July 22 • 11:24 AM

'Gourd Lady' likes to think outside the box

For the last seven years, Allenton’s Lucille Scheer has turned her creative genius to gourds and in the process, produced a wide array of baskets, birdhouses and holiday decorations. photo by Maria Brown.

November 14, 2007
This is one fruit that's more likely to end up on the coffee table than kitchen table.

Ornamental gourds are fast becoming a unique and popular medium for artists. From tools to holiday decorations, musical instruments and containers, gourds have just as many uses as there are recipes for its cousin, the pumpkin.

For Allenton's Lucille Scheer, gourd crafts offer a versatility that suits her personality, she says.

"I only do three shows a year," she says. "I start to think of ideas but only at the last minute do I go on a rampage."

Only hours before setting up her display at the Mt. Bruce Station Sheep and Wool festival in September, she found herself in the basement experimenting with felting. She used the finished product to line her gourd baskets and they ended up being hot sellers, she said with a laugh.

With a full-time job, Lucille says she only has so much time, but despite that constraint, her artistic talent certainly shines under pressure.

Lucille orders her gourds from suppliers in the southern states where they can grow a quality, thick-shelled fruit.

Besides, she hasn't had the best of luck growing them herself.

"I have a black thumb," she says.

Still, she admires the variety of gourds that she pulls out of the boxes once they reach her home.

"They all have their own DNA," she said.

"The littlest ones will never be a big gourd."

There are more than 20 different types, from the tiny Sennari to the very tall Long Handled Dipper.

Before they ever reach Lucille's hands, the gourds undergo a lengthy transformation. Growers either keep the gourds on the vine or place them in a well-ventilated area where they begin to dry. Most of the moisture escapes through the stem, but some will permeate the rind and can leave a slimy layer of mold. Eventually, the gourd will become hard and hollow and all that remains are a few seeds inside.

This procees can take three months and up to two years, Lucille says.

In her hands, the gourds undergo yet another transformation. Out of paint, varnish, pine needles, feathers, grapevine and leaves, she creates small baskets, birdhouses and holiday decorations.

Gathering the natural materials comes naturally.

"I'm a scrounger," she says.

The most detailed work involves plying togther 12-14 inch pine needles into rims for her baskets.

"It can take six hours for multiple rows," Lucille notes.

Then there are the chip carve designs she creates with a woodworking gouge tool.

"I make it up as I go. Following a pattern gets kind of boring after a while," she says with a smile.

"Anything you can do on wood, you can do on gourds."

Lucille says she enjoys sharing her hobby with others. She's visited Almont classrooms where youngsters were learning about Native American culture. They created gourds painted with traditional Indian symbols and adorned with leather, feathers and beads.

She's also hosted birdhouse classes and will provide group lessons at people's homes.

To learn more, contact Lucille at 395-8152.

Contact Maria at

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