Gourds have been used worldwide for centuries. They can be grown in any temperate climate and have been used to carry water and food, store seeds, and create musical instruments and religious objects. Gourds continue to be useful today and are beautiful objects of art.
The hard-shell gourd (Lagenaria siceraria) is a night-blooming, white-flowering annual. The characteristic thick shell is determined by growing conditions. The longer and hotter the season, the thicker the shell will be. The gourd I used for this project was grown in the desert of Southern California, giving it a much thinner shell than the standard Midwestern gourds, but it’s still useful.
Working with gourds will involve mold and dust. Wear gloves, safety glasses and a dust mask while cleaning the exterior and cutting and cleaning the interior.
- safety glasses
- dust mask
- copper pot scrubber
- small nail
- hand drill
- keyhole saw
- pottery tool, grapefruit spoon, dull paring knife or putty knife
- 60-grit sandpaper
- paintbrush (optional)
- large needle and needle threader
- canteen-type gourd, about 10 inches in diameter
- salt (optional)
- 3 to 4 ounces beeswax (optional)
- 18 to 20 dry corn husks, soaked 30 minutes in warm water
- 3 yards waxed linen thread
- 4 yards hemp, linen or cotton thread
- 1/4 pound Christmas lima, fava or Scarlet Runner beans—some will break while drilling
- white glue
Step 1: Soak the gourd in warm water for 1 hour. (Cover with an old towel to hold it under water.) Scrub off the mold with a copper pot scrubber. Rinse well, and dry overnight.
Mark the circumference of the gourd about 1/3 of the way down to create an open bowl: Hammer a small nail in the stem end, tie a piece of twine to it, and loop a pencil in the other end. Run the pencil around the gourd to draw an even line.
Drill two holes in the gourd above the pencil line, and cut down to the line with a keyhole saw. The holes give you a place to start the cut without interfering with the rim. Cut around the gourd on the line with the saw.
Step 2: Open the gourd, and clean out the pith and seeds with a pottery tool, spoon or knife. If the bowl will be in direct contact with food, fill it with salt water (1 tablespoon salt to 1 gallon warm water) and soak overnight. Repeat as necessary until the water no longer tastes bitter. Allow the bowl to dry thoroughly, two to three days.
Sand the rim and insides to smooth the surface.
If you want the bowl to be watertight, warm it in a 200-degree-F oven for a few minutes. Pour melted beeswax into the bowl, and use a paintbrush to coat the inside.
Step 3: Make five or six corn-husk braids (depending on length of husks and circumference of gourd) using three husks for each braid. Tie the ends with waxed linen thread, leaving about 1 inch unbraided on each end.
Cut 10 to 12 lengths of hemp thread about 10 inches long.
Lay a corn-husk braid on the rim of the gourd to determine where to attach it. Drill holes about 1/2 inch from the top of the bowl, and tie the braids to the rim using the hemp thread. Abutt the next braid to the one previous, and attach it in the same manner. It will force the ends to protrude out, forming a corn-husk "flower.” Continue around the gourd.
Lay one corn husk on top of another, and tie them in the middle with waxed linen thread. Pinch together and trim to form a larger flower, splitting the husks in several places to form thinner petals. Attach to the end of one of the braids with hemp thread.
||Step 4: Drill small holes in the beans. Using the needle and threader, thread beans on the hemp used to tie the braids in place at varying lengths. Trim all the threads, and place a dot of glue on the knots to secure them.|
About the Author: Patricia Lehnhardt is a merchant, cook, artisan and writer in Galena, Ill., who focuses on all things natural.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2012 issue of Hobby Farm Home.