Gourds as Folk Art
Gourds are one of the earliest crops to be domesticated by man, having been grown for at least 10,000 years as ornamentation or for making musical instruments and utensils. Normally they are inedible due to a lack of flesh and/or bad taste, although some varieties such as the snake gourd can be eaten in addition to utilitarian purposes.
Gourd folk art - art that is created to decorate everyday utilitarian items (think of water cans, for example) is an ancient tradition in Africa and Asia. It is also popular within the indigenous people of the Americas and the central highland of people of Peru. In Polynesia, where the volcanic and coral land lacks clay for pottery and metal for manufacturing, the uses and artistry of the gourd reached an advanced level.
In some instances, gourds can be grown to take on specific shapes, such as a square (this, of course, requires that the gourd grow inside a square container).
Gourd crafting and painting evolved from early hand carvings to the modern day use, of electric wood burners and high-speed pen-shaped rotary tools that can be used to inscribe almost any design. Because gourds can vary in shape and size, the art that can be created on its hard shell surface can also vary. So can the uses: ornaments, bowls, sculpture, vases, and wall art such as masks. Artistic styles can range from craft to fine art.
Whether it has been carved, painted, sanded, burned, dyed, and/or polished, a harvested gourd generally dries over a period of several months before it can be decorated.
Those how are interested in gourd history can check out TheAmerican Gourd Society and the Canadian Gourd Society. These two non-profit organizations are dedicated to educating and instructing others about gourds. In addition more and more gourd art festivals are cropping up across the country, and gourd decorating classes and workshops are gaining in popularity.