Poppies and daisies leapt from the curved surface with a pastoral beauty.
Dots in all different sizes and colors created a mosaic effect across the surface of another piece. Macramé, crocheted and woven fibers came together in intricate detail.
Each work of art was done in a different style and one-of-a-kind way. But each shared a common source — crafted using gourds as their creative foundation.
Gourds — those multi-shaped, multi-colored, multi-use fruits most associated with autumn displays — inspire the creative spirit of some of the region’s most unique artists. The Central Indiana Patch of the Indiana Gourd Society meet every month on the southside of Indianapolis to celebrate the globular fruits and convert them into works of art.
The Patch will showcase their varied and quirky art throughout the month of July as the guest artists at the Southside Art League. The exhibition is a way to show people their artform is capable of.
“The comments we get from people are, they didn’t know we could do this with a gourd,” said Diane Werblo, a co-founder of the Central Indiana Patch of the Indiana Gourd Society.
Gourds are the common term for the varied species of hard-shelled, non-edible fruits of the cucurbit family. Other commonly grown cucurbits in the same family include squash, pumpkin, cucumber and many types of melons.
Because of the wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors, the fruit offers a wealth of opportunity for artists.
“The thing that is most unusual for people in the beginning is most artists work on flat surfaces. You have to translate it to a 3-D surface; you can’t just do the front of it like a painting, you have to do the whole gourd,” Werblo said.
The Indiana Gourd Society was formed in 1991 with the purpose of encouraging growing and crafting of gourds throughout the state, as well as providing educational information to members.
Different regional organizations have sprouted over the years, including the Central Indiana Patch. Werblo and her husband, Robert McCrary, founded the patch in 2014 after they became enthralled with the potential that gourds offer.
Werblo and McCrary first discovered the world of gourds at the Indiana State Fair, where different artisans and crafters were displaying their creativity. Werblo is a gardener, while McCrary attended Herron School of Art and has worked in different mediums. Gourd art seemed like an ideal fit.
She would grow the gourds, they’d work together cleaning them, and then McCrary went to work on different projects.
Soon, Werblo started making gourd art as well.
“I’m the one with the dots. The first gourd I entered in the state fair, it took about 150 hours to do it, it had tens of thousands of dots on it — big dots, little dots, miniscule dots, put on with a toothpick,” she said. “It got me best of show.”
The group meets every third Thursday of the month to work on different projects.
Gourds over a versatility that other artistic surfaces do not. Almost anything that can be done on paper or canvas can be done on the fruit once it has been dried and cleaned. Everything from drawing and painting to wood-burning, carving and embellishing is possible.
McCrary is an accomplished gourd weaver, and uses fiber to adorn and decorate his art.
“He does this pattern of weaving that, as far as we know, no one else in the world does,” Werblo said.
Some members make birdhouses or long-necked water dippers, while others have done such fanciful objects at vases, rainsticks, fairy houses, spinning tops and more.
The Central Indiana Patch annually competes in the Indiana State Fair, where their creations can be found the Agriculture-Horticulture and Indiana Arts buildings during the summertime event.
Showcasing their work at the Southside Art League offers another opportunity to reach people, Werblo said.
“We will be showing an unusual collection of decorated gourds in a variety of styles and levels of ability for the whole family to enjoy — even the little kids,” she said.