For over 15 years now, I have worked with gourds. For the most part, I just paint them. For today, I’d like to address the issues of cleaning and prepping the gourd for painting.
Let’s start at the beginning. I have had frequent questions about cleaning a gourd as well as questions about the moldy appearance a gourd has while drying. Unfortunately, more times than not, people have told me that they threw out the gourd ’cause it was moldy’. That is generally a mistake.
As a gourd dries (the process takes a couple months to as long as a year to dry) it dries from the inside out, mold appears grossly on the outside. That’s ok, it’s drying. IF IT IS NOT SOFT, LEAVE IT ALONE. It’s still drying … mold and all. They seem to like cooler temps while drying, I like to put any gourds that I’m drying on racks during the long drying process.
For an example of gourds I may let dry (I don’t grow them myself, don’t seem to work on my shady land), I usually buy some at Thanksgiving for decorations, the small ones for your dried corn and gourd centerpiece. After the Holiday, I’ll put them on some racks or in a basket and leave them on my front porch to dry. Those that get soft over the months, I toss over the mountain or in a sunny spot that might have a chance for the seeds to grow the next summer. The rest I leave till a day like today or in my case yesterday, hot, sunny, July day when I find the initiative it takes to clean them and I do it en masse.
I found every dried gourd that I had bought, been given or dried myself like the Thanksgiving gourds. Gathered them, a small kiddie pool, bleach, a good scrubbie and set to work. This is not a particularly fun job, more like cleaning silver! Getting all the dirt, mold, old skin off till I find that nice hard shell underneath. You may want to use a mask as recommended. I just throw all in the pool filled with water and a few cups of bleach. Then I get to work scrubbing (use gloves if you must). It takes quite a long time to accomplish this but to date in all the years I have been prepping gourds, this has been the best method I have found for me. I must have cleaned 50 or more gourds yesterday.
After cleaning them I keep them outside to get good and dry. When dry, and I as get ready to “paint” my Santas and other funny things, I prime them with something like Kilz water-based primer.
Why prime? Because of bleed-through. I don’t want some deep stain natural to a gourd bleeding through a beautiful Santa that I have painted with all intentions that it last forever for the people who may acquire it. I don’t want someone to have a ruined piece because I didn’t do the proper prep work. Prepping is everything. Despite what you might see on home improvement shows: Prepping and priming are an insurance policy of durability. Sealing it properly also is a good time investment. I use polyacrylic. While not meant for the outdoors, it is suitable for covered porches. And if you are looking to leave it outside, find a sealer meant for the outdoors. Not one coat, not even two, give it three or four coats of sealer. Again, a little time invested in the finish coat assures you durability and long lasting appeal.
Questions? Ask them. I’ve always been open to giving answers about anything I do with paint!