Sunday, October 30, 2011

Glowing Petroglyphs gourd bowl

The Native Forum team on Etsy is participating in an 'Artists Exposed' treasury this coming November. That is a gathering of listings where the lead picture is a shot of the artist themselves, rather than the item. It lets folks get to know one another a little bit better. I didn't participate last year (my native blood dates back to the 1800's, so I always feel like a visitor to the team), but got my guts up to play along this time. But I wanted to have a new piece of art work for the listing.

So, I took the time this week to transform this gourd:

The gourd was originally grown in Casa Grande, Arizona. I scrubbed it down, sawed it open, scooped out the innards, and cleaned and sanded it up. Then I dyed the bowl inside and out with a half dozen blended colors of leather dye, and sealed it with several light layers of clear spray. The darker streaks down the outside of the gourd were inspired by a phenomenon called 'desert varnish', which is a dark patina that forms on cliff faces in arid climates.

I sewed a decorative chevron rim treatment in waxed linen.

Then came the fun part. I regularly go hiking in the White Tank Mountain Regional Park, located just west of Phoenix, Arizona. If you look carefully when you are on the trails, you can spot ancient petroglyphs that were carved into the desert varnish by the Hohokam Indians, probably somewhere between A.D. 500 - 1100. Rangers say that some of the images may actually be up to 10,000 years old. I have collected many pictures of the petroglyphs, and for this bowl I went back through my albums for inspiration.

I sketched the symbols on the gourd, and then carefully drilled holes along my lines. It adds a nice texture to the gourd during the day...

but the bowl really comes alive at night. The next pictures are of the bowl in low light conditions, with a tap light inside of it. With light streaming from inside, the ancient images take on a glowing new life.

You can find the bowl at

For my own 'Glowing Petroglyphs' piece I use a votive candle on a stand inside, which makes a lovely warm and flickering light. But the gourds are flammable. I don't leave mine unattended, but for safety's sake I sell the gourds with a tap light included instead of a candle.

Oh...the picture I used for the 'Artists Exposed' part of this? I grabbed this one that my daughter snapped of me last July. I was in my studio, trying out one of her pop-tab necklaces. They are actually quite comfortable, and really fun. She's planning on listing them in her own shop over the next week or so. That is a D&D d20 dice hanging from the choker. Yes, we're gamer geeks over here.


  1. That is amazing! I have not seen anything like it before. Cool!
    happy Sunday!
    Duni (via EBT)

  2. Oh my gosh! It turned out beautifully wonderful! Thanks for sharing. I've never seen the process. Great job!
    from Blogging Buddies team

  3. The gourd is gorgeous! It's hard to believe that it's the same one from the first photo. Beautiful!

  4. I love the way you show all the steps in your work. I showed your blog post to a non-computerish friend yesterday - she loved it too!

    Your daughter's necklace looks classy - I hope she has a good experience on Etsy. We are gamer geeks too, appreciate the d20.

  5. The gourd is so beautiful. I love that the surface is so gorgeous, and then it totally transforms when lit from within!