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I Must Be Outta My Gourd

Isn’t it amazing how one of your hobbies can spill over into your work life and it is considered to be a good thing?! Two years ago, my co-worker Erica Deale approached me to be a part of the Park series that she developed. This meant that I could share one of my favorite crafting mediums: GOURDS! Yes, gourds! Not those colorful ones you see everywhere in fall decorations, and which can rot after a few weeks. I mean the ones that have been known to last for years!

Gourds are members of the Cucurbitaceae family which includes: cucumbers, squash, melons, and zucchini. They can be ornamental or hardshell and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For centuries, cultures around the world have turned this gift from nature into water dippers, bowls, masks, baskets, jewelry, and musical instruments. Today, you can see gourds turned into birdhouses and creative masterpieces using coiling, glues, beads, clay, decoupage, fabric, paint, woodburning, and so much more. You are only limited by your imagination!

Thus, two workshops were created for the Museum, giving participants an opportunity to create their own masterpieces. Our first workshop was titled It’s for the Birds! Using markers, paint, stencils, wood burning tools, and even pine cone scales, attendees created birdhouses that could be kept ornamentally inside or used outdoors in their backyards making a number of bird species very happy.

Green decorated created by a participant using paint, stencils, glue, and pinecone scales.
Gourd topped with pinecone scales and prepped for woodburning

During the second workshop last fall, participants tried their hand at creating a drum.

Drum skin attached to a cut gourd with decorative tacks

However, two young people who attended with their grandmother, decided that they wanted a drum without a drumskin. Recognizing that one type of gourd that was provided looked like an instrument that they saw in a book, they were eager to begin decorating. The instrument was an udu, a percussion instrument, typically made from clay, used by the Igbo People of Nigeria. This instrument is shaped like a pot, has a hole on its side, and is played by slapping the side or bottom with the palm of your hand.

Udu made from a gourd with top cut off and hole drilled in the center
Creative young people with their grandmother and their completed udus.
Five fabulous workshop participants with their creatively decorated gourd drums.

Everyone walked away with their finished projects and smiles! As I mentioned, gourds are a great canvas to get the creative juices flowing! I am looking forward to creating more fun workshops like this! I’d love to hear if this sort of program would be of interest to you.

All images: Wisteria Perry/The Mariners’ Museum and Park

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