Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes

Courtesy Photo

Gourds at the Wuertz Gourd Farm in Casa Grande, Ariz.

Jeanne Archambeault
Mancos Times editor

An artist from Mancos will be spending some time in Breckenridge this month, showing and demonstrating how she creates.

Janice Reich, a gourd artist for over 10 years, will have a reception on Thursday, March 21 (4 to 6 p.m.) at the Tin Shop in the Breckenridge Arts District. The Tin Shop is a guest artist facility there, with a studio on the first level and a furnished studio apartment for the artist to use on the second level. Reich will be there from now until March 31.

"My husband and I were in Breckenridge, looking around, and discovered this beautiful spot," she said.

Her love of gourds, those funny-looking and odd-shaped dried plants, began in 2002 when, in San Francisco, Calif., she saw a Mayan drum. From that point, she took classes and read books about wood burning, carving and designing. "I wanted to learn all I could about gourds," she said.

Gourds have been around for thousand of years, and are still used in other countries for making musical instruments, she said. They are made not only into drums, but a variety of stringed instruments as well.

Gourds, she found, are a versatile art form. "You can be very creative with them," she said. "Like people, they come in all different shapes and sizes!"

Out of the gourds, she creates bowls, dolls and masks.

The process of creating with a gourd begins when Reich looks at the gourd. "I know it sounds weird, but I wait till the gourd kind of tells me what it wants to become." Since they are all different, they can be so many different things. She might cut it to create a specific shape. Or she might leave it in the shape it's in, and just paint on it. Usually it's cut, though, and the flesh is cleaned out of the inside.

"They are a 'cousin' to the pumpkin," she said. So there is plenty of stuff to be cleaned out.

After the gourd is cleaned out, she paints the inside. Then, she might paint the outside, depending on what she wants to do with it. Or a gourd is good to do her woodburning on, affording her even more creativity.

After she has finished with the gourd, she will sand it and spray it with varnish. And then she might put feathers, stones or other decorations on it.

Masks, another thing she makes with gourds, is an art form on its own, she said. "They are really fun; you can put all different expressions into them," she said.

She is influenced by Southwest art and the tribal customs around here. Gourd art has opened the doors for her to meet many other artists and use their art to embellish her gourds. She likes to make much of her art affordable. "I think art belongs in homes . to remind people of their trip."

Reich's source for most of her gourds is Wuertz Gourd Farm in Casa Grande, Ariz. Although the Wuertz family has been farming since 1929, Waylon Wuertz has been growing gourds as a business since 2002. It was an idea that grew out of a request from a hay customer and this year he has planted 27 acres.

Reich will be working in the Tin Shop studio from Thursday, March 21 through Saturday, March 30 from 2 to 6 p.m. There will also be a demonstration and experimentation of her gourd-making on March 27 from 6 to 8 p.m., which is free.

"You don't get bored with gourds," Reich said. "You can do anything with them!"

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