About Holly Parker's Gourd Art
More than ten summers ago I discovered a small, elegant bowl in an artisan gallery on the Georgia Coast. It was made from a gourd. Something about it piqued my interest. Before, I hadn't thought of myself as an artist, but that little bowl told me I might be. It made me want to try.
I started modestly with a few gourds and shoe polish. That led to more gourds and experiments with other materials. I visited gourd farms and art supply stores. I began to meet gourd artists who were generous with their time and knowledge, eager to help a novice. A world of new skills, materials, and tools revealed itself to me, and a new network of mentors and teachers became my new universe. It couldn't have come at a better time--just when I was nearing retirement from my career as a teacher. I traded the classroom for the studio where I built new skills using saws, sanders, wood burners, dyes, all the accoutrements of the gourd artist. Now I might be the only wife in town who is more eager than her husband to visit tool stores.
I grew up in the Deep South, in the Middle Georgia town of Eatonton, home of Joel Chandler Harris, author of the famous Uncle Remus Tales. I glean inspiration from these historic roots and other images, places, and things that interest me, places such as the nearby stone effigy known as "Rock Eagle."
Being a gourd artist is a work-in-progress. I thrive on its skills, techniques, materials, and most importantly, its wonderful people. Many have helped guide me along this adventure; some have become dear friends. I still have much to learn and I am eager to progress.
Gourds can be demanding media. Whether that involves carving, pyrography, the proper use of specialized dyes and finishes, working with textiles, or the hard labor of scrubbing to make them ready when they arrive fresh from months in open fields, every gourd is an opportunity. Making the most of each is what it means to be a gourd artist.
--- Holly Parker