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Gourds, gourds, gourds: Kentucky Artisan Center to feature gourd artists throughout month of October

October brings a bevy of Kentucky artists who transform the lowly gourd into amazing works of art. In the same plant family as pumpkins, cucumbers, squash, luffa and melons, gourds may be one of the oldest cultivated plants. Originally grown to make storage containers and utensils, these artists use gourds as a canvass for their artistic expression.

The three most common types of gourds are Cucurbita, lagenaria and luffa gourds. Members of the lagenaria group come in a variety of shapes ready-made for utensils and other useful items like storage containers, dishes, bowls and birdhouses. When properly dried they last for years.

A colorful finished painted gourd by Sally Cammack (Photo from Ky Artisan Center)

On Saturday, Oct. 6, Sally Cammack, of Cynthiana, will demonstrate her painted gourds from 10:30 to 3:30 at the Kentucky Artisan Center.

Born in the coal-mining town of Stearns, Cammack now lives in rural Cynthiana, where she uses gourds raised by her family and friends to create her work. Gourds are picked in the fall and stored in an open-weave basket to cure for two to six months.

Cammack draws a scene on the gourd with a pencil. She then follows each pencil line with a hot wood-burning pen and adds color with a felt-tip pen. Rubbed-effect varnish is then brushed on the surface to seal the color. Sally’s designs are all original, with many of the village scenes reflective of the town where she was born or the rural area where she now lives.

On Saturday, Oct. 13, Paul Buhrmester, of Bowling Green, will demonstrate his unique painted and decorated gourd ornaments from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Center.

Buhrmester embellishes the gourds that he grows in his garden by using an art form called pyrography – the art or technique of decorating wood, leather or other objects by burning a design on the surface with a heated metallic point. The tool most commonly used is called a wood-burning tool.

A gourd by Paul Buhrmester features a pyrography pattern (Photo from Kentucky Artisan Center)

Mostly self-taught, Buhrmester loves being able to grow his own material and is inspired by the process of watching the gourd grow and then changing it into art. The size, shape, feel, thickness and color of the gourds come together to inform his imagination and determine the final design.

On Saturday, Oct. 20, from 10:30 to 3:30, three members of the Berea Welcome Center Carvers will be on hand to demonstrate their individual carving techniques and talk with visitors. These Central-Kentucky artisans demonstrate on the third Saturday of every month at the Kentucky Artisan Center.

On Saturday, Oct. 27, from 10:30 to 3:30, Donna & Donnie Smith will demonstrate their cut and painted gourds from 10:30 to 3:30 at the Center.

The Smiths’ journey as craftspeople began 25 years ago, when they planted gourds by their back porch. Each gourd is harvested late in the season after the vines have died back. The gourds are washed to remove the outer skin and once clean, the surface is sanded.

Donna draws a design on the surface and embellishes it with a wood-burning tool, inks and paint. Donnie is constantly finding creative ways to cut gourds, transforming them into baskets and lidded vessels using cutout-filigreed designs that enhance and integrate the painted surface and form.

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