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California Artist Brings Big Gourds To Life
For the past 20 years, California gourd artist Betty Finch has transformed gourds into lifelike people and animals.
  The unusual hobby grew out of Finch’s FBI training in forensic facial imaging and her work reconstructing faces out of clay on human skulls.
  “I sketch the face on the gourd in pencil first. Once the size and position of the eyes has been determined I drill holes to set plastic doll eyes in.” The rest of the face is built out of gourd parts. Clay is used to fill seams. (Clay that works well on gourds can be obtained from the Caning Shop ph 800 544-3373; www.caning.com). “When the face is finished I cover the clay with paint, being careful to blend the colors to match the gourds and hide my work. I want them to look like they grew this way naturally,” says Finch.
  She uses gourd seeds for the teeth, and some sculptures have a tuft of hair from her horse, her dog or herself.
  The rest of the body parts are ordinary gourds. Finch grows everything from 1-in. miniature Nigerian bottle gourds to giant Zucca gourds. Her favorite variety for arms and legs is a cross between a snake gourd and bottle gourd that she shapes with stockings as they grow. She has a 40-ft. shipping container filled with gourds organized by shape and size to create the parts she needs.
  “I use a dowel to connect the arms to the torso on people. The dowel acts like an axle so the arms can move. The legs are usually rigid with an internal structure that you cannot see, which supports the sculpture. Sometimes weight is added to the legs to create the proper balance to allow the sculpture to stand,” she adds.
  It’s challenging to create a 9-ft. tall sculpture that breaks down to fit in a car and is stable, she admits. While gourds will last centuries if kept dry and protected from the elements, they’ll break if they fall.
  Finch’s website includes instructions on how to shape and manipulate gourds as they grow and provides tips for wood burning, embellishing and creating sculptures with gourds.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Betty Finch, 785 Tucker Rd., Ste. G, Tehachapi, Calif. 93561 (ph 707 773-1336; finchgourd@hotmail.com; www.finchgourd.com).

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2014 - Volume #38, Issue #5