Designing on a calabash
There are quite a few ways to design on a calabash, all with unique results.
You can carve on a calabash with simple carving tools or a knife when it is still green and easier to carve into. Easier because the outside surface has not dried and hardened. It does get hard very quickly though so make sure if you choose to design while still green, you work fairly fast. Think ahead about how detailed the design is going to be. You can draw your design on the surface with a pencil and erase later or remove with the technique you decide to use. (carving out the area drawn)
can be done in a few ways.
1. With a soldering type tool plugged into an electrical outlet. (slow unless you invest in the expensive ones.
2. You can also burn into a calabash using the sun and a magnifying glass. This takes a very steady hand. Make sure you wear dark sunglasses while doing this. And AVOID moving the magnifying glass near your skin. Helps to position the elbow of your 'drawing' hand onto a solid surface' to have more control with the design.
3. The other way is to make some tools from metal and heat in a fire or on the stove. Make sure handles are leather bound to avoid heat traveling up into the handle area.
4. You can also darken the calabash skin carefully over the stove on a low heat, or in coals that are not too hot. This technique makes the area much darker, and then it can be carved into when cooled. The areas you carve into will become much more contrasted with the blackened area surrounding it. The combination of burning and carving is one of my favorite ways to decorate a calabash.
Parts of the calabash can be cut away, or drilled to create designs and results in beautiful effects with light. These can be turned into lamps, and covers for tealights creating beautiful lighting effects.
Weaving elements can be added to a calabash, as well as shells, beads or leather. Holes can be drilled in order to put cordage through for this purpose. The possibilities are endless. Many of the techniques described here are used for gourd designs as well. Gourds have different shapes and grow on vines. They are much softer than calabash. Hope you have fun designing natural and functional art forms..
If you want to find some calabash trees in Portland, please contact us and we can link you with someone who can take you on a nature hike to collect a few. Please do not deplete the tree and leave some for others. More tropical nature based projects coming soon.
The images below show some excellent examples by contemporary calabash artists using the techniques described. We are still working on our calabash shown in main photo above utilizing solar design. (Its been raining a lot lately) Will post when they are complete.