Gilding the Gourd

Gourds are taking over our house these days. From big orange pumpkins to misshapen varieties that make us giggle in disbelief, they are scattered over tables and on the front porch.

The latest is the traditional jack-o’-lantern my daughter carved and painted for Halloween:

My daughter’s masked jack-o’-lantern.

But at the beginning of the month we picked up these:

The “sinister” gourds on our dining room table.

They’re a Thanksgiving tradition. We had them displayed in a centerpiece in the front hall at first, then moved them to the dining table. Every night, we move the little pile of odd-shaped gourds out of the way to eat. We examine them as we move them back. They are decidedly strange. My husband thinks they look “sinister.” Strong word that.

“They don’t look natural,” he explains. He starts talking about colour theory, noting they look hand-painted: “The white stripe washes over the green – it looks too considered and calculated. That shouldn’t happen in nature. It’s creepy,” he insists. (Keep in mind my husband is a graphic designer.) Nature, he notes, is supposed to be chaotic, random – and some of those gourds look, well, created.

In a bid to allay his discomfort, I googled “gourds” to find out more about them – and a whole new world opened up to me.

Did you know (I didn’t) that you can do astonishing things with gourds – including carving them to make musical instruments (drums, for example), jewellery, bird feeders? In fact, the artistry involved makes pumpkin carving a mere childhood craft (no matter how elaborate yours looks).  Seriously, go to this link and check out some of the creations. There are some real fans out there, an entire gourd art movement; in fact, they have their own group: “Gourd Art Enthusiasts.” Really.

There are gourd societies across North America, and chapters of these societies attract members in both Canada and the U.S.

The Canadian Gourder appears to be the mother of all gourding groups in Canada. It’s got a picture gallery, resources, gourd identification charts – even a monthly magazine called Canadian Gourder – the latest issue of which is now online and available here: Canadian Gourd Society.

You’ll find where to attend the annual GourdFest celebration. You can even grow them if you want.

You’ll also find out that you can, indeed, gild gourds.

Supplies to do so are available on the website of another big player in the gourding world, Northern Dipper (a dipper is a shape of gourd, dontcha know). There are links to local workshops and the Gourd Fever newsletter.

You can even find gourd trivia. Did you know that you can dry most gourds – they dry to a hard-shelled, tan colour – but some are more prone to mold than others (if you don’t scrape and dry them, they’ll rot – like the ones on our dining room table, I’d wager).

I would not have known any of this if I hadn’t googled “gourds.” Ain’t the Internet a wonderful thing.

And the gourds on our dining room table? Turns out most of them were probably created with intent: by genetic modification.

My husband was right – they are weird.



  1. Even the word is creepy. Gourd. It sounds like a fungus. Loved the photos, though!

    1. Thanks! They are weird – and Paddy’s instincts were right… all genetically modified.

  2. Fun posting and a good read. I am one of those who found gourds some years ago, and am a member of the Show-Me Gourd Society, the American Gourd Society, and Gourd Art Enthusiasts. Oh yeah, I’m addicted!

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Suzy. Coming from an expert like you that means something! I actually did dry some of the gourds in the photograph and they dried quite nicely. Now I’ll have to figure out something crafty/arty to do with them!

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