Gourd Show installed at Carlsbad Library


Grace Swanson, local gourd artist, recently installed a show of her gourd artwork in the lighted case in the Virginia Cole Library, 1250 Carlsbad Village Drive. The show will be visible until March.

“My interest in gourds began as a small child, born and raised in Nigeria. The Nigerian people use gourds for everything from storing food to spoons to holding cosmetics. When I saw a class on gourd art offered by San Diego Botanic Garden I decided to give it a try. The feel and smell of the burning gourd just took me ‘home’. I was hooked, “ said Swanson.

Swanson purchases her gourds from Welburn Gourd Farm just north of Fallbrook — uncleaned and uncut. First she soaks and scrubs farm dirt and the mold off of the gourds. Then she looks at each gourd carefully for any flaws or cracks. Each gourd has its own personality and that often dictates what design she will burn into the gourd and whether it will stay whole or become an opened vessel. The mold that forms on the gourds makes patterns that can be used or disregarded depending on the design. Sometimes she says that she has a very definite design in mind when she begins and sometimes she makes it up as she goes along. Some gourds may take as little as two or three hours to complete. Others may take days or weeks.

The gourds are cut, dremeled, sanded, dyed, carved, painted, beaded and finished with either gourd wax or an acrylic spray. The surface of a good quality gourd is almost like wood. The difference is that there is an outer “skin” that is smooth. Dyes and paint can be wiped off. Beneath this skin is a softer flesh that absorbs dye and paint very readily and can create very interesting effects.

Gourds are grown in many shapes and sizes ranging from tiny “jewelry” gourds to very large ones used as drums. Even though no two gourds are the exact shape and are never perfectly round or symmetrical, there are some basic shape including apple, bottle, canteen, pear, snake and so on.

Throughout history gourds have been utilitarian. They have been used as spoons, bowls, drums, and storage containers for water, wine, grain etc. Some of Swanson’s gourds may serve a function as vessels and bowls. However, most of Swanson’s designs are meant to be appreciated for its own sake. Gourds can easily slip into the area of craft — painted to look like snowmen, Santas, and little animals — or made into lamps and bird houses. This, however, does not appeal to her. She prefers to see how elegant, simple and sophisticated the lowly gourd can become.

“Gourds have taken over my life. My brushes, paints and canvas have been pushed to one side as I explore the wonderfully tactile, three-dimensional world of gourds.” Swanson’s gourds are sold through the Off Track Gallery located at 937 South Coast Highway 101, Suite C-103 (behind Starbucks), downtown Encinitas, CA 92024. All current gourds available for purchase may be viewed at Email for prices and more information.

— Submitted news release