IVY HILL FARM
Lyn learned to carve from her father Leslie Miller. His gourds featured both chip carving and more traditional relief carving. The surface of a dried hardshell gourd is very much like wood, and U-shaped wood chisels can be used to remove the outer surface of the gourd revealing the lighter, more porous interior. When laying out a design, the first decision to make is to decide what color the final gourd will be. In general, a gourd must be stained or there will not be enough contrast to highlight the carving. An alcohol-based leather dye works well, since it dries very quickly. Staining the gourd a dark brown before carving will result in the carved portion appearing lighter than the surface. Carving first and then staining will produce a brown gourd with even darker carved areas. Carving some portions of the gourd, staining, and then carving the remainder of the gourd will produce a three-toned effect.
For people who can draw, learning to carve on gourds is mostly a matter of experimenting with chisels to produced the desired effect. Laying out the design is the hard part for those of us without artistic flair. That is why chip carving of geometric designs is popular form of carving. It is only necessary to use a compass and a flexible plastic ruler to lay out a few guidelines. Using the chisel to make a stopcut, easing the chisel forward with a rocking motion to meet the stopcut, and then reversing the direction of the carving for the next round produces the S-shaped curves of the designs.
Chip carving looks more complex than it is. In classes, everyone is amazed at how simple it is to draw the guidelines for producing an intricate pattern. Seeing someone carve is really the best way to learn. Practice on a few old gourds, and then you are ready to start a project of your own. Chip carving is a perfect put-down and then pick-up-again hobby. You don't have to keep track of where you are or count like crocheting or knitting. You just look at what you did last and start in again! See examples of our chip carved birdhouses.