I have been molding gourds for over thirty years. I was drawn to the idea after seeing a melon that had grown through a wire fence. I began in that way, binding and wrapping gourds, and then progressed to two part plaster or wood molds, which inevitably broke or were forced apart by the expanding growth/ hydrostatic pressure of the gourd.
I now work with one piece, single use molds of reinforced plaster. Ihe porosity of the plaster alleviates any trapped moisture accumulation inside the mold, which would cause rot.
I have always worked with the large, hard-shell Lagenaria siceraria gourds, also known as calabash or bottle gourds. Ihe diversity of cultivars offers me a good variety of sizes and shapes to match fairly closely the different forms I am interested in achieving.
In the summer garden, once the flower drops from the nascent, small gourd, it is ready to be carefully inserted into the mold through an opening. The gourd grows into the confines of the mold during the summer season. At first killing frost the stem is cut and the mold is opened. Ihe opening and removal of the gourd from the mold is done very slowly and with great care. I use a stone chisel and a hammer and carefully chip away, breaking small pieces from the mold. When the gourd is finally free, it is put away to dry, which may take from two months to a year.
I may treat the dried gourd in various simple methods. The skin may be scraped away, partially scraped away or not at all depending on the discoloration during drying. The patina on the gourds is entirely natural; they actually darken as they age. The artifact may be mineral oiled or waxed. Kept indoors with reasonable care, the gourds will endure similarly to any hard, cellulose, wood-like material.