Nancy Espy-Martin is teaching gourds at the Sun Lakes Rock, Gem and Silver Club and has 17 students and open shop people that are working on the age old hobby/activity of gourd art. The recent Art at the Lakes event gave attendees the opportunity to see and purchase amazing examples of gourd art.
Gourd art involves the decoration of hard-shelled gourds using dyes, paint, carving, pyrography (wood burning), sanding and polishing. Some art involves multiple use of the above techniques. Many of us have grown up finding gourds used as water dippers or bird houses. The people of the club don’t let those uses limit their uses or designs. Gourd art is an ancient tradition in Africa and South America.
Wuertz Gourd Farm in Casa Grande and the Wellburn Gourd Farm in California are two of the farms used by local artists for their raw materials. After the growing season the gourds are left to dry for an extended period of time, during which they lose probably about 90 percent of their original weight. Wuertz sponsors an annual Gourd Festival at the Pinal County Fairgrounds to educate and act as the site for the Arizona Gourd Society’s annual Art Show. This year that festival was held on February 12-14. Wuertz grows about 25 acres of gourds of all shapes and sizes to be used as raw material for the club’s artists/students.
The classes require five weeks of a student’s time where they are introduced to the basics of cleaning, carving, pyrography, dyeing, painting and weaving on the raw material. They like to think outside of the box using animal fur, leather, deer antlers, lapidary, silver or copper and art to decorate their projects. Nancy likes to say that they don’t throw anything away because it may be used on another project. Students receive a cleaned gourd, a raw uncleaned gourd and all of the materials necessary to complete projects of their choosing.
Using internet searches each person selects the theme of their project and the Thursday morning open shop adds and encourages ideas to assist. They like to think that it is a community of ideas for a common good.
The club has open shops in silver, lost wax, lapidary, beading and precious metal clay where members can develop the materials used in their gourd classes or open shops.
What can you do with your decorated gourd? You can make bird houses, planters (yes, they will survive our hot summers), vases, purses, art pieces for decoration, thunder gourds (a decorative drum) or night lights. As you can see the uses are whatever comes to mind. You can even decorate an apple gourd in bright red and gift it to your favorite teacher.
Join the Sun Lakes Rock, Gem and Silver Club and share your talents with neighbors and friends. We meet on the third Monday of the month, October through April at 10:00 a.m. in the Navajo Room of the Sun Lakes Country Club for coffee and the general meeting starts at 10:30 a.m.