Monday, August 29, 2016

Gourd Folk Art

Gourds as Folk Art  

Gourds are one of the earliest crops to be domesticated by man, having been grown for at least 10,000 years as ornamentation or for making musical instruments and utensils. Normally they are inedible due to a lack of flesh and/or bad taste, although some varieties such as the snake gourd can be eaten in addition to utilitarian purposes.

Gourd folk art - art that is created to decorate everyday utilitarian items (think of water cans, for example) is an ancient tradition in Africa and Asia. It is also popular within the indigenous people of the Americas and the central highland of people of Peru. In Polynesia, where the volcanic and coral land lacks clay for pottery and metal for manufacturing, the uses and artistry of the gourd reached an advanced level. 

In some instances, gourds can be grown to take on specific shapes, such as a square (this, of course, requires that the gourd grow inside a square container).    

Gourd crafting and painting evolved from early hand carvings to the modern day use, of electric wood burners and high-speed pen-shaped rotary tools that can be used to inscribe almost any design. Because gourds can vary in shape and size, the art that can be created on its hard shell surface can also vary.  So can the uses: ornaments, bowls, sculpture, vases, and wall art such as masks. Artistic styles can range from craft to fine art. 

Gourd Groups

Whether it has been carved, painted, sanded, burned, dyed, and/or polished, a harvested gourd generally dries over a period of several months before it can be decorated. 

Those how are interested in gourd history can check out TheAmerican Gourd Society and the Canadian Gourd Society. These two non-profit organizations are dedicated to educating and instructing others about gourds. In addition more and more gourd art festivals are cropping up across the country, and gourd decorating classes and workshops are gaining in popularity.

Related Information

Monday, August 22, 2016

Corn Guilt/Innocence

Corn Guilt/Innocence: 

Acknowledge the Corn

It is harvest time and one of the most common symbols for the harvest is corn. Corn as a food staple has long been connected to agricultural folklore. Corn deities and spirits spring up in almost every corner of the world.
Corn foodlore is filled with customs about how to grow, harvest and store this golden food item.
But did you know that corn has also taken on another interesting folk functions?
According to, this nineteenth century colloquialism referred to admitting guilt or responsibility in an aspect of a crime or a debt while pleading innocence about the rest of the accusation.
Here are two of the site’s examples:

The Horse and Corn Thief

During a court case in the 1800’s a man was accused of stealing some horses and a large supply of corn that was intended to feed the horses. Horse thievery was a severe charge with severe penalties. In defense (and to avoid the harsher crime/punishment) he declared, "I acknowledge the corn!"

The Gambler, the Potatoes, and the Corn

A man sought his fortune in New Orleans. He floated two boats - one each of potato and corn to barter with.  A gambler, he bet both boat supplies and lost. Unfortunately, he discovered as he sought out to get the boats that the boat of corn had sunk.
In order to salvage the degree of debt he could now not pay he told his debtors he acknowledged the corn. They could have that (if they could retrieve it from the bottom of the lake, but they could not take the potatoes.
Food lore
To read more about this archaic phrase, click here.


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Corn Husk Dolls

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Corn Husk Dolls

Corn Husk Folk Art

 Corn husk dolls have a rich folk history. For thousands of years people have been making dolls from corn husks. The husks, like almost every other part of the corn plant, were put to use. In some instances symbols of agricultural fertility were created to pay homage to agricultural deities. In other areas of the world corn husks formed the base of toys, like dolls.

They are still very much a part of the folk art of people from northern Sweden to the shores of the Mediterranean. Contrary to what many believe, the Native American version did not ‘originate’ with the Navajo, Hopi and Pueblos who were placed on reservations and given corn to grow. Records show that American Indian nations on the East Coast have been raising corn for as long as can be remembered. Because they utilized as much as they could from each harvest they used cornstalks as poles, corn cobs as pipes and husks to make dolls.

In Mexico where corn is an important daily ingredient, the corn husk doll is made of both dyed and natural corn husks.

This corn husk doll legend explains why the doll has no face:

There is an Iroquois legend that corn, one of the Three Sisters, made little people out of corn husks. These little people were to roam the earth bringing brotherhood and contentment to the Iroquois people. Corn made one of these children especially beautiful, but this beautiful child became very vain. The Great Spirit warned this child of her vanity, but the warning was ignored. The corn husk child's punishment would be to roam the earth forever with no face, and no way to communicate with her people or nature.

Want to make a corn husk doll of your own?
Corn Husk Doll Tutorial