Enjoy the stunning portfolio of Carla Bratt, who shares her inspiration and techniques in an unusual medium. See more about her by visiting her website.
Creating art on a gourd is as much about intuitive feel as it is in the application of technique. Their organic quality is unique among the many substrates available to artists to use in sharing their artistic vision.
Every gourd is as different as the snowflake that falls to the ground. This difference offers a spontaneity and freshness to creating art. They have energy to them that a white canvas cannot offer. It is this energy and fluidity that has held me creatively captive for 25 years.
Interestingly, my excitement begins out in the gourd field. Surrounded by hundreds, if not thousands of gourds, I walk for hours by myself, feeling the wind and the sun urging me to connect with these special gifts the earth has offered.
I am overwhelmed by the infinite choices, but as I continue to walk, I find myself gradually focusing in on each gourd’s individual beauty. I begin my selection; picking them up, scraping the dirt from them, rolling them around between my hands, and thinking. Wonderful, creative thoughts slowly flood into my head and heart. I see birds, fish, geishas, feathers, ancient totems, and more. The creative process has begun. I load my treasured choices for transport to my studio, where my artistic journey will continue.
As I start to work on a gourd, I welcome its challenges. They are never perfect. They sit at odd angles or have curves that defy design. Their organic properties absorb color differently than a primed canvas.
Some art mediums work well, others do not. Experimentation always rules the day. They are unpredictable and alluring at the same time. I can carve on them or leave them intact. They offer endless sculptural opportunities, begging to be vessels, birds, or animals.
As humble as a gourd’s beginning might be, they can also become elegant, as though it were meant to be. I can apply metallic leaf to the surface, eventually having something as stunning as a gilt-edged porcelain vase or a heavenly, golden moon shadowed with birds in flight.
Gourd surfaces echo the spirit of wood, so woodburning them is a natural choice. I sometimes burn deeply, conveying hints of ancient tribal worlds or so very lightly; shading a butterfly’s wing in a soft, warm brown.
There is something special about an art medium that can go from the simple to the sublime at the whim of the artist. It is that thought that stays with me, as I carefully and methodically work to find the essence in each gourd.
Upon reflection after all my years as a gourd artist, the plain truth of the matter is, that gourds are about beginnings for me. I have always said that there is not a whisper of boredom in my creative life.
Working organically and intuitively with gourds, feeling my way through their challenges, brings me full circle to exactly where I want to be for my next artistic endeavor, at a new, yet somehow familiar beginning.
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