by Marsha Hedrick

1. Cleaning the gourd. As gourds dry they sometimes get moldy spots and there is sometimes dirt adhereing to the outside. Using a steel wool pad or kitchen scrubber rub the outside of the gourd until it is smooth and shiny. Some spots of mold will remain coloring the outside but the actual mold is gone and the spots only add to the character of your creation. While you are cleaning your gourd think about how you want to make your house. It can lie on its side, stand on the large end, or you can tilt it at an angle. How you place the gourd will have a dramatic impact on what you can place inside of it. Laying on its side will provide the largest room but eliminates the possibility of an upstairs bedroom.

2. Once you have cleaned your gourd use a pencil to sketch the holes you will cut in it. The best way is to cut out the majority of one side to allow access and to put windows and doors on the opposite side. Don't sketch the door too close to the bottom. Hold your gourd on your base the way you want it and try to sketch the door so it will be as vertical as possible. If it is too low it will tip out at the top and also will limit the floor space inside the house. Pieces can be cut from the piece cut from the large hole and used to make stairs, window boxes, shutters, a pond and the like. When you are satisfied with your layout carefully cut out the large hole side using either a small saw or dremel. This will produce some very light floaty dust and the dust can be irritating to some people so try not to stir it up unnecessarily by blowing on it or shaking your gourd.

3. Once you have cut out the large side use your spoon to scrape out the interior of the gourd to a smooth surface. Again this produces floaty particles and dust so try to keep it contained. You will most likely not be able to completely remove the white interior of the gourd but it is important to try to make it as smooth as possible so be careful not to dig the point of the spoon in.

4. Once the interior is cleaned out cut out the other openings using the saw or your X-acto knife. If you use an X-acto knife you will have to score the lines several times to get it cut. If you have the x-acto saw you can saw the lines easily but first you need to drill a hole to get started. For the Door drill holes in the corners of the door this will make it easier to turn the corners and will make the door uniform so it will fit back in the hole convincingly. Cut carefully to maintain as straight lines as possible so your door will look nice. For windows you can cut the same as for doors or you can start the Hole just inside the edge if you don't want to use the piece for shutters or a window box. When you have all your holes cut you may wish to gently sand the edges to smooth them out a bit

5. Now you can use all the cut out bits to create part of your landscaping. Pieces can be cut for stairs, planters shutters awnings, ponds, bird baths, whatever you would like around the outside of your gourd. When you have all your pieces cut and have made sure they fit together in the places you want them you can assemble the house.

6. Start by making and attaching your ceiling light. Wire the beads together and then twist the wires together to the desired length. Drill a couple of small holes in the top of the gourd and put the wires through and twist securly. Cut off any excess. Next put a blob of spackle in the bottom of the gourd and smoothing it out to form the floor. Then place a blob on the base and position the gourd in it by firmly pushing it down into the spackle twisting some as you go to get it firmly imbedded. You can smooth out the spackle that extrudes around the edges with a wet finger. Using either the spackle or the caulking build your accessories and attach them to your gourd. Regular glue can be used to attach things like shutters but larger pieces are more easily attached with caulking.

7. Landscaping. You can begin the landscaping by tinting some of the caulking with paint. Use green for grass areas, grey for rock areas, etc. This tinted caulking can be applied with an old brush, a sponge, a knife, your finger, a plastic bag (like cake decorating) You can go crazy here build bumps for bushes, squiggles for vines, you can pipe vining onto the outside of the gourd with the plastic bag etc. To smooth out the grass areas or rock areas after you have spread out the caulking you can pounce it with a damp sponge. If you used a sponge to apply it you will have points. The damp sponge will knock those down to a soft finish. DO NOT get the sponge too wet. If you pounce vining with the damp sponge it will spread it out to a sort of netting like moss type of finish. Don't over pounce or you will fill it all in. Don't forget to cover up the wire from your ceiling light with some sort of landscaping.

8. Once you have the basic landscaping laid in and the gaps under the edges of the gourd are filled in you can sprinkle turf on the ground if you want it to have a more fuzzy appearance. You can also sprinkle ballast, sand, coffee grounds, etc into the damp spackle and gently press it down a bit to get a good contact. You can stick sticks into the caulking to form larger bushes and attach the foam bush materials to them. You can also stick invisible thread with dragonflies and butterflies into caulking blobs. The caulking will dry fairly quickly if you didn't get it too wet, but be careful not to stick your fingers in the larger bumps or mess up your vines before they dry. Be sure to clean up your brushes, sponges and tools with warm soapy water while you wait for the landscaping to dry.

9. By now the spackle in the floor should be nearly dry and you can touch up any cracks or dips in the floor if you are careful. If you prefer you can wait until it is all thouroughly dry. You can also paint the walls inside the house now.   Once the floor is dry you can sand it lightly if you like and then paint it. Once the landscaping is mostly dry you can attach the butterflies as desired to bushes, the side of the gourd, or fly them on invisible thread.

Marsha Hedrick
Porcelain Fantasies