Pat Berkbigler / Fulton, MO
I am a retired elementary school teacher, after 31 rewarding years in public education. When I tell people I was a teacher they immediately respond with, “So you taught art?” The answer to that is “No”. Through all my years in education, none of them involved taking or teaching art classes.
Even though I have never taken classes, I have always enjoyed arts and crafts and have dabbled in many through the years, including sewing, cake decorating, dried wreath making, and quilting to name a few.
So how did I get into gourding you ask? Well, after playing around with cupcake decorating, I was on a kick of making embroidered cookies. In looking for ideas on the internet, I came across a youtube video by Miriam Joy about creating Christmas ornaments from coyote gourds and melted crayon. I sent in my order for supplies and off I went. So fun! I then decided I’d like to try the technique on larger gourds, but had no idea where to find them. After a bit of research, I found that there was a gourd festival in Springfield, Missouri every year and gourd vendors would be present. Woo Hoo! I also discovered that they offered workshops teaching a variety of gourding techniques. After my first carving class in 2017 with Gloria Crane, a gourd artist from California, I was hooked.
As a nature lover, I find gourd art to be relaxing, rewarding, and intriguing. There always seems to be a new technique to be learned or created, keeping this art form fun and exciting. I especially love to carve. Sand waves, stippling, filigree, Oh My! Pyrography has been interesting and challenging, but the most difficult part for me is painting. Having never taken a class, a lot of trial and error takes place before a project is finished. The most important thing I have learned is that there is always a way to fix a mistake. I’m not quite in line with Bob Ross, calling my mistakes ‘Happy Accidents’, but thus far, I have never had to discard a project.
At this point, I have never entered any pieces in a judged gourd art competition, but after becoming a Juried Member of The Best of Missouri Hands, I felt I could claim the title of Gourd Artist. I have juried into a few art fairs and look forward to learning more about the art community. I truly enjoy introducing people to this art form just about as much as I enjoy creating the pieces. When people hear ‘gourds’, they picture those colorful little squash like things that decorate a Thanksgiving table. When I think of gourds, I immediately begin to visualize how these dried orbs of nature can be transformed into sculptural vessels through carving, stippling, filigree, painting, and pyrography.
The question I’m asked most often about my pieces is, ‘How long before they rot?’ They don’t! As with any fine artwork, with proper care, they last a lifetime.