The other day as I was trolling through the internet, looking for that unusual and unique craft, something that reflected creativity and had a piece of nature attached… that is when I came across carved gourds.
The gently curving gourd is one of Mother Nature's gifts to humankind. Prehistoric peoples in Africa, Asia, and "the Americas valued this squash like fruit with its woody pulp not for its limited nutritional value but for its utility and beauty. Gourds were the first containers, predating baskets and pottery. A dry, hollow gourd could carry water for a family, store treasured fetish items, or serve as a platter for a hot meal. As time passed, people recognized the important role gourds played in their lives and began to embellish them with artful paintings and carvings. The tradition was carried forward through the ages, and the rough pictographs that originally graced the tough skin of gourds evolved into stunningly detailed 360 degree panoramas illustrating stories of courtship and marriage, planting and the harvest, mythology, or day-to-day existence.
Small pockets of individuals dedicated to preserving the ancient art of creating storytelling gourds thrive, particularly in coastal Peru. A gourd destined to become a storyteller's canvas undergoes a great deal of preparation. Gourds must be allowed to reach full maturity on the vine so that the inner skin grows into a sturdy shell. Once cut, a gourd will be left to dry for several weeks or months, during which time its outer skin is scraped off to reveal the smooth cream-colored surface below. Dry gourds destined to tell a story are painted, varnished, or etched, depending on the needs of the artisan. Finished storytelling gourds can serve as pieces of living history, handed down from generation to generation. Or they can memorialize important events in our lives and provide us with a visual tool that helps us share our own tales with others.
I have no doubt that when you lay hands on a story gourd, you will feel the loving energy of its creator. Crafting an intricate tale using this type of natural canvas takes great patience and great care—a story must be chosen to fit the gourd's unique shape and size. If you wish to create your own storytelling gourd, remember that it need not be perfect. Your gourd will become an important part of your life, as an ‘objet d'art’ and a symbol of your connection to a rich chapter in human history that spans multiple continents, serving you in much the same way it did your ancestors- by touching your soul.
I will be adding the growing og gourds to my garden here in Colorado. I think learning how to create these beautiful gifts from nature will be a wonderful fireside project. It can be done by hand with traditional carving tools or more modern approach using an electric tool, either way they will be beautiful. Here are a couple of websites that I found of some artisans and their fantastic work that may inspire you.
Marilyn Sunderland Studios
Marilyn Sunderland Studios