ARLINGTON – With dark clouds looming over last weekend’s annual Art in Legion Park, the hundreds who attended the two-day festival in Arlington wouldn’t have been surprised by a thunder clap or two.
But a thunder gourd?
Grams Gourds had them for sale at their booth. Owners Nancy – the “Grams” – and husband Joe Wilson of Marysville feel like they’ve found a way to capture lightning in a gourd, and the specialty gourds are one of their hottest hand-decorated, hand-carved items.
“They’re really popular,” Nancy said. “They’re normally done on wood, and we started putting the designs on a gourd.”
A thunder gourd is hollow with an opening on the side for the sound to come out because at the bottom is a drum head attached with a spring. The gourd produces what sounds like thunder when shaken, and varies depending on the shape and size of the gourd.
But it’s the designs on the outside of the gourd that first catch the eye. Using high voltage electricity to burn Lichtenberg figures, sometimes called fractal patterns, leaves random burn imprints that look a little like lightning or bonzai tree branches.
“I put about ten thousand volts of electricity through the gourd, and it burns it,” said Joe, who saw an artist applying it in Arizona and learned the technique.
Over the past five years, the Wilsons have decorated dried gourds. Some are painted with Seahawks, Huskies or Cougars logos and colors, others with ornate carvings of animals and stars.
One of Nancy’s favorite and complex line of treasured artworks to make is her autumn leaf gourds.
“I create a pattern of leaves on the exterior of the gourd, then I use a little handmade jigsaw that is made just for cutting gourds,” Nancy said. “Each gap between the brown, gold and reddish leaves needs to be cut out one at a time.”
A small pumpkin-sized gourd can take one week to finish; a standard-sized pumpkin needs three weeks, she said. All their gourds are shipped from Casa Granda, Ariz.
The Arlington art fair is the last one of their season, Nancy said. They have also done fairs in Coupeville, Stanwood, Oak Harbor and Marysville, and this year earned a best of show award at the Tulip Festival in Mount Vernon.
More than 30 Arlington-area artists put their creative ventures up for sale at Art in Legion Park, hosted annually for the Arlington Arts Council.
At this year’s show, vendors’ wares included photographic prints and postcards, paintings, hand-crafted jewelry and purses, tie-dyed clothing and woolen blankets, wooden bowls and patio furniture, and ornately burn-designed wooden spoons.
Live music added to the festivities along with original art prizes raffled off every couple hours to help raise money for the arts council.
For kids, art projects featuring painting dragonflies and butterflies, as well as face painting and balloon animals, added to the fun.
Arts council president Sarah Arney said the turnout was good, considering the rain.