Snake Gourd Takes First Place
When talking with Patti Jo Newsom, local expert on gourd artistry, she reflected that often an artist will see something in a gourd immediately. Other times, an idea comes first and the search for the right gourd to reflect that idea comes second. She likened making art pieces from gourds to wood working, but with a different art medium or canvas.
Many of the same tools used in wood working are used in gourding as well. Jig saws, craft saw blades, Dremel and high speed rotary tools, long handle tools with different bits, and saws are some of the tools used.
When Patti Jo moved to Pahrump, she was surprised to discover there was not a Gourd Society here. So, she and Kristy Dial established the Nevada Gourd Society. It is “a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing education and information regarding Lagenaria (hard shell) gourd growing, curing, and crafting.” It is a chapter of the American Gourd Society
There are two local gourd groups called Gourd Patches in Nevada. The Great Basin Gourd Patch with 45 active members is in the Reno area and is directed by Kristy. The other serves southern Nevada and is called the Pahrump Valley Gourd Patch with 28 active members and is in Pahrump, directed by Patti Jo.
The society holds workshops once a month where they teach each other new techniques and ideas. Their goal is to share their knowledge openly and without stepping on anyone’s toes.
Gourds can be found online or you can visit a gourd farm. Those nearest Pahrump include Wuertz Gourd Farm in Casa Grande, AZ, Welburn Gourd Farm in De Luz, CA, and Front Porch Crafts and Gourds on Davis Farm in Sacramento, CA. Patti Jo says if you can grow a pumpkin, you can grow a gourd. But it does take some insider knowledge to get them to survive in the desert and they must be fertilized correctly to be appropriate for carving.
The curing process takes a long time. You must let the gourd sit and dry until all the water inside disappears. Inside you’ll find a pithy material with seeds. Patti Jo compared it to the texture of Styrofoam. All of this must be removed before starting a project as the inside of the gourd is finished, just like the outside. “Any gourder worth their salt, finishes the inside as well” according to Patti Jo. The seeds can be planted in the backyard in containers or in the flowerbed.
You can shape gourds as they grow to encourage them to result in a certain shape. It’s called gourd manipulation and is an art form unto itself. Jim Story, from Pendleton, IN, was the master of this craft. He died in 2005 and the American Gourd Society honors him by awarding the annual Jim Story Award for the most spectacular gourd manipulation.
Gourds weren’t always used just for art. They were originally used as utilitarian vessels such as ladles, dippers, bowls, gun powder horns, tobacco boxes, canteens, and musical instruments. First, they were used as drums and later they were turned into flutes and eventually string instruments. Gourds are often named after whatever they are used for, as in Canteen Gourd or Martin Gourd.
In addition to having fun being creative with gourds, the Pahrump Valley Gourd Patch is involved in the community. Members of the Patch also participate in Artistic Divas and Dudes, a group of men and women who enjoy varying kinds of artistic talent. The members of the Patch also participate in the Pahrump Arts Council, Art for Seniors, and hold charity art classes twice a month which teaches many forms of art.
The Nevada Gourd Society hosts the Silver State Art Festival in the fall in Carson City, NV. Featured are gourds, basketry, fine art and fine crafts. They also participate in local festivals and many times can be found displaying their work in Bob Ruud Center during a Petrack Park activity.
Pahrump has an abundance of talented artists and creative people. Keep your eye out for announcements of their festivals and fairs. If you are a gourd enthusiast and interested in joining the Nevada Gourd Society, visit their website at NevadaGourdSociety.org.