An interview with Don and Jodie Brauen. THEIR ROLES: Turning gourds into artwork.
1. How did you get started growing and decorating gourds?
Don: We got started when a friend of ours gave us some raw gourds about 10 years ago and told us to see what we could do with them.
Jodi: I never saw anything like it, so I was very curious. I made a few items and we planted a little patch. The next year we planted a quarter acre, and the next year, we planted an entire acre. It just sort of grew from there.
2. What kinds of gourds do you grow?
Don: Let‚??s see ‚?? we grow Martins, canteens, apples, Chinese bottles, African wine kettles and dippers. This is the first year for the dippers. They have to be trellised or they will grow all over like a snake. The long-handled dipper gourds that we grow can get up to 6 or 7 feet. Ours are about 4 to 5 feet.
3. How many do you plant?
Don: We usually try to plant about two to three acres of the different varieties.
4. What kinds of things do you make with them?
Jodi: I make snowmen, scarecrows, nativity scenes, Santas, ghosts, angels, jack-o'-lantern faces, vases, gourd flowers, bird houses, cat faces ‚?? I just make a variety every year. I come up with more ideas. He [Don] does the prep work of cutting and grinding. I do the designing and drawing that‚??s on the gourd.
5. What‚??s the process from picking the gourd from the field to a finished product?
Don: We pick them in the fall ‚?? usually two weeks after the first killing frost. Then we put them on the drying rack. They are on there until the following spring. Every gourd has to be washed, cleaned out, and then dried again. Then they are ready to be crafted. You can have a gourd for 50 years as long as it is cleaned and dried. It‚??s just like a piece of wood if it‚??s kept dry.
Jodi: This is the fourth or fifth year that we‚??ve had the youth group from Bluffton Presbyterian Church out to help pick the gourds as a fundraiser. That really helps us and them.
6. How many do you make and sell each year? Is the fall your busiest season?
Jodi: Right now is our busiest season ‚?? probably September through Christmas. I usually make around 600 different items. I would say we sell at least three-fourths of that.
Don: Along with that, we also sell some raw gourds that are cleaned and dried and ready for display or crafting.
7. What is your most popular design?
Jodi: I think probably the scarecrows and the snowmen. During our open house this past weekend we sold the gourd flowers for the first time and sold out of those.
8. Where do you get your ideas?
Jodi: Most of the ideas just pop into my head. Sometimes, I‚??ll see something in a magazine that catches my eye, like a plate or something, and then I‚??ll try the design on a gourd.
9. What‚??s your favorite thing to make?
Jodi: I really enjoy making these gourd flowers. It‚??s something fun and different. My favorite designs are probably the fall ones like the jack-o'-lantern faces.
10. If someone wanted to buy these, how would they do that?
Jodi: They can go to our Facebook page ‚?? Brauen‚??s Gourds. They can also come to our little shop here by appointment. They can call 419-358-2324 to make one. We do some craft shows, but we don‚??t have anymore planned at the moment.
Don: We actually prefer people to come out and pick out something themselves because each piece is different. It‚??s hard to know what someone wants if they just say they want a snowman.