Gourd Nativity Ornament
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This unique hand-carved gourd nativity ornament makes both a great gift for someone you know, and a decoration in your home as a way to celerate the Christmas season. On one side of the gourd is Mary and Joseph loving the Baby Jesus, and on the other side is a carved angel hearlding the birth of Christ. Whether hanging them on your tree, in the window, or on the mantel these ornaments are a beautiful way to adorn the home while helping to provide for artisans and their families.
Gourds are a natural and uniquely shaped vegetable, similar to a pumpkin or a squash. As such, designs, shape and dimensions will vary slightly.
- Height measures approximately 2-3/4"
- Diameter measures approximately 2-1/2"
These ornaments are hand-carved in Peru and Fair Trade imported.
Peruvian artisans have practiced the art of gourd-carving for more than 4,500 years, transforming a simple squash into intricately designed bowls, boxes, windchimes, birdhouses, purses, vases and other bits of home decor. The twin villages of Cochas Grande and Cochas Chico, where our artisans Raquel and Esperanza live, work and run gourd-carving workshops to create local jobs, are the center of this ancient art.
Over the centuries, artisans have found unique ways to craft gourd decor, including scratching, fine-line hatching, pyroengraving and carving. Naturally, the details and designs have changed, but contemporary artisans remain inspired by Peru's rich traditions.
The Process of Gourd Carving
After the gourds are harvested, the artisan removes the outer green skin with a dull knife to expose the lighter brown color underneath. This will become his/her canvas. The gourds are cleaned and dried in the hot Peruvian sun.
After drying, the artisan draws his/her initial design in pencil, then uses a carving tool to remove small pieces of gourd, creating a 3-dimensional version of the original design. Next, the artisan burns the pattern with a glowing ember, usually a feather-shaped piece of Quinual wood that's been heated over a fire, to establish contrast between the carvings and the gourd. The artisan can vary the intensity of the heat by blowing on the ember; the harder the artist blows, the darker the burn.
Having obtained the color, the artisan washes the gourd to remove
the pencil marks and polishes the finished piece with a natural wax. Sometimes, the artisan applies an oil/charcoal mixture to the gourd's carved surface. The dye adheres any part of the gourd where the outer skin has been removed, yet wipes clean from the gourd's smooth surfaces. This is why some carved gourds have a black background
Cochas Chico and Coches Grande, twin farming villages nestled in the Andean mountains of Huancayo Peru, are home to a rich tradition of gourd carving. It's also home to Esperanza Palomino and Raquel Sabastian Rojas, two women who have established small fair-trade businesses to help create new jobs for the artisans in their village. Besides creating new jobs for artisans aged ten to sixty, both women manage work distribution from the main office to give priority to the families with the greatest need.
Esperanza carves her gourds wearing the colorful and traditional Huanca skirts, and its quite common to find her carving surrounded by her husband, sons, brothers, nephews and brothers-in-law. "My biggest dream is that all will have work and that all the families will have a better future," she says.
Raquel's workshop also creates work for about fifteen families and manages orders from the main office. Like Esperanza's workshop, Raquel's artisans share the work so that parents, children and grandparents collaborate together on large orders. "This craft we inherited from our ancestors, grand parents, and parents to the present," Raquel tells us. "Each generation improves the art and it continues to grow with future generations."
"If we have fun in our work, it will teach us to know more of our culture," Esperanza adds. "Through the created drawings we are inspired to do many things. The tradition of gourd carving helps to shape the culture and customs of the town."