The word, ‘gourdgeous’ may not appear in the dictionary, but it certainly describes the whimsical creations of Laguna Art-A-Fair Artist Darlene Saucedo. Darlene – who prefers the less formal, ‘Dar’ – has a long history of creating southwest artwork with natural desert materials such as wood and clay, as well as stained glass, colored pencil and acrylics. If we are indeed the sum total of our experiences, Dar’s diverse skills and techniques amassed over the years have served her well. And, she has continued to employ many of the same tools and techniques from other media to her gourd art.
Which begs the question – why would an artist with such a diverse art background choose gourds? In reality, it would seem that gourds chose Dar. By her own admission, “nothing really stuck” until she received a book on gourd art that her mother purchased at an estate sale. It was a defining moment that set Dar’s artistic compass on the gourdgeous path. Dar’s first gourd art, a red bowl, remains on display in her mother’s home as a testament to Dar’s chosen artistic direction.
Dar creates her artwork and teaches classes in a converted laundry room/garage studio she maintains in the Peoria, Arizona home she shares with husband Ray. Dar hand-selects farm-grown gourds cultivated specifically for non-edible purposes. Size, shape and surface conditions influence her gourd selection. “Modeling” (the gourd equivalent of wood grain or knots), plays a significant part in the selection process as well. According to Dar, “minor surface imperfections are frequently a good thing”. She sometimes chooses an interesting gourd and then designs her artwork to enhance its unique characteristics; other times, she seeks out a gourd that best supports a specific design idea. It depends.
In fact, every aspect of her process depends on something – which, in essence, is the very definition of the creative process itself. Overall design depends on how the piece will be viewed. Sequence of her steps depends on design and the nature of the gourd itself. Dyes, stains, and embellishments (such as natural and man-made inlays), depend on size, thickness and condition of the gourd. The process differs from piece to piece.
Tools and techniques, however, are universal to Dar’s work. A wood burner serves as her pencil, and she consistently draws designs on the gourd by hand to impart a true handcrafted look. In addition to wood burning, she relies on carving, drilling and pottery tools, and applies decorative surfaces with dyes, stains, colored pencil, acrylic paint, and inlace (a man-made turquoise-like product used for inlaid effects). She joins multiple gourds with dowels or epoxy sticks. According to Dar, the success and longevity of each piece comes from knowing the correct way to apply each surface. It’s an ongoing process that requires a lot of flexibility. Dar occasionally experiences something she calls, “happy misdirection” in which she discovers a flaw hidden in the material and has to rework the problem spot to her advantage (such as cutting away a soft spot in the gourd and incorporating the resulting hole into her design). Under other circumstances, she might prefer to smooth away a problem area and then work over the remaining surface.
Dar generally puts in an eight- to ten-hour workday, and typically works on several pieces at a time. She can complete up to ten works over a three- to four-month period. But, according to Dar, “It’s not about the hours,,, it’s all about the finished piece.” She credits much of her success to the encouragement and support of son Michael and husband Ray (whose years of woodworking experience has proven invaluable!).
We at Laguna Art-A-Fair are honored to showcase Dar’s remarkable work – and, we’re looking forward to her return for the upcoming 2016 season in which we celebrate our 50th year of fine art!
“Master Craftsman and Gourd Artist Dar Saucedo brings her creations to life in her home-based studio“
“The artist carefully selects her gourds from among hundreds grown for non-edible purposes on special gourd farms.”
“Each gourd gets a good bath before becoming fine art!
“Dar strives for a true handcrafted look for each gourd. To accomplish that end, she uses a wood burning tool to hand-draw her designs on each piece.
“Dar’s gourd art is characterized by abundant texture and vibrant color.”
“A large number of Dar’s creations are whimsical in nature.”