Decorating for the Artistic Soul

Profile with a Gourd Artist

Posted on: March 6, 2007

Gourd art

W. Joan Cousins:

To go along with our theme on gourd art, as well as several posts/articles we did last month on gourd art, we wanted to interview a gourd artist and give you a little more information about the art and what makes someone want to work with gourds in an artistic way.

You can see The Top 5 Things to Make with Gourds, How to Dry Gourds for Use in Gourd Art and an Introduction to Gourd Art here on our blog. If you are interested in buying gourd art for yourself or for gifts, you can see the gourds that are available at Unique Décor Online.

Joan Cousins, of was kind enough to do an interview with us and tell us a bit more about herself, her art and her passion for gourds. Joan Cousins is a true “home grown artist” who truly loves what she does. You can see many of her past creations on her website. Gourds Galore gourds take approx.10 to 40 hours per design. Joan has the process laid out for your on her website. Each gourd is originally, hand crafted so no two are ever exactly the same, however similar styles can be made relative to customer’s special requests.

1) How did you get started in gourd art?

I have been completely fascinated with creating things from Nature for as long as I can remember and that takes me back to the age of 2 when I made ice cream cones out of pine cones. From then I made necklaces out of circles cut from layers of bark and strung them onto string from flour sacks. At a very young age I would walk for many miles to sell my ‘bark’ necklaces to the neighbors for $0.25 to $0.50 each. All of this was atop the Rocky Mountains in the panhandle of Idaho where I spent my most amazing and awesome formative years. I loved all that Mother Nature offered and to this day I never tire of witnessing the gifts that She provides for our health as well as our enjoyment.

My art forms have always been drawn to the offerings of Mother Nature; wood, feathers, rocks, plant life, shells, etc. so when a friend showed me to some of her gourd art my mind went into overdrive with all that I could ‘see’ in the gourds. I started with six small ones that were given to me and that was February 1, 2006. I have completed a total of 63 with 3 commissions pending and have well over 100 in my family room just waiting to be enhanced with designs.

2) What is your favorite aspect of gourd art?

I have to say that the outer shell, called the cuticle on a gourd, is the most beautiful and fascinating ‘canvas’ I have ever worked on. The moment I scrubbed them and saw the amazing natural outer beauty I knew I had found a new passion. I place various gourds around the house so I can look at them from any advantage point and when they ‘speak’ to me and let me know what they want to be the fun begins. I start with a certain theme and then from the quiet place in my mind the scenes begin to appear.

I never know exactly what the gourd will look like until the design is complete with pyro-engraving, color enhancement and the final finish is applied. I leave as much of the natural gourd as possible in the finished art because, after all, that is the true beauty of the piece, I am just blessed with the privilege and opportunity of enhancing it to a fuller potential so that others may better appreciate what Nature has created.

So my favorite aspect of gourd art is first to listen to the gourd and what it has to say about what it wants to be and second when the final coat of finish is applied and the total beauty of the piece is exposed for all to see. I don’t know how this happens; I just know that after many many hours of application a scene is on the gourd! More often than not I am totally surprised by what appears before my eyes. Nature is a totally awesome and incomparable gift to all of us and I am very humbled to be allowed the opportunity to work with such wondrous treasures.

3) What advice would you give a beginner that is interested in this art form?

First I would say that a true and honest love of Nature is most helpful. Of course many artists cover the entire gourd and end up with beautiful pieces but I believe the gourd itself is the most important part of the finished art form and I prefer to honor Nature by leaving as much as possible exposed.

Next I suggest research:

• Talk to a gourd artist, ask questions and share ideas
• Try all forms of medium, i.e. burning, engraving, paints, finishes, etc.

And I strongly advise using safety masks since gourd dust and smoke from burning is extremely toxic as are the mold spoors when the gourd is cut open.

Have fun, let your mind be free and don’t force anything. If nothing is happening then walk away, patience is a virtue and the pictures will come when they are ready. Nature has blessed us with this beautiful canvas so be grateful at all time for the opportunity to work with such a precious gift.


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