There was a time when I hated gourds.
I think I was 16 when my mom forced me out to the Georgia Gourd Show. I didn’t want to go, it was summertime, I wanted to be poolside with some iced tea and a book. Instead I was trudging through the Chehaw Nature Park glaring at birdhouses and vendors alike. “Who cares about gourds? Why don’t you plant something useful instead, like tomatoes!” (I’m glad I have a son. Teenaged girls are the worst.) My mother, mortified by my attitude, threatened to bring me back the next day, and sign me up for a gourd crafting class. The horror! My attitude did not improve, gourd punishment followed.
A vendor at the craft fair brought a tomato the second day of the show to give to me. I made a birdhouse. My mother was hooked on gourds.
So for years we cleaned, cut, scrubbed, painted, sealed, and sold gourd bird houses. From patterns. Boring.
So I started designing my own gourd folk art: mermaids, Santa, snowmen. Gourds that light up.
1000 Christmas decorations later I was a pro at painting and wood burning Santa’s face. I didn’t use a pattern, I didn’t even sketch anything out, I free hand painted 100s more gourd decorations.
So we started making gourd vessels: Gourds with lids, gourd vases, gourd teapots, gourd masks, gourd bowls.
- Butterfly gourd pitcher
Mom bought a mini jigsaw and a dremel so we had carved gourds and woven gourds and intricate cut gourds. I felt kind of like Bubba Gump, but with squash.
Somewhere along the way I started thinking about gourds all the time. I would see decorations and think about how I could make them out of gourd. I started experimenting with techniques and treatments to make gourd art no one had seen before. I made a gourd bowl with mixed media fibers and glass embellishments and I one the Judge’s Choice award for most creative piece in the ENTIRE Art Show. Maybe there was something to this gourd obsession after all.
I started to paint on gourds like they were a 2-d canvas, creating elaborate stories and scenes .
I experiment with colors and glazing, treating the dried plant like it was high end pottery. It’s been over 12 years now and I still manage to keep my vessels fresh and interesting.
Mostly, I learned that I didn’t have to be typecast as the Gourd Girl. I was free to paint whatever I wanted, on whatever I wanted. Being the Gourd Girl didn’t stop me from being the Whimsical Painting Lady or that Portrait Artist. If anything, I developed selling skills, production skills, and customer service skills: real life business knowledge from those dumb gourds I hated. A lot of my painting techniques and skills carried over to my 2-d work too; glazing techniques, bold bright fun colors, story telling…I learned to use powertools and solve painting challenges in 3 dimensions. Working with gourds made me a stronger artist.
I always think about creating a gourd craft pattern book partially to share, but mostly to be able to have something to recreate some of the hundreds of Christmas decorations I’ve created over the years. I’m multipassionate and love experimenting with mediums and styles, choosing just one style or substrate would cut off an entire outlet for my creativity. I’m the Gourd Diva now (I named myself that, of course!) but I’m also just Kat, the artist, painting, decorating, and creating everything and anything that I can imagine.