About the Artist
Bernadette Fox is a young gourd artist and crafter from Michigan who began gourd crafting when she was 10 and began selling her work when she was only 14. Today, she makes all sorts of gourd items and decorates gourds with many different techniques. She frequently says that gourd crafting is only limited by ones imagination! Bernadette sells her original gourd pieces over the internet and at her family’s roadside market. She also makes many customized gourds.
Please visit her website to learn more about her, her work, and to purchase one of her gourds:
Pyroengraved Gourd Clock By Bernadette Fox
I discovered the art of gourd crafting a little over ten years ago and was captivated by how many wonderfully creative things I could make out of gourds.
As I continued to work with gourds I learned another fascinating thing about them. I am able to use pretty much any artistic technique on them from painting, to carving, to wood burning (often called pyroengraving), to beading, to weaving, and so on. I like to refer to gourds as nature’s pottery with endless possibilities!
I like to introduce you to the art of gourd crafting by showing you how to make a gourd clock with a wood burnt design. I think leaves complement the browns, yellows and golds of a dried gourd so I decided to put some leaf designs on the clock.
After collecting various leaves from outside I drew a picture with them. You can make your own leaf picture this way or use the one I made. The leaf picture will be our wood burning pattern.
Ready? Let’s get started!
Supplies you will need:
- Dried gourd with a relatively flat bottom or top and a diameter of about 8 inches.
You can purchase gourds over the internet from localharvest.org, amishgourds.com, welburngourdfarm.com, and ebay.com. You can also stop by at my family’s farm here in Michigan where we grow many types of gourds! Check out our website: www.magiclandfarms.com
- Wood burning tool (with a flat tip and a round tip). You can find wood burning tools at Amazon.com , Sears.com, and eNasco.com.
- Battery-powered clock movement with a 15/16” shaft. I get my clock movements from klockit.com and an ebay store: https://stores.ebay.com/Brazzco-Timeless-Memories
- Clock hands: No smaller than 2.5” minute hand and no smaller than 2” hour hand.
- (The rest of the supplies can be found in the instructions)
Step 1: Clean the Outside of the Gourd.
Often times you will not be able to purchase a gourd pre-cleaned. You will have to do the messy job yourself. I will show you how.
Place the gourd in a bucket of warm water and place a damp towel over the top to weigh it down. Let it soak for an hour or so.
Scrub the gourd with a kitchen scouring pad until all the dried skin and mold is rubbed off. Let the gourd dry out completely by placing it on a rack or by hanging it up.
Step 2: Cut the Gourd
After your gourd is clean and dry you can begin to construct the clock. The first thing you need to do is cut the gourd open.
I chose to use the bottom of my gourd for this clock. You may choose the top or bottom, all depends on which end is flatter. (Or in my case, which end has more character. I liked how it curved out from the blossom area.)
Place the gourd on a table, with the bottom (or top) facing down. Using a ruler, measure up three inches from the table. Holding a pencil firmly at 3 inches and holding the gourd firmly to the table, slowly turn the gourd, letting the pencil mark the gourd as you turn.
Using a keyhole saw, cut the gourd in half at the pencil line. You may need a utility knife to make the first cut into the gourd.
Step 3: Clean the Inside of the Gourd.
After you have cut the gourd in half, you will find a mess of seeds and dried membrane inside. You have to get rid of this by scraping it out with a melon baller. (Make sure you use a good dust mask and goggles when doing this!)
After you have cleaned it out fairly well, smooth the inside with rough sandpaper and while you’re at it, smooth the cut edges of the gourd, too, as shown in photo above.
Step 4: Transfer the Leaf Pattern.
It is almost time to wood burn, but first, you need to transfer the leaf pattern to the gourd.
Rub chalk over the backside of the pattern, turn it over, and place the chalk side down on the gourd. How do you know if you have it centered? I’ll show you.
Use a pencil and poke a hole through the middle of your pattern and stand the pencil in the middle of your gourd. This will help you to center your pattern.
Holding the pattern in place, tape the pattern to the gourd with scotch tape. (It helped for me to cut out the middle of my pattern when attaching it to the gourd, but you may not have to if your gourd is flatter than mine.)
Using a blunt pencil, trace firmly over the pattern.
After you have finished tracing the pattern, carefully remove it and then trace over the chalk with a pencil. This will help you see your pattern better.
Step 5: Wood Burn Outline of Leaves and Numbers.
Using an inexpensive wood burner and a flat tip, wood burn the outline of the leaves and numbers.
Step 6: Go Over the Pattern with Detailing.
Using a rounded tip, darken the inside of the numbers.
Using the same rounded tip, shade the leaves with tiny, close dots by doing a gentle pouncing motion.
Step 7: Erase the Pattern.
This is a very important step (and one I sometimes forget to do)! After you have finished wood burning, erase all the chalk and pencil lines with a large eraser. It should be clean like photo above.
Step 8: Color the Gourd with Shoe Polish.
Using a paper towel, rub in a bit of brown shoe polish where there are no leaves. This little touch will make the leaves stand out better.
Using a Q-tip, rub in the shoe polish in the hard to reach areas.
Step 9: Seal Gourd with Acrylic Spray Sealer.
Spray the gourd with Acrylic matte sealer or the like. Make sure to spray at least two light coats. Do not spray one heavy coat or it will not dry properly.
Step 10: Attach the Clock Movement.
Drill a hole through the middle of your gourd and insert the shaft of your clock movement. Place the washer and nut on and hand-tighten. Attach the clock hands according to the instructions that came with the clock movement.
I left my gourd clock without a hanger, but you can easily attach a string to your clock by drilling two holes at the top and stringing some hemp through.
The finished gourd clock:
Wood burning Tips:
1.) Do not use your wood burner near anything flammable such as paper, fixatives, etc.
2.) Wear goggles to help combat the smoke.
3.) Place the wood burner on a fireproof surface such as a tile. I use an old microwave tray.
4.) Let the wood burner heat up for five minutes or longer before you use it.
5.) When changing a tip while the wood burner is hot, use a pair of flat nosed pliers.
6.) Do not tighten the tip really hard when the wood burner is hot, this may ruin your wood burner.
7.) Make sure you keep your wood burning tip clean to ensure you get an even heat transfer. You will have to wipe the tip clean very often while wood burning. You can wipe it with sandpaper or on the edge of a can (or in my case, on the edge of my microwave tray).
8.) Do not press hard on your surface, this will ruin your wood burner and/or your gourd! Instead, make a darker line by moving slowly over the gourd.
9.) Details, such as shading, do not have to be a solid gradient of color. Rather, think of detailing as different shapes and lines. For this project, I chose tiny, close dots to shade the leaves.
10.) Practice! Try out different tips and get use to what each one does.
11.) Be careful! The wood burner gets very hot!