Sunday, October 24, 2004

Gourd Fair LA

I love gourds, those woody shelled friends from the calabash family that serve so many functions and purposes I can't even start a list..

OK, you pulled my arm... here are a few:

  • decorative art
  • spiritual tools
  • vessels for food, water, etc
  • jewelry
  • fountains
  • drums
  • dolls
  • statues
  • masks
  • rattles
  • anything the imagination can come up with

We (as in husband, child and I)went to the Los Angeles Arboretum for Gourd Fair LA. It's a wonderful outdoor event that celebrates the incredible amazing gourd. Gourd artists from all over brought their works, growers had raw gourds just screaming to be turned into cool art, and musicians played gourd drums and even gourd flutes on the festival stage.

My introduction to gourds was several years back in a Native American ceremony. They are used in healing and treated with utmost respect. In Mexico, gourds are painted and decorated in folk art traditions, made into rattles and used the way pottery is used.

What I was told was that first came gourds. On every continent they exist, making them quite an old plant. Their bottle and canteen shapes were discovered to be ideal for carrying water and storing food. Ancient peoples used them, and when someone had the bright idea to make pottery, they copied the shapes of the gourds. Hence, we have bottles, canteens and bowls.

Gourd musical instruments developed in Africa, in the Americas and Asia. Special techniques for burning designs into the shell were developed by holding a red hot stick up to the gourd and burning the design in. Today, most people use woodburning sets, but in Peru and Africa people still use the hot stick.

When you start working with gourds, you become hooked. It is believed by many Indigenous peoples that each gourd has a spirit. I think that's why gourd enthusiasts get so into this art form. Whatever skill you had prior- painting, carving, beading, jewelry making, weaving, construction, drawing- can be used on gourds. They are easy to work with and totally addictive.

But don't take my word for it, check out these cool links:
Gourd Fair LA 2004
California Gourd Society (check out the gallery)

Support your local gourd artist and bring a bit of gourd magic into your life.

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