Gourds may be the ultimate decor of the fall season, but they are Elaine Fowler's art projects all year long. She gets them before they've been touched, when they're rough, dirty and speckled with black mold. But after a little soaking and scrubbing, the gourds become her own personal canvases. She uses different types of paints to make each one look unique. The gourds range in sizes, from little ones that fit in the palm of her hand, to large ones that she holds in two arms. Some are left whole, with their unique stems spiraling in their own unique ways. Others, she carves designs or removes the tops.
Here, Fowler talks about making the gourds she uses for table-top vases, Halloween decorations and even bird houses.
Q: Why did you start making gourds?
A: It happened when I turned 60. I said I wanted to do something (else). I bought season tickets for the Music Circus. I took my whole family on a trip. And that's about the time I started making gourds.
Q: How long does it take you to create a gourd?
A: It depends if I have a brainstorm. The big one took me two hours.
Q: How long will they last?
A: Forever - unless you drop them. They're strong, but they're very brittle.
Q: When and how did you start making gourds?
A: I went to a farmers market, where they had green gourds. I bought and let it dry (so I could decorate it). That was in 2006. In 2007, I went to the gourd Festival in Knights Landing.
Q: What do you paint them with?
A: Leather dyes and acrylic paint. When you first buy them, they are covered in mold. The mold gives them a good look (under paint). You can never make two of the same kind.
Q: What are some tools you use?
A: I use an X-Acto knife with a saw blade.
Q: Where do you sell your gourds?
A: It's just been to friends and family.
Q: How many gourds do you have at home?
A: I probably have about 10 finished gourds and about 20 that are cleaned.
Q: How do you clean a gourd and prepare it to paint or cut?
A: I put it in water and soak it. I scrub it with a little bleach. It kills the mold. I also wear a mask.
Q: Do you have any rituals of gourd-making, do you listen to certain music or drink something while you create?
A: (Laughs) No rituals. Whenever I get an idea, I run into the room.
Q: What's one piece your proud of?
A: A gourd with flames on it. My cousin, a retired firefighter, was in an accident. The gourd I made sold at a fund-raiser for $75.
Q: Do you have a favorite gourd?
A: They're all my favorite.
For more information about her gourds, contact Elaine Fowler at 747-6542.