Gourd Gifts

Gourd Gifts

Part of Ep. 1104 Garden Gifts

Learn tips to create works of art and great birdhouses from home-grown gourds with the expertise of Madison gourd artist, Marty Ottem.

Premiere date: Nov 19, 2003

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
You know, the fun thing about hosting the Wisconsin Gardener is I get to learn an awful lot from my guests. Recently, I've gotten into growing gourds. And today, I'm going to learn how to turn this into a thing of beauty. I'm with Madison gourd artist extraordinaire, Marty Ottem. Marty, thank you for letting us invade you today. How do you get from my fuzzy gourd to this? I mean, this is incredible!

Marty:
Well, what you have there looks like a pumpkin like you're holding. There's all kinds of different things you can do with gourds.

Shelley:
So, you just play off the shapes?

Marty:
Exactly. Take for example, this one here.

Shelley:
The skeleton?

Marty:
He was actually a damaged one that had two sunken spots in it. I just made those eyes. And he looked like a ghost coming out of a pumpkin.

Shelley:
He is absolutely my favorite, I like him.

Marty:
This guy over here looked like a fat little Santa.

Shelley:
So, you put a fat little Santa on it.

Marty:
Exactly.

Shelley:
Beautiful. And I like the vase, too. I'd never think of just using it. I mean, just look at the edges of that. It's great as a vase for dried flowers. But there's still a process before turning this into this. Are you growing these all yourself?

Marty:
Sure, we grow them right in our backyard off our deck. In fact, we grow them in larger pots. And in this last year, we had two pots and we got 75 of these gourds.

Shelley:
Of these little guys? These would be fun to play with. You can still create without a backyard.

Marty:
Grow them in your front yard.

Shelley:
I know how much room a larger one took up. I look at this neat thing back here, and I'm thinking, you know, you need a lot of land. What is this?

Marty:
This is an extra-long handled dipper gourd. We grow just a small plot of land in the backyard. We have a trellis, just a 2 x 4 frame, or framework, that that hangs from.

Shelley:
You just grow them upright? You're not taking up much space at all.

Marty:
Right.

Shelley:
After you grow them, what's the next step?

Marty:
Curing them.

Shelley:
That's the fuzzy part?

Marty:
We found out that the best place to cure those is outside on the deck.

Shelley:
Outdoors?

Marty:
Outdoors, right. We used to do it downstairs but we found that outdoors is better because it helps the curing process and the mold flakes off easier if it's cured outdoors.

Shelley:
I wish I'd known that. When I scrubbed this with steel wool it's very difficult to get it clean.

Marty:
Actually, we use a cooper scrubby, like this.

Shelley:
Copper?

Marty:
Copper ones, because they don't scratch as much and they're easier on the surface. They take the mold off a lot faster.

Shelley:
Gee, I wish I'd known that! All I need is warm water and a copper scrubby?

Marty:
And we throw a little bit of bleach in for disinfectant.

Shelley:
Okay, kill the mold.

Marty:
Kill the mold.

Shelley:
I heard a rumor, it's not actually "we." You don't do the cleaning, Marty?

Marty:
Actually, my wife does it. I call it the fun stuff, she calls it the hard work.

Shelley:
Gee, I wonder why!

Marty:
She does most of the scrubbing and cleaning and curing.

Shelley:
She has a lot of work to do in the summer. You grow a lot of gourds.

Marty:
A lot.

Shelley:
Okay, we've grown them, we've cured them. What if I don't want to mess with that, can I just buy them somewhere?

Marty:
Sure, we've bought them off the Internet, already cleaned.

Shelley:
They come like this, and you don't have to do anything.

Marty:
You pay a little bit more.

Shelley:
There's options if you don't want to grow them. All right, I'm still stuck. This is pretty cool looking, but what you've got here is incredible. What's something that a beginner can do, and end up with something they'll be proud of?

Marty:
Actually, a real easy project, Shelley, would be to make something like this, which is a bird gourd house. I etched this one with a motor tool, but this is a plain gourd that I clear-coated and drilled a hole in it.

Shelley:
You say "easy," but I nearly lost a finger trying to cut the hole in my birdhouse.

Marty:
I just went to the hardware store-- I'll put my safety glasses on-- I bought this nifty little tool. It's just a hole saw. And you can buy these in different diameters. This is a one-inch which would be excellent for a wren house.

Shelley:
You just attach it to the drill? There's no cutting-- I wish I'd known this! But is it easy? Can you show me?

Marty:
Oh, sure! It's just one quick, easy step here, and that's it. Now you have yourself a birdhouse!

Shelley:
Compared to the hours I spent with a sharp knife and the Band-aids I went through.

Marty:
Right.

Shelley:
Well, I have a drill, that shouldn't be too hard. So, that's an easy one that anybody can do once they have the right equipment. What about something like this? This looks like a beautiful work of art.

Marty:
That's an apple gourd. You can buy those like that or grow them. We grew that one in the backyard.

Shelley:
It's called an apple gourd, which makes it easy to paint, doesn't it?

Marty:
Right. I did something a little different on that. I used a leather dye for the red.

Shelley:
Oh, really? Is that what makes it so rich?

Marty:
Mm-hmm. And the leaves on there that was a real simple project, too. All I did was take a piece of cardstock, cut out a leaf pattern, laid it on there and spray painted it.

Shelley:
Oh, wow! I might even be able to handle that.

Marty:
I detailed that one a little bit more.

Shelley:
Okay, what about these I look at these and go, "Oh, incredibly cute," and that's as far as I get.

Marty:
Let me show you what you can do with those. Christmas ornaments.

Shelley:
Oh, neat! Look at that one, that's beautiful. I'm in the middle of making some Easter baskets. These aren't finished yet.

Shelley:
Sure, you just cut right through-- Oh, wow! I like that one!

Marty:
That's a little lopsided.

Shelley:
I like that.

Marty:
And something really simple, is I spray painted this small one with a gold spray paint, put an eye hook in the top and cut out a stencil of a holly leaf.

Shelley:
And you're done. Something we can do with the kids, too. This would be fun.

Marty:
Oh, very fun.

Shelley:
Marty, thank you so much for sharing some of your works of art with us.

Marty:
Thanks a lot, Shelley.

Shelley:
Boy, the gourds in my backyard sure don't look like Marty's! But thanks to three days at the Woodlanders Gathering I did learn how to create something from my own backyard. These are baskets I made using the ancient art of coiling. This one is made from the purple millet leaves I was growing in the front by my house. And this is my ornamental grasses. I had so much fun. I hope you did, too. I'd like to know what you learned to create from your yard. Thanks for watching the Wisconsin Gardener.

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