March Gourd Madness grows

Published 1:00 pm Monday, March 26, 2018

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

March Gourd Madness was more than just a display of unique art this year.

The annual show has grown into a two-day hands-on learning event for those interested in the art form. This year’s event was held at the Clanton Conference and Performing Arts Center on March 23 and 24.

Numerous classes on specific projects were offered along with purchase opportunities of raw gourds and supplies.

Several artists also had their work on display and for sale at the event.

Sheryl Scott from Kentucky led a class on a project that turned a medium-sized gourd into a bear painted in a yellow and black bee style.

“I just see a gourd, and it looks like something,” Scott, who has been doing art with gourds for more than 20 years, said.

She said she enjoys teaching because there are more opportunities to work on projects.

“This is fabulous,” Sandy Rosamond of Wetumpka said of the class.

Rosamond first became interested in gourd art after seeing a demonstration at a library.

“I’m just hooked,” Rosamond said. “There are so many things you can do with a gourd, so many different projects. It’s just wonderful. You can carve them.  You can wood burn them.”

She said she was interested in the bee bear project, because she wanted to learn about sculpting with clay in gourd art.

Troy Tatum was teaching a brand-new project using a luffa where the gourd had been carved out.

“The luffa is actually a cousin of the gourd,” Tatum said.

He said he developed the project after growing luffa a few years ago and looking for a way to use it.

Tatum said he enjoys teaching gourd art because of the different people he gets to work with. He primarily teaches carving and wood burning techniques.

It was his wife Ellen that initially introduced him to gourd art.

Ellen Tatum, who has been doing gourd art since 2005, was also teaching a fairly new design — tribal cording — during March Gourd Madness.

The cord was sewn onto the top of a gourd that had a tribal turtle painted on it.

“It took learning a new stitch to do this,” Ellen Tatum said.

Becky Cox-Rodgers, who started using gourds for her art in 2009, was teaching attendees how to create a marbleized look on gourds by dipping it in special enamel paint that is floating on water. Cox-Rodgers used egg shaped gourds for the project to look like a dyed Easter Egg.

“It’s fun,” Cox-Rodgers said. “Kids love it. They think its magic.”

The technique can also be used on larger gourds.

She said she enjoyed marbleizing because, “It’s easy. Instant satisfaction. Anybody can do it. It is relatively inexpensive.”

Leah Reed had traveled all the way from New Hampshire to be a vendor at the show.

“We specialize in supplies for gourd artists and bringing them supplies that are hard to find,” Reed said.

These items come from as far away as Africa.

She said she enjoys gourd art because it is “such a creative piece of 3D that you can turn into anything.”

Other demonstrations during March Gourd Madness included Mary Pearson using pine needles to create a trim on a project and Lynn Marino carving a gourd. She used special carving tips to make sections of the gourd look like lace.

She said the seeds and pulp inside the gourd has to be cleaned out and allowed to dry for six to nine months before it can be used.

“People who are new to gourds think they just come pretty, but they don’t,” Pearson said.

Bryanna Mims, a student at Thorsby High School, attended the event with her grandmother and tried her hand at decorating an egg gourd with permanent markers.

“I like that you can do whatever you want and it turns out quite cool,” Mims said.

The gourd art community is friendly and well-connected.

“You make friends, and then you see them at the other shows,” Scott said.

Rosamond said the artists are “like a family.”

“The gourd art group is a wonderful group of people to be involved with,” Katie Westmoreland said. “They are friendly. They are helpful.”