that choice.”
The American Halloween or Christian All Hallows’ Eve are not specifically celebrated in Pihlaja’s household, but rather aspects of these and the old Finnish harvest festival Kekri and the Celtic Samhain festival are chosen.
Both the gorgeous decorations and turning to look inward are part of the same festive season.
“I enjoy being able to light orange and yellow candles, carve pumpkins and decorate using the colours of autumn. I find it important to create something aesthetically pleasing. At the same time, I can still simplify things internally,” Pihlaja says.
Even the smallest things can get you set for the festivities at the end of autumn—seasonal cleaning and colour choices in decoration paired with candles burning in the colours of the autumn leaves tend to do the trick for a festive atmosphere. For Susanna Pihlaja, a.k.a. Madame Pumpkin, doing things by hand is especially important when it comes to seasonal festivities.
The jack-o-lanterns aglow with their warm hues are the cherry on the cake for the autumn festive season.
“Even if you make a very plain lantern, the light and atmosphere it creates is just beautiful. However, a warning for first-time carvers—have a plaster handy, because you can easily end up cutting yourself,” Pihlaja says.
The gorgeous jack-o-lanterns will also satisfy you on the inside.