Gourd Enameling
by Judy Cunningham
Photos by Larry Cunningham


Judy is the Show Coordinator for the Calabash Club of Silicon Valley.  Her background is 20 years of painting in acrylics and specializing in Native American themes. Since she makes all of her own greeting cards and uses rubber stamp techniques, she soon realized that she could apply these same techniques to gourd art. 

Materials: 

  • Gourd 
  • Embossing pen (any color; prefer Emboss Dual Pen II found in rubber stamp supply stores) 
  • Gesso or acrylic paint (any color; prefer white) 
  • 1 small, 1 medium paint brush 
  • Soft lead pencil or marking pen 
  • Ultra-thick embossing powder (prefer Suze Weinberg's in gold, platinum and  bronze;   found in rubber stamp supply stores) 
  • Spray glaze (non-yellowing; prefer FolkArt Clearcote #787) 
  • Electric heating gun (prefer Marvey; must reach to 650 degrees F; found in  craft  supply stores) 

 Procedure: 
  1. Select any size or shape gourd. 
  2. Make sure the gourd is clean and smooth. 
  3. Draw in the areas you will want to enamel with the pencil or marking  pen. 
  4. Brush on the acrylic or gesso in the areas you want to enamel.  It is  best to put  down a fairly thick coat.  This will act as a base coat and sealer to hold the enamel
5. Begin using the embossing pen a section at a time (6-8 inches is good). This will help prevent premature drying. 
 6.  Sprinkle the ultra-thick embossing powder onto the wet surface.  Be  generous  with the powder.  Shake the gourd to loosen any extra powder.  If  some of the embossing powder has spilled over into another area,  use the   medium brush to brush the particles away. 

 7.  Hold the heating gun 2-3"  directly above the area you want to enamel.  This  process heats up the embossing powder into a liquid state.  If you  hold the  heating gun on one area for too long, bubbles may appear or the  liquid  powder will spread too thin.  It takes only  a few seconds to bring  the  embossing powder to a liquid state. 

 8.   The outcome should be a semi-smooth, glassy surface. A second coat may be desired. The area that is heated will harden
quickly and will remain hot for a minute or so. If you accidentally put a fingerprint or mark into it, just re-heat the area until the marks disappear. If you want to speed up the cooling and hardening process, use the cool setting on a hand held hair dryer. 
When the enameling process  is completed and the rest of the gourd is ready, spray a light coat of non-yellowing craft spray over the entire gourd.  The spray  gives the gourd a nice sheen and helps protect the enameled areas. 
Note:  If you wish to blend several embossing powders together, place different powders side by side and practice with the heating gun for  interesting effects. 
Note:  When experimenting with other embossing powders, I have found that  when  working with thinner powders, they tend to peel away. 
Note:  When doing a combination of pyrography, enameling and dyeing on the  gourd, the best order of working is:  1)  Base coat the areas to be enameled;  2)  Pyrography;  3)  Dye;  4)   Enameling process;  5)  Spray. 
Note:  For a glaze effect, use any color paint as a base coat; over the base coat put Suze Weinberg's clear untra thick embossing enamel the same way you would apply the other ultra-thick embossing powders. (The Eagle's Head). 
Note:  While the embossing powder is in a liquid state, try imprinting a  rubber stamp  into it.  As it cools, the rubber stamp will pop out! 
Note:   If the surface tends to oxidize, use RUB 'N' BUFF in gold and silver  leaf by AMACO;  Copper color is by Treasure Gold.  If anyone comes up with other ways to use these techniques, please let me  know.  Would love to see any photos of your projects. My e-mail is LARR2000@YNN.com    Happy Enameling!!