CABOT — When people see gourds, they might think of fall or Thanksgiving, but when Sharon Clark sees a gourd, she envisions a potential work of art.
Clark has always loved gourds, but a few years ago, she started painting and drawing on them and making them into pieces of art.
A career in advertising forced her to put her art on the back burner for almost 20 years, she said.
“I got back into it and had forgotten how much fun it was,” Clark said.
After she got back into art, she wanted to try something new.
“[Gourds] are either something you love or you hate,” she said. “I’ve always thought they were very interesting, and I had grown a few at my house. About four years ago, I thought, ‘Hmm, why can’t I do my pen-and-ink on gourds?’”
She said it took her about a year to figure out a technique that worked on the gourds to transform them into something that could line the shelves of an art gallery.
“After about a year of experimenting, [drawing on gourds] started working better for me, and I’ve got special ink dyes and acrylics that are specially made for gourds; then I do my pen-and-ink on them,” Clark said.
She makes everything from birdhouses to wall hangings to pots from the variety of gourds she grows in her garden.
“Just about anything you can think of, you can do on them,” she said. “I’m just fascinated with them.”
Before a gourd can become a work of art for Clark, it has to grow and mature.
“It takes 90 to 120 days for a gourd to mature,” she said. “It’s usually 90 days for the smaller ones.”
Clark said that after the gourd is mature, when the first frost of the season occurs or when the vines start to die, that means it’s time to start drying what she calls her canvas.
“Drying the gourds can take four months to a year,” she said. “When they start drying, they look disgusting. They start molding, and they look awful.”
Clark said she knows a gourd is completely dried when she shakes it and can hear the seeds rattle inside.
“Then you have to clean them inside and out. It’s a lot of work,” she said. “You have to wrap them in wet towels and scrub off the outside skin.”
A hot, dry summer proves to be a challenge for cleaning the gourds, Clark said. Humid weather is the best for gourds.
“If you have a super hot, dry year, the skin is very thick,” she said.
Since she has to wait such a long time for her “canvases” to mature, Clark said, she has to plan her upcoming works almost a year in advance.
Though she plans for her crop, she never knows what she is going to get.
“There are dozens of shapes and varieties,” she said. “It’s different every year. It’s never the same on any of them.”
Clark’s gourd art is currently on display at the Searcy Art Gallery, 300 E. Race St.
Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or firstname.lastname@example.org.