Painting fall colored leaves on a gourd.

This is the time of year when I always feel drawn to do a traditional Fall Leaf gourd. I had this gourd sitting in my collection for many many years without a clue on what to do with it. This year the message came through loud and clear.

“I want to be a gourd bowl for someones thanksgiving table!!”

Its a rather large gourd and I envisioned it beautifully adorned with bright fall leaves and a fall flower arraignment in the bowl.

To begin I drew overlapping oak leaves all over it. Because of the amount of leaves and because I had them all overlapping and twisting and turning, just like in nature, I would draw some and then burn them in using my Razertip wood burner and the large skew, which is my “go to” blade for just about everything.

I did not cut the top out before doing this because I was uncertain at this point what I wanted to do. When I work I do not preplan anything. I will start with an idea and let it grow from there.


Draw and woodburn your leaves

Draw and woodburn your leaves

Once I got all the leaves burned in I used the drill bit shown below, Its a Carbide Filligree Bur that I got from Arizona Gourds. I had never used it for cutting the top of a gourd off but because I was following a curvy line around the leaves I thought it might work better than a saw and it did. It worked beautifully. This bur is very aggressive so if you get one practice and get a feel for it first but I can see that it will become a go to bur for me on future projects.

Carbide Filligree Bur

Carbide Filligree Bur


Of course, now I got to clean the inside! I sanded the cut lip nice and smooth as well.

When painting the leaves I begin by using Classic Yellow Gourd Paint.  Most of my paint is Gourd Master but during this project I had to order more and opted to try the Memories paint. I can assure you they are exactly the same and work just as beautifully. For those of you new to gourds, Gourd Master Ink Paints are Private Labeled Ink Dyes that are non-toxic and archival. They are the same as Memories Ink Dye which I bought from Blue Whale Art.

I prefer the Ink Dyes over the Transparent Acrylics. These dyes are waterbased and don’t dry until you heat set them so they are easy to work with especially when blending. They are also transparent so you can still see all the wonderful moddling in the gourds.


OK… back to painting the leaves… the yellow is a wonderful blending color. The colors I am using in the above picture are Classic Yellow, Cherry Red and Classic Green.  Using a cotton swab I “scribble” the yellow on the inside of the leaf, rarely taking it to the edge. This is just a quick “fill it in with color”, then I dot the red and the green around the edges and sometimes up the stem,



Using a clean cotton swab I push and pull the colors around. I may “push” the yellow into the red a little which gives me a beautiful orange. Since I don’t go all the way into the red it also leaves the edges a brilliant red color.   I do the same for the green. If you overdue it grab some more yellow and paint around, It will brighten it right up.

Green and Red combined go almost brown.

I generally do one leaf at a time, heat setting in between leaves so that I don’t accidentally  mess up what I had already done.


See the leaves in the above picture. They are a little “dotty”?  I tried spraying a bit of rubbing alcohol on it. Looks cool, huh?

When drawing and painting leaves, remember that nothing about leaves are perfect. They have torn edges, bugs, brown spots.  The leaves may turn, the stems are never straight. Keep your leaves organic that way. You don’t need a perfectly straight leaf, unless that is part of your design.

I drew up my own leaf templates which I will share with you here.

Oak Leaves Template

Maple Leaves Template

Please feel free to use these for your own personal projects but not to teach your own classes or publish in a book. I picked leaves and drew them up so the artwork is all mine!!

Finished Piece

Finished Thanksgiving Leaf Bowl

Finished Thanksgiving Leaf Bowl

Feel Free to Share with your friends
Facebook Twitter Email Linkedin

Fall Came early during the Fall Leaf Painting Class in Poteau OK

Here is southeast Oklahoma, the leaves are just beginning to turn. By next weekend I would say, the entire area will be brilliant with glowing shades of red, yellows, oranges and green. It lasts several weeks, and its one of my favorite times here.

Seeing all these colors are inspirational to gourd artists and a very traditional method of decorating them is painting fall leaves all over them!!

Just last week I held a class at the local community college where 13 folks painted oak or maple leaves all over gourds. Although I brought in a sample each student painted their gourds in their very own style, which I encourage. We had a ball and I hope they will cherish and display their new vase every fall.

Collage of Fall Gourd Painting class


As you can see, each one turned out completely different and each one is very beautiful.

We used my Gourd Master Paints and some of the students brought their craft wood burners to outline their leaves while others used a permanent ink pen and some used black ink dye and a small thin paint brush.  Some painted their background a crisp black, which really brings out the colorful leaves while some dyed their gourd background a lighter brown so the moddling of the gourd showed through.

It was a great time!!

Feel Free to Share with your friends
Facebook Twitter Email Linkedin

Making Gourd Lamps

Maybe its the circles I hang out with but all of a sudden it seems like Gourd Lamps are all the rage.

-Gourd Lamp with Three Kokopellis

My Latest Piece-Gourd Lamp with Three Kokopellis

The first time I saw one was many many years ago in a small artisan shop in Jerome, Arizona. It was a very simple thing. A small gourd with a very simple pattern made from drilled holes. I remember that it was lite up somehow from the inside but I can’t remember how. I took the artists bio sheet, which had a picture of the gourd on it, tacked it up on my inspiration board and never went any further than that.

Fast forward to now and I am starting to see more and more gourd lamps coming into the world.

They are really pretty things in the evening when the light from all those kajillion holes dance all over the wall and ceiling.

So I finally got around to trying it myself.

I must admit that I did not want it to look like everyone else, I wanted it to look like my art and I wanted it to be pretty all the time, not just when the lights were off. It did not have to light up a whole room, it would be more of an accent light, a night light.

Since I love to work with Native American inspired characters and motifs, I chose the flute player Kokopelli to be my main character. The gourd was opened only at the bottom where the light fixture would go. Each of my Kokopelli’s were wood burned onto the gourd differently so each would have his own unique look. Between each flute player I added a circle motif, again each one decorated differently.

The wave below his feet was carved out and stippled and it was here that I decided the light would come through so I drilled a small hole in each stipple. Additionally there are small holes in each of the circle motifs.

Kokopelli Gourd Lamp

Not completed yet but all the burning has been done

I probably could have continued to drill holes all over this piece but I just couldn’t. It said to stop, so stop I did.

For the light fixture we made a trip to Home Depot and got a candleabra light fixture kit and an LED lamp.  These babies are not cheap but they are super cool burning (I can hold the lighted bulb in my hand after hours and hours of “on” time) and they are rated to burn 22.8 years!! Wow!!

Ben made a base from some wood to attach the lamp fixture too and we sanded the bottom hole so that the base fit perfectly inside the gourd.

I really enjoyed making this lamp and will probably make another. It was a big hit at my recent art show. Although no one purchased it there was loads of interest in the piece. It is pretty specific for someone who decorates in the Southwestern Style (like me) so it may take a while to sell here in Oklahoma but I do have it listed on Etsy where it is getting “Favorited” a lot!

The lamp fixture

The lamp fixture

For those of you who want to try your hand at this, although these are not the exact same brands I used these are very similar. Clicking the picture of either of these will take you to Amazon! LED Lamps are cool burning. I do not recommend putting a regular light bulb inside a gourd because the heat generated may catch the gourd on fire and you sure don’t want that.

Westinghouse Lighting Corp 70108 Snap in Sock Cord Set

SEXY LEDS® LED Candelabra 40 Watt Replacement 320 Lumens E12 Base.

If you have any questions about my techniques please feel free to comment below. I will answer everyone!!


Feel Free to Share with your friends
Facebook Twitter Email Linkedin