Pumpkin carver leads event for visually impaired

Local pumpkin carver Jim Flis gave a class to visually impaired Future in Sight clients Thursday afternoon at Brookdale Fruit Farm in Hollis.

HOLLIS – Local pumpkin carver Jim Flis gave a class to visually impaired Future in Sight clients Thursday afternoon.

The carving class took place at Brookdale Fruit Farm in Hollis, which donated a hayride and all of the pumpkins for the event.

Future in Sight is a nonprofit that serves people all over New Hampshire with any degree of vision loss. They recently rebranded themselves in March with a name change. They were formally known as the New Hampshire Association for The Blind.

“I try to think of different creative things people can do, and while searching the internet, I came across his name as a pumpkin carver and thought to myself about how to figure out a way for people with vision loss to do the same,” said Stephanie Hurd, community relations coordinator at Future in Sight.

Jan Schlecht scoops out the guts from her pumpkin during an event on Thursday at Brookdale Fruit Farm in Hollis.

So, she decided to randomly take a shot at connecting with Flis, and ended up setting up this class.

She said she hopes the clients can be creative and expressive in the form of a craft, and that they can be confident in something that otherwise might seem like something only a person with vision can do.

“These activities do so much beyond what you see as having fun,” Hurd said.

However, to make any of the activities they do with their clients possible, Future in Sight relies heavily on volunteers, whether that’s driving to places or assisting with activities.

They’re always looking for volunteers and helpers, and if interested in getting involved, they can be contacted at 603-224-4039.

Stephanie Hurd, left, guts her pumpkin using a spoon Thursday at Brookdale fruit Farm in Hollis.

As the clients arrived at Brookdale Fruit Farm, they were seated at a picnic table to engage in the activity, facilitated by Flis.

He’s been carving pumpkins since the early 1970s and was thrilled to share his knowledge of the skill.

“To help verify that this would work, I blindfolded myself and, using the templates and tools, I carved a pumpkin,” Flis said. He said it was interesting and didn’t come out perfect, but that carving a pumpkin is doable without having vision.

“I had the advantage of knowing what I was trying to do. However, I had the disadvantage of never having done anything without using sight. In the end, I got a nice looking pumpkin,” Flis said.

After Hurd initially contacted Flis about hosting a carving class for the visually impaired, he wasn’t so sure.

“I spent about a week and a half mowing it over in my head on how I’d teach the class, and then contacted Stephanie, and she agreed with where I was going with it and we gelled out something that would really work,” Flis said.

He came up with the concept of cutting out generic jack-o’-lantern shapes for eyes, noses and mouths using thick flexible plastic with holes drilled into them so the clients could pin it in front of the pumpkin to feel the edge.

“When using carving tools, they can guide the tool along the edge of the plastic,” Flis said.

So, after gutting all the goop out of their pumpkins, the clients then pinned on the mouth templates and began carving.

Flis has hosted carving classes in the past, but never a class geared toward the visually impaired. It was a first time thing for him as he assisted and helped folks through the process of carving their own pumpkin.

can be reached at 594-1206 or aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.