“The Gourd Gallery” Opens in Sugar Loaf, New York

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“These gourds get around,” said local artist Devon Cameron. “They have traveled the world to appear in over 300 shops and galleries including the Smithsonian Museum Shop and the Chicago Institute of Fine Art.” Devon’s eyes sparkle as she takes in the eclectic assortment of gourd art assembled in her new shop in Sugar Loaf, New York. “But they are happy to be here, close to home, sharing shelf-space with work from artists in Africa, South America, China, and, of course, the United States. They are looking forward to our Grand Opening on April 8 and 9.”

Although not yet fully stocked and decorated, the shop does seem aquiver with excitement. “We’ll have gourd-crafting demonstrations, freshly brewed coffee, and lots of gourd talk.” Devon raises her arm to encompass her newly painted showroom, formerly the front room in a turn-of-the-century farmhouse. Long, mullioned windows, hand-hewn beams, and a mantled fireplace present the perfect setting for Devon’s fascinating collection that includes Gourd Spirit Masks by Ann Light, birdhouses handcrafted by the Amish, Easter Gourds from Meadowbrooke Gourds, Mate gourds from Peru, African gourd instruments and decorative bowls, traditional Chinese decorated gourds, and, of course, Gourdaments, Devon’s own line of gourd art.

Gourdaments take the form of roosters, country cats, unique holiday santas and witches, hanging ornaments, and various assorted critters. They share a sophistication and whimsy that make them highly collectible and equally at home in a sleek Manhattan shop or a rustic farmhouse in Sugar Loaf. They are all fashioned from hard-shelled gourds, nature’s “magical sculptures” that have inspired artists through the ages. Although related to the food gourds (pumpkins and other squashes) these gourds are as durable as wood, and, like wood, they may be stained, painted, carved, and varnished.

The history of hard-shelled gourds is rooted in mystery and magic. In Japan the gourd is seen as a talisman for good luck. In the Caribbean they were considered sacred gifts from the gods with spiritual powers so great only the shaman could plant, harvest, and use them. In China they were considered a sign for the Taoist during the search for paradise because they held the wishes of the gods and the story of the future. Also in China gourds were used to house crickets, symbols of fertility and prosperity. In Hawaii, gourds are used as drums or “Ipus.” The Ipu is considered a container of knowledge and must be held upright so that knowledge will not fall out. In Mexico, gourds are seen as houses for spirits who have returned to visit the earth. Many modern gourd artists sense this magical spirit-power locked inside their “palettes.”

“The gourd often tells me what to do,” Devon explains as a rooster’s clay tail takes form under her quick hands. “I study nature’s work—the gourd’s contours, whether it sits straight or leans, its unique surface markings, the ‘music’ from its dried seeds. Eventually, its inner voice speaks, and I know this is a rooster, a cat, a dog, a frog, etc.”

The Gourd Gallery is filled with spirit, warmth, and the beauty found only in nature’s unspoiled creations. Here a shopper can find beautifully etched gourd bowls for $15, hanging gourd ornaments in the form of kitties, roosters, pigs, and cows for $22, Ann Light’s gourd spirit masks for $500. There are Easter items, gifts to express special thanks to a favorite teacher, treasures to share with a loved one. It’s all here--a world of fun, a collection of spirits, a feast for the eyes—all here in the heart of Sugar Loaf.

Mark the Grand Opening dates: April 8th and 9th, 9 am to 5 pm

And the location: The Gourd Gallery, 1364 Kings Highway, Sugarloaf, New York, (845)469-5090.

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