Monday, December 17, 2012

Santa Gourds

 Way back in 1988, I saw an advertisement for an exhibition of antique Christmas pieces at the National Folk Art Museum.  In it was a gourd painted like a Santa.  Since my family had a handmade policy on gifts, I thought I might try my hand at it.  Traveled up the road to a gourd farm and bought 20 of the ones with a round bottom and a tall thin top.

Cleaned each and sanded them.  Used craft paint for the decorating.  I have three of the originals left.  They grace the wreath on the front door.

Here is one peeking out the greenery.

 The next year I added a few friends to the gourd list.  I chose to visit another gourd farm in Wrens, Georgia, where I found an enormous selection to choose from.

I painted elves this time - still just the faces - with green outfits.

The gourds were a huge success with everyone - even with those who did not receive one.

The next year I added Christmas fudge to the Santa gourds and popularity spread like wild fire.  My list grew of those wanting a Santa gourd and fudge for a present.

I started changing the way I painted them.  My husband would sand them (I am allergic to the dust.)

Then I would paint a prototype.  After deciding on the way i wanted the gourd to look, I would paint in an assembly line fashion - adding layer after layer of paint.

Here sit several of the different years' Santas in my vintage saw box turned on its end.

Being the Martha-Wannabee that I was way back then,  I began to purchase plain brown kraft paper bags and painting and decorating them with special labels and tags.

 Then inspiration struck.  I could also paint small gourds and tie them on the specially designed bags with the Santa gourds and the Christmas fudge.  That would be a spectacular present for everyone!

I started with snowmen - all small - all with strings or wires to hang on the tree.  All sizes and shapes - each different for each year.

They were a hit!  Everybody wanted one!

In my deranged mind I thought why not make the bag ornament to match the Santa gourd!?!  So the elves were begun.

This is 2002's little elf.

 Here is the next year's where I hand molded the clay for the face, glued it on, Mod Podged red wrapping paper on it, and finished with a cotton batting beard.

I was now close to losing my mind.

The list at this time had risen to 65!!!

Yes, I painted 65 (actually I always painted extra to allow for breakage) Santa gourds, decorated 65 gift bags, painted 65 elf ornaments, and made close to 100 pounds of fudge!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chucks and I cruelly cut our list.  Family and close friends remained, but co-workers and supervisors and neighbors were sliced from the list.  Some were upset, some did not care, some begged and pleaded to be added back to the list, but I was strong and let Chucks tell them I could not possibly continue the insanity.

Since all were signed and dated, there are those to this day who say they know the exact year they were drop from the close friends list.  I believe there are maybe 15 families who have the complete set of Santa gourds and elves and snowmen.

In 2008 I quit all together.  In 2010, I came out of retirement to paint a single Carolina Gamecocks Christmas gourd for a friend.

They still get the Christmas fudge.  It is the consolation prize.

 The one year the gourd was totally different is the year I broke my shoulder at Thanksgiving and needed to paint the gourds.  I chose to paint a snowy tree with Santa dragging out his box of red balls, gold garland, and the star.  Not too bad for a one-armed woman!

The red Santa on the right is the last one painted.  He is clutching a star.

 I do have favorites.  This is one of them because the back is the most decorative.  I display mine in an open corner shelf so he can be seen from every side.

Here is his front.

 Here is his back - a sack filled to the brim with every toy and gift imaginable.

These little fellows are favorites because they carry bottle brush trees.  They wear black cloaks with a green sparkly finish.

These solemn fellows sit in the TV cabinet holding their bags of goodies.

 These wait for me to clean off the junk table in the den where they reside for Christmas.

They are a patient lot.  

Remember they have been packed in a bin in the attic for months - they are just glad to be out!

 I have several of these gold ones with the leopard fur trim on their coats and hats.

I actually let them hang out with the angels in the living room.  It is not just anyone who is allowed to do that.

Each year different Santas get to spend their Christmas sitting in the hose reel next to the front door.  

This year I put in three, but a wren has insisted on knocking the smaller one out so she can perch there.

I gave up and let her.

Let heaven and nature sing!

This group is my all-time favorites.  They sit in a basket by the front door to welcome guests.

I keep three of them on top of my dresser all the time.  When I wake each morning, they bring a smile to my face.

And that is not an easy thing to do, my friends!

So, if you are a friend or family member reading this, be forewarned - there will not be a gourd this year - but there will be fudge.  I think that is consolation enough.  Hope the rest of you enjoyed my journey to the end of being Martha.  I am just so over that!

See y'all!

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  1. These are amazing - I just love them!
    Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a sweet comment - I do appreciate it :)
    Have a wonderful week.


  2. Love your gourds and your story. I have one large Santa face that I put out every year. Have not found his as yet.
    Happy Christmas.

  3. Your story telling is as precious as the gourds. They remind me of my Aunt Gracie, who also painted santa gourds along with anything else she got her hands on. It's a nice memory.

  4. Donna, these are fabulous. I can see why they caught on. You are a great artist.

  5. 65...gourds...painted...65. Wow, I would have gone insane, too! I would have to start in January to be finished by Christmas! But they are all so adorable, and I can understand why 65 family & friends wanted to be on your list.
    Debbie :)

  6. Gosh, who knew what thin ice Martha was on at that time. She was probably biting her nails and wondering if she was about to be dethroned. I have just a tinge of your "ratcheting up" syndrome, but it always starts the same. A small handmade something or other would always be better if I added this, that or the other, along with homemade candy, etc. I had to laugh as you described the same thing I do (although you took it to a level I never dreamed of). Glad you have recovered and have emerged from its clutches a saner woman. Wow, that is some talent you have there. I'm in awe of all the amazing designs you painted. So glad you have some pictures!
    Merry Christmas!

  7. Merry Christmas, Donna!
    Oh...How I love all your gourds. We lived in East Tennesee for several years and I loved seeing them year round. They make the cutest birdhouses, snowmen and Santas! I have one cute snowman gourd that sits by my fireplace. He has a tiny light that makes his features come alive. I just love him.
    Thank you for your kind comments and visit to my blog.

  8. You are so talented! My favorite ornaments are the gourds that my friend Pumpkin, Pie, Painter painted for me. Fudge would make me happy :) Thank you for sharing this at Rustic Restorations Weekend!

  9. You did a wonderful job on these, Donna! I can see why they were in such demand! My favorites are the ones in the basket, too! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  10. I love your gourds! But I'm super envious of that old piece of hose reel! What a great use for it! You think of everything!

  11. Happy New Year, dear Donna!!! Lots of health, love, and happiness to you and your family!
    I am just coming over to visit my favourite bloggers!
    I love your gourds!!! I would be one of the whiners begging you to paint me one!!!!
    I am trying to get better organized and come over to read my favourite blogs more often!

  12. These gourds are so awesome! There is something about the shape that just works!! Each one is a joy to see!


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