Today, in the tiny Andean village of Cochas, in Peru, almost everyone is a gourd artist, and fine gourd carving has been practiced for generations.
Pablo Hurtado, a gourd artist, learned the art of gourd carving at a young age from his parents. He and his wife Ana have a workshop at home in Cochas, Huancayo. There they store gourds and work together with other artists to do the drawing, carving and burning of the gourds. Pablo's workshop provides our Fair Trade partner, Lucuma, with many products.
Pablo recalls his grandfather telling how it all started. “Around 200 years ago, people from Huancayo made regular trips to the jungle to trade for rice, beans and other goods. There they met people from many places including carvers from Ayacucho from whom they learned their art.”
So they brought the techniques back to their Andean village while creating a style of their own! Pablo and Ana have 2 daughters and one son. One of his daughters is Lizzet, who formed her own workshop at home where she creates gourds including the popular Santas.
Gourds are vegetables related to pumpkins, squash and cucumbers, and they grow in a variety of shapes and sizes. This allows gourd artists to create a range of decorative ornaments, boxes or birdhouses. After harvest the process starts by selecting and “green-scraping” each gourd using a dull knife to shed the outer green skin. The gourds then dry naturally in the sun of the coastal desert.
Next, the artist creatively draws the design with a pencil adapting to the shape. A skillful carver then carefully etches the fine lines with a simple hand chisel. Using a technique called pyrography, fire adds the rich shades of browns and blacks. Sometimes after the carving and burning, a white paste is applied and washed off to highlight the intricate carvings. Gourd boxes will be cut open and the inside scraped clean of seeds and fibers and then painted. Finally the outside is waxed and polished, presenting you with a one-of-a-kind piece to treasure for generations!
To find your own treasure, check out the gourd ornaments on our website such as these owl gourd ornaments:
And these colored bird ornaments:
Information from lucuma.com