There are a few basic things to consider before starting to work with gourds. First and foremost, do you have a fairly large table or workbench outside or in a garage or work room that you can comfortably spread your stuff out on? You will need good lighting and of course electrical outlet if you plan to use any power tools. Once you have that figured out, you’ll need a way to hold your gourd secure and a place to store your precious gourds and all the tools you will quickly acquire. Be sure to also read my blog about gourd safety before you do anything else. It’s called – you guessed it – Gourd Safety. Let’s talk a little bit more about each of the work space considerations.
Make sure your work area is clean and clutter-free. Make sure you have enough space to work comfortably with room for your tools, supplies and plenty of elbow room. The work space in my barn is approximately 3 feet deep and about 4 feet wide. It would be bigger if I cleaned and organized all the stuff that accumulates on it (paperwork, other craft projects, doo-dads, my CD player, etc). Inside the house where I do my painting is a space about 2 feet deep and 3 feet wide. It would be a larger space if the table didn’t also double as my desk/computer area. Keep in mind that everything in the vicinity will get covered with dust unless you have a dust filtration system in place. If I am doing something really dusty like carving or sanding, I put all my other tools away to prevent dust from getting into all their vent holes and possibly clogging them up. Or sometimes I cover them with a rag to keep the dust out.
Lighting in your work area
This is probably common sense, but make sure you have good lighting when working with gourds, or any craft for that matter. Not only will you be able to see your paint colors better, it is safer when using your tools. You need to be able to see what you are doing! In my craft barn, I have multiple bright overhead lights. If I am painting inside the house, I have an overhead light plus I move the table lamp right up next to my work area. There are various types of bulbs and lighting. Experiment and use whatever works best for you and your work area.
If you are using power tools, please try to work near an electrical outlet. You don’t want to have extension cords running all over that you could trip over. Also, don’t overload your outlets with multiple tools plugged in. When I am using multiple tools, I plug one in, use it, unplug it and plug in the next one. I only have one plugged in at a time. I may be overly cautious though. I work next to an outlet in my craft barn and when I work outside, I set up my work area next to an outlet on the back deck. I never use extension cords.
Holding your gourd secure
You will need to secure your gourd while working on it. The round, curvy shape of gourds makes them slippery and hard to handle and hold while creating your masterpiece. If you are working with a gourd on a table, set it on a rubberized surface such as a pad or mat. The pads that are used under area rugs to prevent them from moving, are great to use under gourds too! They are inexpensive and can be purchased at the drug store. Just cut a piece and maybe fold it in half and there you have it – a non-slip gourd surface. These also work great if you are working with the gourd in your lap. I use these rubber pads all the time. Love them! I have heard of people sewing this rubberized material to the front of their apron and this seems like a great idea, although I haven’t tried it myself.
When you are done for the day, thoroughly clean up your work area and yourself. While still wearing your mask and gloves, carefully vacuum or sweep up and dispose of your gourd dust in a secure trash can. Brush off the dust on your clothes before going inside the house. I wear an apron so I just take it off, shake it out and leave it in my outdoor craft barn. I brush off my hair also. Basically, I just shake off like a dog and to anyone who sees me, I probably look like a spaz. Change your clothes when you are done working on your gourds for the day.
As we have talked about, gourds are moldy. Unless you have purchased pre-cleaned gourds or have taken the time to scrub them all ahead of time, they are dusty, moldy suckers. Do not store them inside your house. When you go to a farm to purchase gourds, they will be put in large plastic bags. Keep them in those bags, with the top tied closed. If you ordered your gourds on-line and they didn’t arrive in a bag, get a large garbage bag and put them inside and tie it closed. Store them in your garage, shed or storage room. I also store some of my gourds in plastic bins with tight fitting lids. Just be sure they are kept away from animals that may chew on them. My first crop of home-grown gourds that I was so proud of (snake gourds that I grew in twisted, curly-Q shapes) were stored in a shed and all were subsequently eaten by rats and squirrels.
If you are a gourdaholic like I am, you may end up with large quantities of gourds. In that case, you have already realized how much space they take up. For a while, I strung up a hammock in my craft barn from one corner of the roof to another corner. I stored my gourds in the hammock. It was inconvenient to pick through them but it freed up floor space in the room. I also have just piled the bags on the floor in the barn, which was inconvenient because I always needed something that was on the opposite side of the piles. Now I have them in bags, but put them up in the loft of the barn. Once in a while, I have my husband help me and I get them down and pick out a bunch that I think I might work on. I clean a whole batch of them and put the rest back up in the loft. The cleaned ones stay tucked away in a corner, ready for me when I am ready for a new project. With the loft idea, I only have to get the gourd bags down a few times a year.
Make sure you store your tools and supplies in a clean, dry, safe area. I have a large china cabinet that a friend was getting rid of after a move. I squeezed the cabinet into my craft barn and now keep all my tools in the glass upper cabinets so I can see everything, but everything is safe.
What storage tips do you have? Share with us.