Monday, October 8, 2012

Fall Gourd Project

I think gourds are so neat!  They start out as a squash and end up being like a wooden vessel that can be painted, woodburned, incised, beaded, etc...  I decided to try doing a Thanksgiving Centerpiece gourd project this year with my elementary school students.  I had taken a gourd making workshop about 18 years ago so I had a little bit of background knowledge.

I started by finding a local gourd farm - www.gourdfarmer.com - which is in Knights Landing - not too far to drive.  We drove out on a weekend in August to get some gourds.  They had so many gourds in all shapes and sizes - from huge to tiny - round to long and skinny.  I purchased a shape called cannonball gourds.  When you purchase them they are coated with mold - which is what makes the colors and patterns on the shell of the gourd.  You soak them in oxyclean and water to make it easier to scrub them clean.  The longer they soak the better!
This gourd is partially scrubbed with a stainless steel scrub pad.  You can see the caramel color of the gourd appearing through the coating.  It definitely is a job getting them clean.
Here is the cleaned gourd still wet - you can see all the different variations of color on the shell of the gourd.  I love the natural colors that are under all that mess.

Since I want to embellish the gourds with some twine, string, raffia or beads I need to figure out a way to open the gourd with a saw.  Many websites recommend a jigsaw or x acto knife, but I tried the jigsaw and it was difficult to get a nice round opening.  So I thought maybe a hole saw that goes on a drill might work.  It worked very nicely and I zipped through making the openings in the top.
Wearing a dust mask to keep from breathing in the gourd dust I drilled the openings in the top of the gourds.  Then I drilled holes around the top to use for threading the twine etc...


As you can see the hole saw makes a nice uniform and smooth hole in the top.  I pulled the dried insides of the gourd out of mine, but left it inside the ones I'm using to teach the project.  The students can remove it if they want to - but they might want to take the seeds out and plant some gourds of their own!

OK - so the next step is to decorate the gourd.  I really like wood burning personally, however I don't feel like that's the best option for young students.  I went to the craft store and purchased some leaf stencils and metallic acrylic paint.  Using a "dauber" which is a little sponge on a handle I stenciled leaves around the gourd.

The final touch is to thread some twine through the drilled holes and add some fabric leaves and wooden beads.
I think these will be a wonderful addition to any family's art collection - and they'll look fantastic on the Thanksgiving table for years to come!  Family members could even put a little slip of paper in the gourd saying what they are thankful for...

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