Gorgeous Gourds

Grow gourds for use in beautiful and fun crafting projects.

| April/May 2005


Gourds can be used for a myriad of craft purposes.

Photo courtesy Robert Hasselberg

Eight years ago, while reading a magazine in a barber shop near his home in Frankfort, Ind., Denny Wainscott ran across an article about an engraving tool that he thought might be interesting to try on gourds. It worked, and a few years later he added stains, dyes and inlay to his gourd-crafting skills. In 2003, one of Wainscott’s pieces, “Path to Harmony,” (left) sold for $20,000, but he doesn’t think working with gourds is about money.

“Gourds are nature’s storage vessels and a gift for all of us to enjoy,” he says. “I’m lucky to be able to express my love of nature by using something she has given to us.”

More and more people share Wainscott’s appreciation for the hollow, hard-shelled members of the cucurbit family known as gourds. There are several types of gourds, but hard-shell gourds, Lagenaria siceraria, are the ones people have used as dishes, dippers, jars, pipes, musical instruments and hundreds of other household objects for the last 5,000 years. “Gourds were probably the first containers ever used by human beings,” says Ginger Summit, author of six books on crafting and growing gourds. “They satisfy the creative urge to decorate, and then you can use them for all sorts of purposes.”

Thousands of people agree. Membership in the American Gourd Society (www.americangourdsociety.org) has steadily increased in the last decade, and now 19 state chapters exist from Florida to Idaho. Some folks love to grow these “vegetable vessels,” others are intrigued by their history, and many find compelling creative possibilities in crafting with gourds. To gourdheads like Virginia artist Leah Comerford, crafting gourds is about preserving, enhancing and enjoying one of nature’s own art forms.

Crafting gourds is something anyone can do. “With gourds, you cannot fail,” Summit says, and proves it in gourd-craft workshops she conducts for children and teenagers at risk. “Gourds are beautiful as they are, but add a little color, a little polish, and suddenly you’ve turned a gourd into your own work of art.”

Except in the coldest climates, anyone can grow gourds. “There is a special value in holding a work of art that nature started as a seed,” Comerford says. Although gourds are warm-natured plants that thrive in hot weather, they are grown commercially as far north as Ontario, where Pam Grossi and Peter Bell grow craft-quality gourds at their Northern Dipper Farm. And if you can’t grow your own, you can buy gourds from a number of Web sites and farms.

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