This time of year I usually create some sculptural artwork out of gourds for a local event called the Calabash. It is the primary annual fundraiser for Food for Thought, a food bank located in Forestville, California. Proceeds provide comprehensive nutrition and other services for men, women, and children affected by HIV and other serious illnesses in Sonoma County.
Working with such an unusual media helps to recharge my own creativity and provides a break from the confines of the computer. Essentially, a gourd is a type of cucumber or cantaloupe which, when dried, develops an extremely thin hard shell consisting of fine silica. It is a surface that is smooth, almost like vellum, and has been decorated by cultures as early as 10,000 B.C.
Gourds have been used primarily as containers and are often associated with the transport of water. They have had a multitude of uses since the beginning of history, including kitchen tools, toys, and musical instruments. Many classical instruments of India use gourds as acoustic resonators. Maracas are percussion instruments often made from gourds.
Gradually, I have developed techniques for working with gourds, which are a somewhat unforgiving medium when you try to change their shape. They can crack easily and are difficult to cut or assemble into specific forms. With careful use of utility knives, straight pins and epoxy, I have been able to create a set of five strange but interesting masks, as shown below. Come to the Calabash and make a bid!