Woodburning on Gourds

Reader Contribution by Blythe Pelham
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In past posts, I’ve shared how I grow my gourds, my method for cleaning them, and  how I greenscrape smaller gourds so they have a more pristine working surface for my arting. Now it’s time to describe one of my favorite arting tools—a pyrographic system with variable temperature and precise heads for detail work. My Detail Master is easily 15 years old but I wouldn’t want to play nearly as much with my gourds without it. Though it can be used on other surfaces such as wood and leather, I have yet to wander from my gourds.

I’ve created a video to show a bit about how I work—you can view it by clicking the link at the end of this post. I encourage you to play on scraps before attempting a final piece so that you can become accustomed to each burning head. As you’ll see in the video, I have two heads for my Dagger but mostly use just one. I like the way that particular tip allows me to draw as if I were using a pen. However, this head cuts into the surface of the gourd so it can weaken a piece by creating an easy breaking point. Practicing with your tips will allow you to learn their pluses and minuses.

I don’t require many tools for this process, though the wood burning piece is a tad expensive. All that’s needed are a gourd, a pencil, an eraser, a metal scrubber, and a pyrographic system. You can add inks or dyes to that list for coloring.

I generally have an idea in mind of the design I want to create but also work on the fly simply working patterns as I go along the surface of the gourd. An important thing to keep in mind is to remain flexible. Sometimes the gourd will present you with blemishes that can change the design in the middle of your creating. There is often an unevenness in the texture of the gourd that can slow down the tip if it’s cutting the surface. This can result in variances of line width.

My usual method is to combine following my pencil drawing with some freehand work. Where I know I want to add a dimensional feel, with some bits appearing to overlap others, I will draw in pencil ahead of time. When I’m simply adding lines or texture, precise planning isn’t as important to me. Because the pencil will rub off on your hands or your clothing as you work, it’s best if you don’t spend a lot of time drawing the whole design on your gourd before you begin.

There are many ways to achieve stunning final results. I encourage you to find your own method and places of comfort. Whether you prefer to draw out your design on a flat surface first and then replicate it on your rounded gourd, create stencils to work directly on the surface, or use the combination I describe above, I’m sure that with experimentation and practice you’ll find a way to have fun adorning your gourds.

Blythe Pelham is an artist that aims to enable others to find their grounding through energy work. She is in the midst of writing a cookbook and will occasionally share bits in her blogging here. She writes, gardens and cooks in Ohio. Find her online at Humings and Being Blythe, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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