What is a gourd????

Gourds are hard shelled cousins of pumpkins, squash and other vine growing vegetables.  Some gourds are edible, but for the most part, today, they are mostly ornamental.

Gourds were used for food, clothing, medicines, as money and for trade.  They were used for ceremonial and religious purposes such as rattles, drums and masks.  Gourds have been known to be used for fishing, floats, rafts, pipes, storage containers, ladles and canteens.

When the first Europeans set foot on what is now the United States, they found Native Americans using gourds for many different purposes.  To control insects, they hung hollowed out gourd "bird houses" to entice purple martins to nest near their villages.  This was adopted by early settlers.

Some of the many musical instruments that can be creates using gourds include harps, drums, shakers, maracas, violins, sitars and banjos.

Today, the gourd has evolved into a wide variety of useful and decorative items as well as beautiful pieces of fine art.  Gourds are available in many shapes, sizes and varieties.  This provides a palette for the imagination for all ages and all levels of artistry.  One can paint a gourd, carve it like wood and create two and three dimensional designs, use word burning tools to burn designs into the skin, weave on them and use different gourd pieces together to create something else.

There are groud clubs and enthusiasts everywhere.  They have gourd shows, gourd competitions, gourd farms, gourd classes, gourd magazines...the list is endless!

Check into a patch near you and you just may become another "gourder!"

Contributed by Kathleen Johnston

President, Ventura County Gourd Artists