Gourd workshop taken to new level

The Colusa County Master Gardeners have spouted enough interest from the public in creating works of art using gourds that a new category of competition will likely be added for next year’s Colusa County Fair.

About 16 people attended a workshop last Saturday to learn how to clean, cut, paint, carve, sand, dye and polish gourds.

“We’re not sure if this is our third workshop or our fourth, but every year we learn something new,” said Master Gardener Cynthia White.

Gourds are varieties of squash, just like pumpkins and butternut, but because their flavor is not as palatable as the other varieties, most cultures use gourds for their ornamental value rather than food.

Although the Master Gardeners has held gourd workshops in the past, Saturday’s workshop was the first taught by professional gourd artists willing to share their secrets, which include the use of power tools and a variety of mediums.

Barbara Rippetoe and her daughter Maryland Fallon, of Loma Rica, are both members of gourd artist associations and the American Gourd Society, and have been creating works of art of many years.

“I love to do filigree work,” Fallon said. “It takes time, strength, and patience. Lots of patience.”

The first step to a masterpiece, Rippetoe said, is that you have to have an idea what you want your gourd to look like.

By the time the three-hour workshop was over, participants had ornamental bowls, birdhouses, drums, painted ornaments, and scarecrows.

Sara Dunn, of Colusa, took the gourd workshop a couple of years ago, and brought her stepdaughter this year to try it out.

“I did something totally different this time,” Dunn said. “Last time I tried carving into it. This time I painted it. I think I did a better job this year.”

Kaymen Dunn, 12, said she enjoyed the workshop, but wasn’t sure if she would enter her painted gourd into the fair or experiment with another.

“It’s fun,” she said.

Master Gardener Penny Dennis grew and dried both swan neck and birdhouse gourds that were used at the workshop at her Maxwell farm last year. Gourds can be grown in home gardens, but like pumpkins, they require quite a bit of ground, she said.

Gourds should also dry several months before using them for art.

Master Gardener Coordinator Gerry Hernandez said this year’s workshop was the best attended, and the Master Gardeners will likely sponsor the event annually.

The organization also had information about growing, drying, and preparing gourds for art.

The inside of the dried gourds contain seeds and layers of skin, and have other uses.

“They make good fire starter and they make good compost,” Dennis said.

Beginner and skilled gourd artists are encouraged to enter their projects in the 2019 Colusa County Fair in June, and should look for the new division in handicrafts, said Master Gardener Coordinator Gerry Hernandez.

Rippetoe said gourds entered into competition should be very well cleaned, with the inside sealed or painted as well.