1. Many people that see my work and are not familiar with gourds ask. What is it?
I tell them it is a carved gourd. The gourd is a member of the squash family. When the gourd is dried, it becomes a hard shell vessel that can be carved much like a piece of wood. The outer skin becomes a hard shell when dried, while the softer thicker inner shell remains more porous.
2. What do you use to carve the gourd?
I carve the gourds with a high-speed carving/engraving tool that is powered by compressed air, which I purchased from Profitable Hobbies for the fine detail carving. I purchased the Optima II Plus carving tool from Treeline (The Woodcarvers Specialist), for larger and faster cuts. I can purchase different size burrs for both tools, so I can carve a wide variety of textures on my gourds.
Many people think my designs are burned on with a wood burning tool, but in fact, I have not used any wood burning tool on my gourds. I do plan on experimenting with some of these tools in the future, but for now, I just use the carving tools. I have carved with a Dremel tool in the past, but was limited by its flexibility and was not able to get the detail I desired.
3. What paint do you use to paint the gourd?
My favorite medium is oils, because they stay moist longer and allows more flexibility in blending the colors. I also use acrylics and wood stains. I have tried dyes, but prefer the wood stains to dyes. I use the acrylics for the inside of the gourd because it is so porous. Remember to use a wood sealer first on all carved areas before painting. This will help the paint to stay its true color.
4. What made you start carving gourds?
In the summer of 2004, I went to a Home and Garden Show where Dr. Lew Jensen, of Profitable Hobbies, was demonstrating his high-speed carving tool. I was very impressed with how easy and fun it was to use. I always wanted to get into carving, especially relief carving. At the demonstration, Dr. Jensen had a display of various wood carvings, along with a carved gourd. I purchased the carving tool and decided to take some classes, one being a gourd class. Once I took the gourd carving class, I was hooked. I realized this was what I had been looking for.
5. How many hours does it take you to carve a gourd?
It varies with the size of the gourd and the complexity of the detail of the design. I rarely keep track of my hours on carving and completing a gourd. Some gourds have taken 40 to 180 hours, but that is only referring to one or two specific gourds. Each gourd is so different in the process and techniques I use, I don’t like to compare one to the other. My goal is not to carve a specific number of gourds in a limited time frame, but to produce a unique high quality piece of art work. Quality is my goal, not quantity.