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Gourd art: New exhibit opens at Kettle Creek; reception Saturday

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    These gourds depict the steampunk genre, which incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by steam-powered machinery. They are part of Claudia Hill and Susan Pekala’s gourd art display. Scan this photo with the Prindeo app for a video of the display. STACI L. GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

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    Claudia Hill repositions artistic gourds she and friend Susan Pekala have created. Their third gourd art show at Kettle Creek Environmental Education Center’s art gallery runs through Oct. 31.

Published October 05. 2018 10:44AM

To Claudia Hill and Susan Pekala, gourds are the perfect canvas for various art forms.

“The neat thing about gourds is that I can do any art genre. I can do wood burning one day and do carving another day,” said Pekala, a former Pleasant Valley teacher who recently moved to North Carolina.

She returned to her former stomping grounds this week to assist Hill with setup for their “Working with Nature’s Canvas” display at the Monroe County Conservation District’s Kettle Creek Environmental Education Center’s art gallery.

Inside the gallery, there are shelves with an array of their gourd artistry — including steampunk and farm animal replicas, ones with beading, and ones depicting landscape and nature.

Their art show runs Oct. 2-31. An opening reception will take place on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Attendees can meet Hill and ask her questions. Pekala will not be in town for the reception. There will be light refreshments and music.

There is a rotating art show every month. This is their third time displaying gourd art.

“We do it every other year,” said Hill, a West End resident who used to volunteer at Kettle Creek when her kids were younger.

Pekala and Hill have been friends since 2000 and gourd artists for about 12 years.

Their fascination with the art form began when Hill attended the Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg.

“I had been a 4-H leader and had my group there. The PA Gourd Society was there, and I went over to talk with them,” said Hill.

The Pennsylvania Gourd Society promotes the growing of different varieties to use for artistic and functional craft purposes by providing a supportive and educational environment for members and the community, according to

Soon after, Hill and Pekala attended Dremel 101, which is a class on this type of carving tool with bits.

“Susan and I went to class and that was it. We were hooked,” Hill said.

For awhile, the women got together at least once a week to work on their individual gourd projects. They joined various groups and attended classes and events on gourd art.

Hill is now the vice president of the Pennsylvania Gourd Society, a Pennsylvania Gourd Fest Committee member, and a member of the New York and Virginia gourd societies.

About 10 years ago, Pekala attended the Pennsylvania Gourd Festival, where she learned how to carve gourds. She is a member of the American Gourd Society, the Virginia Gourd Society, and the Pennsylvania Gourd Society.

Almost any art form including pyrography, beading, needlework, painting, sculpting and basketry can be spectacular using a gourd, Hill said.

“We have people who do crochet and embroidery on it,” she said. “I love beading. I think every gourd looks better with beads.”

Like other art projects, the time it takes to complete a gourd canvas varies on such factors as the technique used and level of detail.

“Drilling, gluing and inking a gourd is quick, whereas pyrography, which is a wood-burning technique, is time intensive,” said Pekala.

They purchase most of their hard-shell gourds from Lancaster farms. These gourds have already dried out and are ready for painting, carving, beading or other artistic touches.

The Kettle Creek Environmental Education Center is located at 8050 Running Valley in Stroudsburg. For more information and event, visit

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