On a daily walk on the beach with the dogs, while living on Little Corn Island (a Caribbean Island off the coast of Nicaragua), I spot an interesting speckled ball on the waters edge. As devastating as it always was to see plastic washed up on the beaches in the Caribbean, there was always a flip side! Finding so many different seeds & fruits of all shapes and sizes washed up on the beach, that I had never seen before, was always intriguing.
How far had they travelled at sea to be washed up here?
Using google lens on this speckled ball, that I didn't recognise, I discovered that this was gourd from a Calabash Tree. Right there and then I had no idea what this was but with a little more research, I realised that I had actually come across this before.
WHAT IS GOURD?
The gourd on the island is the fruit from the Calabash Tree native to Latin America. The fruit is not edible but cultivated in the Caribbean primarily to make utensils such as cups & bowls as some examples. It can be used for carrying water, or for transporting fish, when fishing. To my delight finding the gourd washed up on the beaches, I later realised, had put it through a washing & drying process. This natural process made it a fantastic natural material for making Jewellery.
ALSO KNOWN AS STINKY GOURD
What I have forgotten to mention to you, the most striking thing about this gourd, that I found on the Island, is it's seriously intense smell! The inside ball of gooey seeds inside the gourd gave off a foul odour.
It really does smell bad!
After my first find of the gourd I was so excited to experiment with working with this natural material. I went on a gourd hunt! On my second find around the island I guess the gourd was not as naturally dried out as the first find. You could tell! The stench was pretty terrible even from afar. Whether it was the season or the fact that we had had a couple of passing hurricanes, I found plenty washed up on the beaches.
I reluctantly carried the gourds the 35 minute walk home and decided to open one up straight away. Smashing it on the concrete a sloppy thick black mess splattered all over the concrete floor and walls to my absolute regret.
Luckily for us, our yard was also home to several chickens and turkeys, who I then discovered loved to eat the seeds.So as I went on to continue to collect gourds on my daily beach walk, I would open them up and immediately be surrounded by a yard full of Chickens, Turkeys and to one day to my delight, an Iguana.
I was making friends!
Image: An Iguana hovering around the deck where I would open up the gourd and start working with my tools to make products from the Calabash gourd.
THE FARM ON LITTLE CORN
Little Corn Island has its very own Farm, that I discover has a Calabash Tree. I went to see what the fruit looked like on the trees & it was definitely not what I expected. I started to realise how much easier the natural process of washing and drying of the gourd was finding them washed up on the Beach.
The process of drying is long, as the sap is sticky and the gourd is rotated in the sun for a couple of months to dry out. Once dried the gourd is then used for making instruments, bowls etc.
The Farm kindly offered me some of their gourds from the tree which were already half way through the drying process. It was amazing to see where this natural material had come from and the many states it goes through to become the washed up ball on the shoreline that I loved so much.
To dry the gourd manually it needs dry conditions, sunlight, regular rotation and time.
THE FIRST CUT
It seemed perfect for making natural jewellery. The texture was smooth, the material was light and the look was different with each one that I collected. The gourd serface is smooth so also a perfect finish to paint on.
THE FINISHED LOOKUsing my trusty Dremel tool, I cut my desired shape out of the gourd. With fine sandpaper, I smooth off the finish, clean up the velvety back, rub in a little oil and Voila, the finishing look is quite striking!
Living on the island, we saw our fair share of plastic washed up on the beaches everyday... add in a few hurricanes passing and the beaches filled faster than you could clear during some periods of the year.
Christmas was getting closer and I started to think about what that meant! More toys, clothes, wrapping, glitter, endless plastic that we all fall victim to buying during this festive season. Amongst this, Christmas decorations!
Christmas decorations come out once a year and I just thought how nice it would be to bring the outdoors in this Christmas. Coconut shell and gourd decorations would be the perfect treat for anyone's Christmas Tree. So that is how I discovered gourd and the crafting begun!
Bringing the outdoors in and wearing a little piece of Nature wherever you go!
Image: A finished product made from the washed up gourd on Little Corn Island