DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
LLANO — Rickie Newell sits on her front porch cradling a gourd in her right arm. She takes up a small, high-speed tool with a cutting blade on it and goes to work on the gourd.
“There’s something about Llano gourds,” she said after stopping for a moment and looking up. “I ordered some gourds from one of those big gourd places in California, and they just weren’t that good. They were too thick. No, there’s just something about gourds grown in Llano.”
Then, she goes back to work. A few minutes later and with a little help from a small file, Newell pops off the top of the gourd, revealing seeds and dried white innards.
“If I was making this into a birdhouse, I’d take the seeds out and some of this,” she said, holding up a bit of the stringy white material, “because they like this. It’s nice and kind of like down.”
But Newell doesn’t just make avian habitats from the gourds she and her husband, John, grow in their garden.
She grew tired of just painting the gourds white (a color purple martins prefer) and started looking online for ideas. She came across gourd art and decided to create something unique and amazing.
That was just a few years ago. Now Newell is turning gourds into works of art. On March 21 during the Llano County Master Gardeners Lawn and Garden Show, Newell is holding a gourd art demonstration.
“I’m hoping I’ll run into some more gourd artists or anybody interested in trying gourd art,” she said.
During the program, Newell will show people the different steps of gourd art from working with a dried gourd through a completing a piece of art. While it looks complicated, Newell said the best advice she can give is to just jump in and start.
“I have people tell me they have gourds that have been sitting in their barn for 10 years. Well, go and get them and do something with them,” Newell advised. “They’re all right. That’s why we have gourds — they dry out and we use them for canteens and holding flour and other things in them.”
Gourd art can be rather basic, but as a person develops their skills and vision, the art can become more complex. Though her skills eclipse a beginner’s, Newell just returned from a national gourd show in Arizona where she took classes with some of the best gourd artists around.
She found it inspiring.
“It was so wonderful,” Newell said.
Back in Llano, she hopes to get others looking at gourds in new ways.
“I know some people say the gourd speaks to them about what the design will be, but please, I’ve listened and never heard a thing,” Newell said with a laugh. “You look at what the gourd’s got and work with it. The gourd and I work together.”
To learn more, check out Newell’s program at the lawn and garden show 9 a.m.-1 p.m. March 21 at the Lutie Watkins Memorial United Methodist Church’s Family Life Center, 308 W. Main St. Admission is free.