Ray Anthony Villafane (born March 5, 1969) is an American artist based in Arizona, who specializes in sculpting. Most famously known for his 3-D Style pumpkin carvings, Villafane also sculpts action figures and collectibles, sand and snow.
Villafane was born in Queens, New York, and was raised on Long Island. He graduated from the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City in 1991. From 1993 to 2006 he was an art teacher in Bellaire, Michigan for kindergarten through twelfth grade students. Villafane started sculpting part-time in clay and wax in 2004 as a freelance sculptor in addition to teaching. His overnight success allowed for him to resign from teaching in 2006 to pursue a full-time sculpting career. Some newly acquired techniques took Villafane's hobby of pumpkin sculpting to a whole new level and also expanded his career to other mediums such as sand, snow and other fruits and vegetables.
Collectibles and Actions 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 McFarlane 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.
In 2007 Villafane was contacted by High Noon Entertainment and asked to participate in the Food Network's Challenge Show for a segment called "Outrageous Pumpkins". He competed against three other professional pumpkin sculptors and won all three rounds to receive the grand prize. The Food Network contacted Villafane again in 2009 to come back to the show and defend his title. He was also the grand prize winner for the "Outrageous Pumpkin Challenge II". In 2011, he carved the world's biggest pumpkin to resemble zombies. He also provided pumpkins for Heidi Klum's annual Halloween party in Sin City in 2011.
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 positive results and led to further invitations to sandsculpt around the world. Villafane has taken part in sandsculpting events in the seaside resort town of Jesolo, Italy, twice — in the summer of 2009 creating the show's main masterpiece, Dante's Inferno, and in 2010 creating a Nativity scene. He was commissioned by St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, Russia, to sculpt alongside other sandsculptors from around the world. He also competed in the World Championship of Sandsculpting in Federal Way, Washington, in September 2010, taking first place in the double's category alongside John Gowdy.
In 2010, CBS News with Katie Couric sent their segment producer Steve Hartman to record one of his "Assignment America" segments on Villafane's pumpkins, where he refers to Villafane as "the best pumpkin carver in the world". In addition to the Food Network Challenge shows, Villafane 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 in 2011 to teach Martha the 3-D pumpkin carving style, and where she referred to him as "the Michelangelo of pumpkin carving."
Readers Digest featured Ray's pumpkins on their website in 2010 and the Today Show website featured his pumpkins in 2010 and 2011. In 2011, one could find photos of Villafane and/or his pumpkin(s) in People magazine, Star, and Men's Health. 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 and The Telegraph. In 2010, his pumpkin photographs were featured in Rosebud Magazine.
- "Ray Villafane, the Picasso of Pumpkin Carving". Wall Street Journal. 22 Oct 2011.
- "Great gourds! Take your pumpkin carving to new level". MSNBC. Archived from the original on 2011-10-27.
- "The World's Biggest Pumpkin, Carved Into Zombies!". The Escapist. 25 Oct 2011.
- The Martha Stewart Show (October 19, 2011).
- People (October 24, 2011), p. 90
- Star (November 14, 2011), p. 6.
- Men's Health (October 2011).