Art Crafts From Common Gourds

Gourd art craft: gardening and crafting go hand in hand when you grow common gourds to make wonderful creations.

Have you ever had the desire to experiment with pottery but didn't have easy access to it? Have you ever noticed those funny looking, decorative squash type things at harvest time and wondered if they were good for anything else? Know that you're not alone. The answer to that pottery dilemma can be grown on a vine in your back yard, and the answer to that other question is yes, those funny looking squashes are good for many other things, limited mainly by your imagination.

Gourds are the vine grown pottery and the colorful harvest time decorations. There are different types of gourds and they can be turned into even more different creations. Once we look at the types of gourds and how to grow them, we'll learn how to prepare them for crafting into functioning items.

Although there are many different kinds of gourds there are two main types. They are ornamental and calabashes. Ornamental gourds are the bright ones you see in harvest time decorations. Calabash gourds are also called hard-shell gourds and they dry to a tan color with natural markings. Both types can be used for crafting.

Growing gourds is a relatively easy process. They require lots of well-drained water but not much attention. If you live where there is a shorter growing season you should start seeds indoors, about three weeks before they will be moved outside. If you plant the seeds directly into the ground you put about three seeds to a hill, similar to squash and pumpkins. Gourds need a sunny area and a fence or trellis for climbing support. The gourds are ready to be picked when the stems become dry enough for them to easily break from the vine.

There are various methods for drying the gourd itself. For calabash gourds, the easiest and most effective way is to put the gourd in a dry, dark, airy place and let it dry itself. This can take up to three months. When the gourd is completely dry, the seeds will rattle around inside when you shake it.

Another, less time consuming method is to wrap the gourd in a wet, soapy towel and let it sit for several hours. When the tough, outer skin has softened you can remove that skin by scraping it or rubbing it with steel wool. Once this outer skin has been removed, you can place the gourd in a warm, dry spot until it is thoroughly dry. This should take only about four days, as opposed to 3 months with the other method.

Ornamental gourds need only dry for a week after picking in a warm, dry area, and then you can use steel wool to remove their outer layer or to smooth the surface for painting. If you want to keep them for use with fall decorations, simply dry them without removing outer layer, wax them and polish them. This way they will last a very long time.

Now comes the fun part. If you haven't yet decided what you want your gourd to be, look at its shape for a while and let that suggest something to you. If the gourd is tall some ideas are bottles, vases, ladles, planters or birdhouses. Smaller, dumbbell shaped gourds are often made into salt and pepper shakers, while round, spherical gourds are used as bowls or planters.

To make your project, draw a fine line in pencil on the gourd where it needs cutting. Carefully saw or cut along the line and then remove the seeds and dried pulp from inside. If you have made a small opening, such as for a birdhouse, vase, or salt shakers, use a wire or handle of a wooden spoon to help loosen material. If your gourd is going to hold food or liquids, coat the inner surface wth paraffin. If making salt shakers you will need a cork to place in the bottom where the filling hole is drilled. If making a vase, you will need to gently sand bottom surface (but don't make the skin too thin) to make it flat for standing.

Once you have your project completed, you can now enjoy the process of decorating it. Gourds can be painted, carved on, stained, or left with original drying markings. Once you have done one of these things you then coat the gourd with lacquer or polyeurethane.

Gourds can be as much fun to give as gifts as they are to make. The most important thing to remember is to enjoy the process of freeing your creativity.

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