October 2, 2011
Keith McClelland can carve between 20 and 30 gourds a day, depending on the size of his canvas. The 59-year-old farm worker and retiree from Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. was nicknamed the “gourd man” by a friend and sells his work at the Bluffton farmers market, and craft shows in Delaware, Mohawk and Ada. He grows about 4,000 gourds each year and no two carvings are alike.1. What kind of tools do you use to make your creations?They're just the special tools. They're just made for gourds. That's the special saw, they're made just for gourds. You can use bigger ones, but it just tears them up and this is so fine it makes a neat work job out of it. There's basically four little tools, that's all there is to it.2. How long have you been carving gourds and what got you started?About 10 years, and we don't know what started it. We have no idea how we started. I don't know if we seen a gourd and just had an idea, I don't know. I think we might've seen a gourd in a store or something and that's what set it off.3. What is the most complex carving you've made?A little jack-in-the-box. The Ohio State Brutus, it takes three or four days to make him. It's not complicated, it's just time consuming. There's a jack-in-the-box I make and it takes a long time, a lot of detail into it.4. How many gourds go into each carving?There's six different gourds in [the OSU Brutus figure]. Jack-in-the-box takes about five. The majority of them, it's just one or two.5. What are the more common gourd characters?Those Halloween ones. Basic ones we make the most of. We make a lot of Easter, of course the snowmen, they're pretty popular here right now.6. How do you make them last?They'll last you forever. They could last a hundred years or more. When they dry out they get like wood and they're very hard. You could break them if you dropped them on the hard ground and they'll crack, but they won't shatter or nothing. Like I say, they're just like wood and they'll last you forever.7. How long does it take them to dry?About seven months. We'll pick them in November and they'll lay out there until April and May, whenever I think they're ready to be done.8. What keeps you doing it?I just enjoy it. I just enjoy making the new designs and going to the shows and meeting all the different people. That's fun too. We have a lot of repeat customers who come back for the new designs every year. They always look forward to that. [The snowmen] are new designs this year.