Gourd Owl with Hat Ornament
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These owl gourd ornaments were hand-carved and given life by an artisan in Huancayo, Peru. Each gourd was skinned, cleaned and sundried before its surface was etched and burnt with the intricate designs that adorn its surface. They make a Hoot of an ornament to sit on the shelf, desk, as a decoration for the home or office, or as a gift for owl lovers.
- Measures 3" high x 3" diameter at base
Gourds are a natural and uniquely shaped vegetable, similar to a pumpkin or a squash. As such, designs, shape and dimensions will vary slightly.
Handmade 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."