We are a friendly, welcoming gourd art group that hopes you will visit and join. We love to share our knowledge, learned techniques and camaraderie, and we enjoy encouraging the artist within that exists in all our members whether they realize it or not at first. Come and see. You’ll be amazed at what creative people can do with a CALABASH!
If you love gourds, think you might like them, or are just curious, we hope to see you at a meeting. If you are interested in joining the SWGA, just come to a meeting. You DO NOT have to be a member to be a welcome participant in our meetings. We love new faces and sharing our enthusiasm for gourd art. If you wish to join, annual dues are just $16.
The Southwest Gourd Association meets at 1:00pm on the 3rd Wednesday of each month at the Maricopa County Extension Office, 4341 E. Broadway, Phoenix. The driveway is on the South side of Broadway and is immediately East of the streetlight at 43rd Street.
So, what do we do at meetings? First of all, we have FUN!
Every other month, we have some kind of demonstration of a technique or a discussion of various techniques. Some examples: colored pencil, dyes, carving, story gourds, acrylics, kumihomo, tenerife, etc. Group members, gourd artists from outside our club, or teachers give a demonstration or a short workshop on a technique. Workshop supplies for members are paid by the club. On alternate months, tips are talked about and shared.
We may also have “challenges” where we create a gourd using skills demonstrated at a prior’s month’s demonstration or we each get a bag with identical supplies and each person makes a gourd using the supplies (our own ideas). We may also provide a second challenge to do instead if a challenge is something someone really doesn’t want to do. Members are asked to share their inspiration and challenges while creating a challenge gourd.
Show and Tell happens every other month as well. Members bring in pieces they are working on or have completed and show the group and talk about what they did and how. If they have problem areas, we give suggestions for techniques or products that might help. On other months, “tips” are shared regarding techniques, products, etc.
Here are some tips for working with gourds:
- Always be safe. Protect your respiratory system with a safety respirator rated for particulates.
- Always protect your eyes with safety glasses.
- If your skin is sensitive to irritants, cover exposed areas with a shirt or apron … remember your skin is the largest organ of your body and will absorb particulates that fall on it.
- If you do woodburning on a gourd, always have a fan pulling the smoke away from you, or pushing it away from behind.
Cleaning a Gourd
Always clean your gourds outside to keep mold out of your home.
Cleaning the Outside of a Gourd: Use Dawn liquid dish soap. Rub it all over the dry gourd. Then soak a towel in hot water, wrap the gourd and let it sit for at least an hour. Use a stainless steel scrubber to grind off the mold and white matter. If there is a lot of thick white skin, you may need to scrub longer, or let it dry and sand off the white stuff using a fine grit sandpaper or hand held sander.
Cleaning the Inside of a Gourd: Soaking the inside of the gourd with water can help eliminate the problem of flying dust and mold particles, as well as help ease the removal of the stubborn inside debris. Fill up the inside of your gourd completely with water and soak it overnight. Check to see if the debris is beginning to pull away from the shell. If so, you can begin to pull and scrape it out. Be careful not to scrape too hard or apply too much pressure because you can puncture through some of the thinner shelled gourds.
Cleaning the Outside With Dirt: You can also put a gourd in a can, trashcan, or whatever is big enough, and cover it with soil (garden or potting). Wet the soil completely and leave the gourd for two or three days. The mold and white stuff will come off easily with a scrubber. If you need the gourd totally clean, you still may need to sand a few spots.
Sanding small areas: Glue a piece of fine-grit sandpaper (220-grit or finer) to the back of an old spoon to sand large concave areas or hard-to-reach curves. (This is especially useful for sanding inside a gourd with a long, thin neck to create a smooth inner surface.) To sand smaller indentations, try wrapping your sandpaper around a wooden pencil, or around the tapered end of a disposable chopstick. You’ll be able to sand even tricky surfaces to create a smooth, uniform finish on your gourd! And, of course, some creative gourd folks have created some very handy tools for doing this if you want to spend the money on them.
If you’re not familiar with gourds, here’s a brief description: they are fruit of a vine really, cousins to squash, cucumbers and melons, but a hard shelled variety. They are used in many third world countries as tools (water dippers, water pots), and articles of “clothing” (hats for example). They are also used for art.
Art on a hard fruity vegetable? Who knew? Gourds aren’t good to eat, though you could if you were truly desperate, but they’re awesome for art.
Each gourd is unique…so each art piece made from a gourd is also one-of-a-kind. Once a gourd is completely dry, the skin is dense, hard, sturdy, often thick and can be burned, painted, dyed, cut, filed, carved, etc., just like wood.
Gourd art can last as a family heirloom if it is properly cared for. Cleaning with a soft, damp cloth is all you need.
Where to Get Gourds
We recommend the Wuertz Farm in Casa Grande, Arizona. The Wuertz family consists of honest, hard working 4th generation farmers who have become experts in growing wonderful, thick, hard-skinned gourds. They also host an annual gourd Festival usually the first Friday, Saturday and Sunday in February. It is now the largest gourd festival in the U.S. with a gourd art competition, multiple gourd vendors selling gourds and gourd supplies, great food, fun for kids and fun for absolutely everyone. If you haven’t been before, you will be completely mesmerized.