"Turquoise Tenerife" off loom weave with fiber and stone embellishment by Claudia Hill.
Take an object...any object. Give it to an artist or craftsman and they will transform it into a work of art.
Gourds have become blank slates for some artists, like Susan Pekala of Kunkletown and Claudia Hill of Saylorsburg.
They recently had a showing of their gourd-tastic art at the Monroe County Conservation District Center in Stroudsburg. It was gourds of all shapes and sizes. Gourds cut and carved. Gourds painted and decorated. It was a treasure trove of their creativity.
Many of their gourds that were showcased had a Native American theme.
Some of the mediums used were carving, woodburning, leather dying, embellishing with beading, use of fiber weavings, cording, cutting, colored pencil, painting, waxing, decoupaging, inking and penciling.
"You could say, we're out of our gourds over gourds," says Susan.
Susan is a 7th grade life science teacher at Pleasant Valley Middle School (PVMS) and Claudia ia a PVMS paraprofessional assistant. Friends, as well as colleagues, they both share a love of crafting.
Claudia is the adviser for the 4H Club Insects Are Us. The club always attends the Pennsylvania Farm Show with their displays.
"Each year we set up right across from the gourd display. And each year I would take their information about a Gourd Fest but it's a long time between January and June and I'd forget about it," says Claudia.
In 2006, one of the 4H members' mother remembered and checked out the information online. She learned there was a class being held on Dremel 101. Susan and Claudia had both received dremels for Christmas. It sounded like the perfect class to learn how to use their new tools.
Susan, Claudia and one of their colleagues, Gail Markowski, signed up for the class at Gourd Fest in Paradise, Pa., that year.
"We were hooked," says Claudia. "I remember it was so hot that weekend, but we came home with a completed gourd that we carved using a dremel."
Since then, they've learned so many other things that can be done with gourds.
"I've been a crafter all my life. Anything you can do, you can do on a gourd," says Claudia.
Claudia studies her gourds and let's them "speak" to her to help her determine what medium to use and what she will turn it into. "Each one is different."
Susan had been dabbling in crafting and was waiting for the right niche. Then along came gourds.
"I can weave, paint, woodburn, anything with a gourd. I like the variety of the things I can do with a gourd," says Susan.
"I'm a biologist. I like that my craft comes from nature. It's a connection for me," she adds.
Another connection to nature for her, as board members of the Pennsylvania Gourd Society (PGS), she and Claudia met an Amish gourd farmer, also a PGS member, who lives in Kinzers. She and Claudia help him harvest his gourd crop, which happens usually in March and April.
"They winter on the vine. It's a very labor intensive crop and he appreciates the help," says Susan.
"Yeah, and if we're really good, he lets us drive the mules," Claudia chuckles. "I love doing that!"
Claudia is also a member of the American Gourd Society and credits the magazine she receives to keep them current on the artwork of others in the gourd community. It informs them of gourd festivals all over the country, which they attend when they can.
What do they do with all their gourd art? They display them, like at the Monroe County Conservation District Center, enter them in fairs and the Farm Show, sell them and give them away as gifts. They're also displayed all over their homes.
If you would like to see a sample of their work, their gourd art will be on display at the Governor Wolf Historical Society "Garden Faire", May 17,18, located 6600 Jacksonville Rd., Bath.
If interested in the 2013 Pa. Gourd Fest, it will be held at the Shady Maple complex June 20-22 in East Earl. There are classes, demonstrations, crafters, vendors and "thousands of gourds." To learn more, visit the website of pagourdsociety.org.
Or if you'd like to meet with other gourders locally, Claudia and Susan are members of the Gourd Patch, an offshoot of PGS, which meets once a month. Contact Claudia at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.