Gourds are not the most attractive crops harvested.
But after they are cleaned, cured, painted and carved by members of the Pahrump Valley Gourd Patch, they turn into works of art.
The group has taken root under the direction of Patti Jo Newsom, who moved to Pahrump from Texas almost two years ago.
“I think we’re just going to keep growing, the more people that find out about us,” she said. “It’s just another fun thing to do in Pahrump.”
She recently organized the gourd group and also co-founded the Nevada Gourd Society, along with her counterpart Kristy Dial in the Reno, Carson City area. Dial also leads the Great Basin Gourd Patch in her region.
The Nevada Gourd Society is a nonprofit organization which provides education and information on growing and crafting gourds, which are cultivated in many different shapes and sizes. The new state group is also a member of the American Gourd Society.
The Pahrump Valley Gourd Patch includes enthusiasts who meet monthly to share their knowledge of creating works of art with gourds, which are unusual looking, non-edible, but easy to decorate and ornamental. Newsom said they have about 15 members who come to the meetings on a regular basis.
“There are a lot of gourd artists and once the word gets out, more and more will be coming out of the woodwork,” Newsom said.
She said other states, including Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California all have gourd societies, and she could not believe that Nevada did not when she moved here. She hopes more gourd groups continue to crop up in Mesquite, Las Vegas and other parts of the state.
“The cool thing to me about this group is we’re getting a lot of artists joining us who have never picked up a gourd, don’t know anything about cleaning a gourd, cutting a gourd, but they are artistic, and they’re applying the artistic nature that they already have to gourds,” Newsom said.
Even those ugly, warty gourds seen in grocery stores and at outdoor markets can be turned into something neat with some paint and work, but these are not the best choice for crafting since they will shrivel up when dried.
Although gourds can be grown in a backyard or garden container, Newsom recommends using a specialty gourd farm to acquire Lagenaria gourds since they have a hard, wood-like shell and are a better choice for avid gourders to carve, paint, and wood burn designs onto the surface. They can be embellished with leather, beads, feathers and dyes.
Newsom said she likes the fact that you can make useful items out of gourds, including candleholders, vases, baskets, birdhouses, Christmas ornaments and even wind chimes.
“There’s really no limit; your imagination can just go wild,” Newsom added.
Some of the world’s first musical instruments were made from gourds, including lyres, drums, rattles and even canteens for drinking were constructed from canteen gourds.
You don’t really need to be artistic to join the gourd society since they have different levels of gourd artists, Newsom explained. She said they had a workshop and some participants had never taken a tool to a gourd in their lifetime, and everyone came up with beautiful pieces.
“We want to share the knowledge and love of gourds with other people and just have fun; that’s what it’s all about.” Newsom said.
Jocelyne Lussier moved to Pahrump last year from Southern California and had taken gourd classes at the Welburn Gourd Farm in Fallbrook, California.
She is a member of the Pahrump Valley Gourd Patch, and her specialty is carving and doing pyrography, or wood burning on gourds. She will be teaching a class on the technique at a future Gourd Patch meeting.
Lussier described herself as a tomboy while growing up on a farm in Canada with her two brothers, and playing with wood, wood burning and carving may have influenced her skills in crafting gourds.
Years later, a friend from work took a class at the Welburn Gourd Farm and Lussier was impressed with the result.
“She came back with this gorgeous gourd and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this looks like fun,’ you know, go out to the farm and everything. I was like, gee, that would be like going home to the farm,” Lussier said. “I went over there and took a class and fell in love with it.”
Cheryl Tocco, a local seasoned canvas artist and instructor for the Art 4 Seniors program sponsored by RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program), joined the Pahrump Valley Gourd Patch and has applied her artistic talent to painting and crafting gourds after seeing what beautiful works of arts can be created with them.
“I wanted to learn what they were doing,” Tocco said. “I’m just a beginner at it, but I love it, and it’s been very interesting. The meetings always have lessons and instructions; it’s just been a lot of fun.”
Artist Sherry Rhine’s expertise and passion are painting gourds since getting “hooked” when she saw some at a Pahrump yard sale shortly after moving from California several years ago.
She saw the art vision and potential of using gourds in her crafts by painting them for Christmas ornaments and other occasions.
Rhine was commissioned two years in a row to paint a large cannonball gourd for a man in Ridgecrest, California whose nephew passed away suddenly at 27 years old. The large tribute gourd ornament is for a Christmas tree in front of his gravesite in Alabama. The deceased man was involved in a mission program for children in Antigua, and Rhine depicted the foundation symbol in her painting.
The artists all agreed that cleaning and prepping gourds before crafting is the hardest part.
It should be noted that gourds should not be eaten since they can make you very sick.
The Art 4 Seniors program sponsored by RSVP was originally for seniors over 50, but adults of all ages are welcome according to Rhine, coordinator of the senior art program that was started last December by now-retired Jan Lindsay, former field representative for Nevada Rural Counties RSVP.
“The purpose was to get people and seniors out of the house and involved in something fun, like doing art.” Rhine said. The program has expanded from not only painting, but has added other fun projects like making greeting cards, painting T-shirts, crafting wooden spool ornaments, and a future class will be held on folding towels into animal shapes.
Rhine, also a member of the Pahrump Valley Gourd Patch, will be teaching spooky gourd painting for seniors on Wednesday, Oct. 5, beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the NyE Communities Coalition campus, room 32, located at 1020 East Wilson Road. The $10 fee goes toward supplies and a donation to RSVP. The instructors are all volunteers, but the gratification is just astounding, according to Rhine.
“Because, I mean, we have so much fun, and we get so much joy out of teaching that class because of the response you get from the people who come,” she said. “The people just love coming to these classes, they can’t wait.”
On October 19th, an all-day round robin session will be held from 9 a.m.-3 p.m., also at the NyE Communities Coalition campus. There will be eight different projects and classes offered for participants.
One $10 fee covers the entire day. Everyone is welcome, but call Sherry Rhine at 775-513-9343 to register since the classes are very popular and fill quickly.
Members of the Gourd Patch get together the second Sunday of each month from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Artesia Clubhouse, 6601 Fox Ave., off Kellogg Road. Refer to their calendar of events at: www.nevadagourdsociety.org. , or call Patti Jo Newsom at 817-917-7873.