When someone smiles at me I am no longer the master of my face because my heart takes control and I smile back without even thinking! I believe smiles are the currency of the heart and I always feel blessed when I receive those beautiful heartfelt deposits. When I began the journey of creating 5 gourd vessels to be given away I never anticipated that I would be the recipient of so much joy and as the photo below shows, my heart's bank account is overflowing because of beautiful souls and their gifts to me. Gifts of smiles.
Unfortunately gourds don't clean themselves. As gourds cure over months and months of drying time mold grows on their skin before the gourd dries out and it is the dried mold on the gourds skin that needs to be removed. How I clean my gourds today is so different from when I first started working with gourds. All I will say is that I made a huge chore out of a very simple process. Thank goodness I came to my senses and let myself discover that a little water, a stainless steel scrubby, and some elbow grease can clean up a medium sized gourd in a very short amount of time.
What a difference in the gourd's appearance once all the mold is scrubbed off! While I am scrubbing on the gourd I get acquainted with the gourds surface. Each gourd is unique and out of the same crop no two will ever be alike in size, thickness, texture, etc. I have been working with gourds since 2000 and over the course of 13 years I have developed what I call gourd sense. My gourd sense tells me a lot about the gourd including that I can pretty much predict how thick the shell will be. Also during the cleaning process it is a time of discovery. I discover cracks, pits, warts, and stains all of which impact the design, the burning, and the paint.
Gourds are so crazy wonderful! In the above picture gourd # 4 is receiving its design. I have decided to make a bowl which is not unique. What makes my gourd bowls unique is that no two are ever alike because I create a new composition for each gourd I work with. When I first touched this gourd I thought that I would be channeling Lalique because I kept seeing Lalique style patterns in my mind's eye. When it came time to actually draw on the gourd everything changed! Still inspired by Art Nouveau the design I began to see was less Lalique and more me! My husband had recently gifted me with a beautiful Art Nouveau stylized tray with the most beautiful leaves and those leaves came to life in my head and just would not stop dancing around until I transferred them onto the gourd.
Cutting the top off a gourd can be tricky, and even more tricky when the path the jigsaw is to follow is a curvy one! Before any jigsawing can begin it is necessary to pierce the gourd's body with an awl. The size of the awl is important because the hole created by the awl needs to accommodate my micro jigsaw blade. Once the blade is inserted then the fun begins! The challenge is to retrace the drawn design with an oscillating saw and not accidentally lop off a leaves lobe! With the top successfully removed the gourd can then be cleaned out. Cleaning the inside of a gourd involves the removal of the seeds and the ribs that hold the seeds. Once that is done then I scrape out the gourds remaining contents until I reach the inner wall and then the inner walls need to be scraped until they are as smooth as possible. For detailing the edges I use metal files. Cleaning the inside of a gourd is a very messy job but with the right music playing it is an enjoyable experience!
In the photo above you can see the irregular cut that follows the flow of the leaves and also you can see just how thick a gourd can be! The thicker the gourd's shell is the better.
If you have not noticed, I love working on my gourds! I love creating unique pieces and if I can create something that makes the bowl uniquely a particular person's it makes the process all the more enjoyable. On this bowl, I have part of a poem partially hidden by the bowl's leaves. The poem I borrowed a line from is one by Rumi and the stanza behind the leaves reads; The garden of love is green without limit. I felt the verse went well with the leaf design and reflected the bowl's future owner's heart.
Sometimes I enlist the assistance of my husband to help me with my gourds. When I do ask for his help it is only when I have other obligations that take me away from my work on my gourds. My husband is always happy to help me and how lucky am I that my husband just happens to be an Art Professor! So, after I completed all the burns on this gourd my husband lent his expertise and helped with the painting ... while I chased a 3 year old grandson around the yard!
Another view showing the words of Rumi peeking out from under the leaves. The gourd is now ready for the inside to be painted and then to be sealed. This particular gourd has a 1000 + mile journey ahead. I believe this gourd bowl turned out beautifully! Yes, I am proud of this gourd and as the first picture in this blog showed, the recipient was very pleased with the gourd bowl too.
One last picture before packing up the bowl for its trip across country to its new home. One last gourd to do, and the Great Gourd Giveaway will be fulfilled and my heart bank will be full of smiles. How lucky am I? Very lucky.
Now, for gourd # 5.
all photos in this blog were taken by and owned by Maryanne Mesplé