I am devoting this post to a "how-to" tutorial that shows just one phase of the art-making process, the pyroengraving of an original design onto the gourd surface.
TUTORIAL: Pyrography--Burning Art onto a Hard-shell Gourd
- A cut, cleaned and dried hard shell gourd
- Wood burning system, preferably one with a temperature control; I use the Detail Master III
- Flame resistant paper, also know as, pyro paper
- A sketch, print or photo of the image you would like to transfer to the gourd surface
- Pencil and soft art eraser
- Scotch brand, "magic matte tape"
The hardness of the surface of gourds varies considerably according to the variety, the growing conditions and the length of time since the curing process. You will also find variations on the surface of a single gourd.
I start my woodburning project by dividing the gourd surface into equal sections using pencil marks. These marks provide a guide to placement of design elements, as well as, the main art image that you want to feature on the gourd surface. Begin by drawing a circle around the center of the bottom of the gourd. I do this free hand, but you can also use a pattern or tool. You may later erase this circle or use it in your design, as I have done.
Divide this circle into eight equal parts by first dividing the circle in half, then into fourths, then into eighths. Use your eye to determine if your spacing is fairly even and make corrections. Extend the dividing lines all the way to the rim edge of the gourd.
Pyro paper is a kind of paper made with a coating that will not flame or catch fire when touched with a hot burning tool. The paper will smoke some, scorch and burn away so good ventilation in your work area is required.
Above you see drawings I created for an illustrated activity book for children. All of my designs come from orginal sketches that I create from observations and my photography of nature. Since these were readily available, I incorporated them into the art on this gourd project. There are also many images available on the internet and in books and magazines that are not copyrighted and may be used freely.
I resized each image to fit the space that would be available on the gourd surface, and using the microsoft text document program on my computer, arranged them all on one page. I then printed the page onto pyro paper. As an alternative, you can draw or trace your images onto the pyro paper.
When you have finished burning the image, peel away the paper, being careful to remove all of the tape, which may sometimes be difficult to see and may later show up as it resists an application of paint or dye.
Next, using a pencil and your original image to guide you, draw in any parts of the image that you may have missed while burning and further refine the details of the image. Because this hummingbird image is placed to overlap the sunwave design above it, I have burned the hummingbird image first.
In the image below, you see the finished detail in the hummingbird image and the addition of the burned sunwave design.
The image is now ready for the application of paint and dye to complete the design.
Wood-burning systems can be found here: Bonnie Gibson and Detail Master System item #8421 (the burning system I currently use). You may also try initially pyroengraving using a less expensive tool found at your local craft supply store. These less expensive tools generally do not have a temperature control but can give you some experience and an idea of whether you will enjoy this way of creating art with gourds.
Pyro Paper (flame resistant paper that I was introduced to in 2000 and continue to use) Karben Kreations
Where to buy gourds for your projects:
The cost of gourds varies depending on whether the gourd is cut and cleaned for you or whether you will handle this part of the preparation yourself. Select firm, substantial weight gourds that are cured and dried for this type of project. You want the best quality materials for an art project that takes many hours to create and will provide many years of enjoyment.
Sandlady Gourd Farm
Welburn Gourd Farm
Books: Listed are a few of the books that I have in my library that will help inspire your gourd art designs:
The Complete Book of Gourd Craft by Ginger Summit and Jim Widess
The Decorated Gourd by Dyan Mai Peterson
Gourds with South Western Motifs by Bonnie Gibson
Other Links and Resources:
Coiling Tutorial--Coiling pineneedles on a gourd rim
My website gourd art gallery where you can see all four bird images decorating this gourd basket.
About Gourds and Gourd Art
My gourd art tutorials
The Autumn Birds Collection of original watercolor images beginning with Autumn Cardinal
My online shop