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Gourd Decorating: A Simple Gourd Craft Project for Newbies
Photo: You can decorate a gourd to be a hat, as well as a bird house.

Gourd decorating assumes a variety of forms, as evidenced by this "coonskin cap."

David Beaulieu

Gourd decorating comes in as many forms as there are ways to use these celebrated calabashes. I'm referring to the hardshell (sometimes spelled "hardshelled" or "hard-shell") type, not the ornamental type. Elsewhere, I show you how to make Halloween jack-o-lanterns from gourds. The present project involves making a hat from a so-called "bird-house" gourd and decorating it for a contest at the Ohio Gourd Show; the photo here shows what the completed work looks like.

Even those unfamiliar with gourd decorating are probably familiar with another use to which such gourds are often put: making bird houses (as suggested by their very name). But you're truly only limited by your imagination. I've seen decorated gourds serving as everything from lamps to clocks. Bottle gourds were used to carry water and food going back into prehistoric times.

One thing you'll learn quickly if you decide to take up gourd decorating as a hobby is that you'll have to decide how much time you have to spend on a project and adjust your design accordingly. You can spend an enormous amount of time at gourd decorating. I should know, as someone who was once a gourd fanatic and advanced beyond painting and staining them. The mere beginner decorates a gourd by painting or staining; when you graduate beyond this first step, you gravitate toward more novel (and time-consuming!) gourd decorating projects. Advanced crafters burn images onto gourds using a wood-burning tool and even carve elaborate designs into them using a Dremel tool.

But I'm giving you (and myself!) a break in this gourd decorating project, which can be completed relatively quickly. This, despite the fact that it involves going beyond merely using paint to create a design. What we'll be making -- on an elementary level -- is known as a "gourd sculpture," which consists of cutting material out of one or more gourds (one, in this case) and gluing the pieces together so as to create a sculpture.

In this case, the sculpture is of a raccoon, or, more specifically, a coonskin cap. I'll show you how to do it on the following pages, beginning with a supplies list and instructions for cleaning a gourd on Page 2....

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