Lilly Creations 14386 Pierite Road, Nevada City, CA  95959

(530) 477-9183



October 2005

Volume 2

Tips on Selecting, Cleaning, and Using Gourds

Who can resist the pull of a mound of gourds at the local market?  Fall is the time of year when gourds are not only most available, but are also at their most glorious.  Those sensual shapes just seem to cry to be taken up and admired, and no wonder because it has been quite a journey from field to farmers’ market for them. 

After harvest, each hard skinned gourd goes through a drying period varying from a few months to a year, depending upon its size.  The gourd which weighs 50 pounds when green will weigh just a fraction of that when dry, so that even we weaklings can pick it up easily with one hand.  The rattle inside some gourds are the seeds, next year’s crop if one is so inclined, or the means by which rhythms have be made for centuries. 

When selecting dried gourds, find the shapes and sizes which appeal and look for unwrinkled surfaces.  The thicker the skin, the better.  They will feel slightly heavier, and the sound will be different. 

Karen Lilly, The Artist

Handling a few will give you all of the experience you need.  Buying gourds while they are still green will not guarantee a dried product, unfortunately. 

So, what does one do with them after answering their siren call of “Buy me, buy me!”?  If they are clean, skip this step, and pat yourself on the back.  If, however, they appear to have dried mold or surface dirt, the “easiest” way is to wet a towel and wrap the gourd completely; let it sit for half an hour.  Then, using a metal pot scrubber, like Chore Boy, put the gourd under running water and scrub. (I have found the metal scrubbers with plastic handles to be real hand savers.)  Very occasionally, a thin shiny skin remains, and this can be removed with further furious scrubbing.  Many people try bleach or sanding, but these steps really aren’t necessary.  The soaking facilitates this step enormously. 

If you would like to add color to these lovely shapes, that can be simply done.  Meltonian shoe polish thinly applied with a cosmetic sponge, left to sit until the color reaches the right depth, and then buffed off provides a lovely organic color.  (Meltonian works very well because it has less wax content for more complete saturation.)  Some people also enjoy using leather dye for a brighter color.  Of course, colored pencil is my personal favorite, no surprise there.  However, no matter the colorant, the color will fade if placed in direct sunlight.  You may also choose to spray the end product with a clear acrylic spray, like Deft, as I do, for further protection. 

The final task is to find just the perfect spot for display.  Gourds enjoy being pack animals and so enjoy being grouped together as well.  (This perhaps is a little known fact, but still true.)

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The Artist 14386 Pierite Road, Nevada City, CA  95959 © 2005 Lilly Creations