Siouxland Stories: Crafting memories now and forever

Siouxland Stories

Siouxland Stories features everyday people, from around Siouxland, doing interesting or amazing things. If you know someone with this kind of story, let us know at They could be the focus of the next Siouxland Stories.

“Granite is one of the hardest materials you can work on,” says Scott Luken of Luken Memorials in Yankton, South Dakota, with the stone lasting longer than those whose names are carved here, beginning with Scott Luken’s grandfather.

Three generations of Luken’s have been carving and crafting these markers, sharing their creative skills while producing a final glimpse of a life lost.

“The stone can be shaped in any way you can imagine, Luken Says. Granite has texture and grain and a pumpkin does too,” says Luken. “You have granite that lasts indefinitely, pumpkins might at best last a week.”

That’s right, this master crafter carves at both ends of the spectrum. This graduate of the Colorado Institute of Art first put a knife in the hard skin of a pumpkin as a pre-teen.

What started with triangle eyes and a one tooth smile eventually led to more intricate design details.

“To me, the creative process is what I really enjoy,” added Luken. “It’s very therapeutic. It is therapeutic for me. I don’t get stressed out about, oh my gosh is this going to turns outright.

Unlike at the family business just up the street from his cozy studio, these cuts don’t carry quite the cost.

“You can pitch your pumpkin if it doesn’t turn out. You don’t want to have a major design change on a monument,” said Luken.

Instead of marking the end of life this, 10-pound Thanksgiving creation is given life, stroke by stroke, cut by cut.

“That thing actually turns around like it’s looking at you. Look at that he just changed direction. Do a careful line off of that and that will basically be his wing,” said Luken.

On a normal pumpkin project, like these created for a local art festival, Scott will spend a couple of hours or more bringing the orange globe to life. The project was just a quick beginner’s cut. But unlike the stones carved to mark the passing of man, these memory makers won’t survive the test of time.

“Ultimately, yes, these all go to where nature takes it back,” Luken said.

Until next fall when Scott will unpack his trusty tools, again showing that not all great creations are carved in stone.

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