Upon returning home after a 6-week trip, our 7-year-old son went to the back yard and called, “Mom! Dad! Look at this plant! It's everywhere!” While we were gone some kind of squash had taken over 1/3 of our backyard. My husband immediately identified the mysterious plant as a gourd vine. Our son wanted to know if we planted the gourds. My husband told him we hadn’t and that a bird probably brought the seed into our yard. We waited for the gourds to turn from green to brown then we cut them from the vine and put them in the sun to dry.
I was quite taken with the gourds. I was sure there was something creative that could be done with them. Several months later I saw a notice for a one-day workshop being offered to make a gourd vase. During the class I learned that there's a waxy layer on the gourd so the shell must be washed and scrubbed with a wire pad to remove this layer. Removing the waxy layer allows the gourd skin to hold the dyes and enables the use of a wood burner or rotary burring tool to apply a design. In the class I learned about rotary tools, tool bits, micro-saws and super-hot wood burners. I also got to experiment with a variety of paints, stains and dyes. The best part was that I went home with a vase that I was really pleased with.
For the next 2 or 3 years I tried to use as many of the various gourds shapes and sizes that I could. From a one-inch jewelry gourd I made a birdhouse for a dollhouse. From a 3.5-foot round gourd I made an ocean drum. I made masks, birdhouses, vases, ornaments, trinket boxes, bowls and gourds that had faith-based themes and images.
Unfortunately, after 3 years, the recipients of my treasured pieces, family and friends, reached their gourd gift saturation level… they were gourded-out! Around this time, a friend asked me to make a donation piece for a silent auction. I was thrilled! I could still create gourds and they would have a home where they were wanted! I actually began to solicit people that organized fundraisers to see if they needed donations. For my auction artwork, the design reflected the organization's mission statement. I really enjoyed making the gourd’s design “relevant”.
One day I got a call from a woman who bid on and now owned one of my gourd vases. She was the assistant to a professor who was retiring and she wanted something special that would reflect his life. I asked her about his interests and what he cared about. She told me he was a teacher with a wife and two children and that his true passion was music. She added that he loved to play the bugle and was very active in his church as the director of the choir. With this information I created a unique design that I knew the recipient would be happy with.
I discovered that the personal connection is what truly makes all the difference. Getting to know a little about the person receiving the item enabled me to focus on the recipient by meditating/praying for them. My hope was that by doing this the gourd would reflect the feelings of the person that commissioned the piece; which made it special.
Unbeknownst to me, a friend who volunteered at Tohono Chul park showed the gift shop manager a vase and an ornament I had given her. My friend surprised me when she told me she had done this and that the manager would like to sell my items in the gift shop. Soon after I was selling gourd pieces at The Desert Museum, The West, The Tucson Museum of Art, The Arizona History Museum and in The Trinity Bookstore. All of a sudden, I had a business!
Now I needed a name for my business. A woman in my Bible study suggested “The Lord's Gourds” since the gourds were a gift that simply appeared in the yard. I loved the name! It was catchy and was available for a website name on the internet. I asked a friend if he wanted to build the website and again things fell into place. Even though he had never done anything like that before he developed an engaging website in a remarkably short amount of time. Once people understood that they could have a personalized item that reflected their favorite things, most of my work came from commissioned pieces. Now I encourage people to get ideas from viewing my website and then letting me know what they have in mind.
I feel very blessed that after 18 years I'm still able to do something that brings me and many other people such great joy. Joy that sprung from a seed that a bird dropped in my back yard.