Monique Hawk has never lost her appreciation for the art of pumpkin carving. Photo by Jason Filasco, courtesy of Monique Hawk.
John Williams’ Hedwig’s Theme plays softly, and the lights are dimmed low with the sounds of scraping on pumpkin skin continuing into the night. Monique Hawk, champion pumpkin carver and full-time police officer, has had a busy week of shifts and is enjoying a release from the stress that a career in law enforcement brings.
Her therapy? Creating phenomenal, award-winning pumpkin carvings provides her with a favorite way to decompress.
Hawk has worked in the fitness industry, competed as a bikini bodybuilder, and worked with both military and law enforcement in the firearms industry. For the past two years and counting, she has been a police officer on the West Coast. On her off time, she commonly tries to beat her personal-best sport motorcycle speeds on track days, maintains her fitness, or occupies herself with creative pursuits. One thing that has been a constant throughout her life is her love of pumpkin carving.
She was first introduced to pumpkin carving as a young child back in 1995. Fond memories of searching for the perfect pumpkins with her family and neighborhood friends and then carving them float through her head whenever she sits down to carve her next masterpiece. She never imagined that her favorite pastime would lead her to land some screen time on the Food Network’s 2017 special, Halloween Wars: Hayride of Horror.
“I was contacted by the show and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to carve freaking pumpkins on national television’ — like, that’s crazy,” Hawk told Coffee or Die Magazine. “Just thinking about that, if you would have told me five years ago that I’d be carving pumpkins on national television, I would have told you ‘yeah, okay, whatever.’”
Two five-person teams battled in a three-episode event with the chance to win $15,000 per event. Each team had three pumpkin carvers, a cake baker, and a sugar artist. Hawk was on team Deadly Intentions, and they took on team Scream Seekers. Hawk’s team won one of the three rounds, and she enjoyed every last minute of the special, putting her skills on display to the world and showing just how far she has come since 1995.
After that first show, she said the competitors stayed in touch and the Food Network kept them in the loop. Hawk was asked to return for a show called Outrageous Pumpkins, pitting seven competitors against one another in an elimination-style competition with the chance to win $25,000 and the title of Outrageous Pumpkins Champion. The show premiered on Sept. 20, 2020, with the finale on Oct. 11, 2020.
Outrageous Pumpkins is a high point in Hawk’s pumpkin-carving career. The challenges maxed out the expert carvers’ skills and creativity when it comes to pumpkin carving. They sculpted pumpkins into seemingly impossible scenes with Halloween themes such as the seven deadly sins, science experiments gone wrong, the struggle between good and evil, and animals returning from the pet cemetery. Hawk was knocked out at the end of the third challenge, but that won’t stop her from returning for future competitions.
Every year, as soon as her natural canvases are prime for the picking, Hawk continues to hone her techniques and test her imagination. Hawk enjoys the craft of pumpkin carving, but more importantly, she loves that her creations make people smile and that they genuinely enjoy her work.
Working in law enforcement is a stressful job, not knowing if you will come home at the end of shift. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 143 officers have died in the line of duty from Jan. 1 to Oct. 28 of this year, compared with 110 deaths in the line of duty during the same time frame in 2019. It’s a sobering reminder that work in law enforcement is inherently dangerous.
For Hawk, focusing on carving pumpkins serves as an outlet for that stress.
Hawk has a great appreciation for attention to detail, while putting a creative spin on things. From bikini bodybuilding to riding motorcycles — while wearing a pumpkinesque helmet — at speeds that would make most people feel sick, she continues to push herself beyond preconceived limits through her hobbies and work. The common denominator to everything that Hawk does is her desire to help others, whether through making people smile or stopping a criminal from committing homicide.
Her unique skills with pumpkin carving have led her to launch her own business, Arthawk Creations. Hawk accepts commissions to create sculptures, drawings, or paintings and has worked with major clients such as the Hard Rock Cafe, Green Flash Brewery, Recoil Magazine, and Safariland.
Hawk’s grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 50, beat it, and was later diagnosed again at the age of 80. Her grandma defeated breast cancer again and is still thriving well into her late 80s. As a part of her mission to help others, Hawk started a yearly donation drive, called Pumpkins for Pumpkins, to help combat breast cancer and donates 10% of her yearly profits to the Breast Cancer and Research Foundation.
“My G’ma’s valiant defeat of breast cancer definitely inspired me to use my talents in a philanthropic sense. I coined the name ‘Pumpkins for Pumpkins’ to bring a festive twist to ‘save the tatas,'” said Hawk. “I truly admire those battling such crippling adversity and wanted to help.”
On a recent traffic stop, Hawk felt she accomplished her mission to help others in her capacity as a police officer. While Hawk was sitting at a red light, the vehicle in front of her patrol car ran the red light, seemingly not realizing it was still red. Initiating her patrol car lights, Hawk pulled over the vehicle. When she walked up, the driver of the vehicle appeared to be distressed.
The woman told Hawk that she was sorry and that she was “just completely out of it.” Hawk asked questions to find out what was causing her distress and found out that the woman had just lost her son and his funeral was the following day. After the driver showed the funeral paperwork to Hawk, they continued to talk. Hawk decided it was best that she drive the woman back to her house.
While driving her home, she discovered that she shared the same birthday with this woman’s son. It was a coincidence, but Hawk believes it was a defining moment, proving she was meant to be there to help this woman. She dropped her off and brought her flowers the next day as a gesture of sincerity. The woman invited Hawk to the funeral, and they have stayed in touch. Hawk was in the right place at the right time to make a positive impact on this woman’s life — just one example of what makes Hawk want to be a police officer.
Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children.
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