Gourd art celebrated in two-day event

Published 11:53 am Monday, March 25, 2019

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Gourd art lovers from across the region and beyond gathered in Clanton on March 22-23 for March Gourd Madness.

This unique festival is sponsored by the Chilton County Arts Council.

Organizer Mack Gothard said attendees came from as far away as Lincoln, Troy, Electic and Dothan to participate in classes, watch demonstrations and purchase supplies to turn gourds into works of art. Vendors and instructors came from out of state, including The Caning Shop in California selling supplies for gourd art.

Although the plants may look like their edible cousin squash, the varieties of gourds used for these art projects are not edible. The gourds are cleaned and dried out before beginning a project. Sealant is often used on a finished product to preserve it.

Gothard said he enjoyed seeing people who had participated in previous years as well as those “who have never realized there are shows about gourds … and that’s our purpose.”

There were at least 40 people who attended classes at the event who had never been to a previous March Gourd Madness.

Kay Fincher was one of them. She said she heard about the opportunity through a friend, a fellow member of the Artists Association of Central Alabama.

“I have had a good time today,” she said.

She first began using gourds as a canvas for art about four or five years ago.

“I’ve learned carving and wood burning with the gourds, and I love painting them,” Fincher said.

Among the several new faces were many returning attendees from previous years.

Sheryl Scott of Kentucky was a returning class instructor. This year’s project was turning African warty gourds into sheep.

“We just grew those warty gourds and had to think of something to do with them,” Scott said of her inspiration for the project.

When painted white, the texture of this variety resembles the look of a sheep’s wool.

“I just like creating new things and meeting new people,” Scott said.

Quick wood was used to add a head and feet for the project before painting the details.

“When I saw this picture (of the finished project), I just thought it was so cute, and with Easter coming, I wanted to do it,” Fincher said.

Katie Westmoreland of Cullman was also a returning instructor and vendor. She chose to teach cactus, duck and fancy fox projects this year.

“I try to pick things I enjoy that aren’t too complicated … you want to teach a technique but also have fun,” she said.

Westmoreland said she enjoys sharing what she has learned with others and seeing people she has not seen in a while at the event.

“Generally, everyone in the gourd world is friendly and helpful,” she said.

Ethel Green of Montgomery has been doing gourd art since 1999, and initially heard about the Chilton County event from Gothard.

“There are some wonderful artists … (It’s) reassuring to see what people can do with a bit of beat up gourd,” Green said.

Fellow attendee Linda White said Gothard’s excitement about the event is “contagious” and makes others want to be a part.

Jan Osborne of Wetumpka took the opportunity to try her hand at doing a painting of a person’s face for the first time at the event.

The class project was to paint a portrait of Santa Claus. The project, led by Mary Harmon, used acrylic paint on canvas. Harmon said it was easier to learn to paint a face on a canvas than it was to paint on a gourd.

As the annual event has grown, Gothard has worked to incorporate traditional arts. This year the Tannehill Woodcarvers were on hand showing off their work and demonstrating the art form.

Member Tom Temple of Hoover said some of the members of the group are also involved in gourd art.

He said it was an opportunity to raise awareness for the group.

The Tannehill Woodcarvers meet at the Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park on the second Saturday of each month. Temple said they “love having visitors” at the meetings.

Temple became interested in carving after his wife bought a carving kit for himself and their son in the mid-’70s. He said his interest grew from there and now it is “a hobby that pays for itself.”

Gothard said he hopes to have them back next year to teach a class.

This was the first year that March Gourd Madness was a full two-days. Gothard said he hopes to add more classes and demonstrations of traditional arts next year.

He said March Gourd Madness is different from the other art festivals that the Arts Council holds because it is more about awareness and growth in the art form than selling one’s work — although there is some of that also.

“Here we are supporting the technique,” Gothard said.

The event was held at the Clanton Conference and Performing Arts Center.