By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Staff
Gourds and gourd artists filled the Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds as The Gourd Gathering held its 20th event on the Qualla Boundary. What started as a group on Yahoo years ago has blossomed into an event that draws hundreds of gourd artists and enthusiasts from around the southeast and beyond.
“It’s just a fun event,” said Jayne Wright, The Gourd Gathering’s volunteer coordinator, who comes to the event from Maryland each year. “Everybody loves coming to Cherokee…hardly anybody goes to the casino. Everybody is here downtown supporting the small businesses, and we all stay very locally.”
She said this year’s event featured over 90 classes on various gourd art techniques, 30 vendors, and several competitions and silent auctions.
“Wednesday morning, we had a birdhouse class for local kids. We had about 25 kids come and do it and this is the first year we’ve done that. So, that was fun.”
Wright, who has been doing gourd art for over a decade herself, commented, “You can do so many different things. Some people weave on gourds. They carve gourds, they wood burn, cut and put it back together again, all kinds of inks and dyes…you can see all types of different possibilities that people do. You can do almost anything with it, and they can last thousands of years if you don’t drop them and break them.”
She said it is fun to just get together each year. “We’re religious about going to Peter’s Pancakes every morning. Everybody has their restaurants that they have gone to for 10 or 15 years that they have to go back to each year. It’s really a community…we’ve got somebody from Arizona, as far as Pennsylvania, a lot of Florida people, and mostly southeast.”
Cara Bevan, a gourd artist from Trinity, noted, “I’ve been doing gourd art, specifically, for about 16 years. I started out as a portrait painter with acrylics. My grandmother used to attend the Cherokee Gourd Gathering and gatherings from Florida all the way to Pennsylvania and Ohio. She’s the one that introduced me to gourds in 2007. She gave me my very first gourd and some paper clay and said, ‘Here! Do something with it!’ My first sculpture was a turtle and it snowballed from there and I started learning about gourds.”
She loves working with gourds as her artistic medium. “It’s multi-faceted. It’s hollow, it’s lightweight and the hollow really helps because if I need to add legs to an animal, I can drill a hole in it, put a wire in it, secure it with clay, and there you go – a critter with legs!”
Bevan added, “You can cut them, carve them, paint on them; they take paint well so they’re incredibly versatile. And, because they all grow unique, each one is going to be different. I just love the variety of them.”
Next year’s event is scheduled for May 31 to June 4, 2023 at the Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds.
For more information on The Gourd Gathering, visit: https://gourdgathering.org