What we call our "gourdaments" (gourd ornaments) and nativities from Lucuma Design that you will find here at Plowshare Fair Trade Marketplace are a time honored Peruvian tradition. Both have been a popular favorite amongst our customers over the years, and many have gone on to start amazing collections.
Gourds are vegetables related to pumpkins, squash and cucumbers that grow in a variety of shapes and sizes. This fun variety of size allows the gourd artist to create a wide range of decorative ornaments. After harvest the process starts by selecting and “green-scraping” each gourd using a dull knife to shed the outer green skin. The gourds then dry naturally in the sun of the coastal desert. Next the artist creatively draws the design with a pencil adapting to the shape of their gourd. A skillful carver then carefully etches the fine lines with a simple hand chisel.
Using a technique called pyrography, fire adds the rich shades of brown and black. Sometimes after the carving and burning, a white paste is applied and washed off to further highlight the intricate carving. Finally the outside is waxed and polished, presenting you with a one-of-a-kind piece to treasure for generations.
In Peru, storytelling through gourd carving has a long history, as does storytelling through nativities. In the city of Arequipa is a small family owned ceramic workshop specializing in original ethnic nativities. With a passion for promoting Peruvian culture and the cultures of others, they research and capture in their nativities the personality of several cultural groups such as the Amazon and Characato; they even have an indigenous North American collection, which features an igloo, polar bear and penguin!
This here is our newest miniature nativity this year - Hawaiian - and it’s become a quick favorite with baby Jesus sleeping in half a pineapple, and a teeny-tiny rooster and turtle at Mary and Joseph's side.
This workshop takes advantage of the sunny climate of Arequipa for natural light to sun dry their clay. Each ceramic piece is poured into a mold to dry out in the sun. Then they are unmolded and have their edges trimmed off. Another artist then carefully grinds and sands each piece smooth while the clay is still somewhat damp. Pieces are then baked in the kiln before the painters finish each character, bringing them to life with colorful details.
Ceramic nativities and gourdaments carry the spirit of fair trade and make the perfect gift. It is certainly a Christmas present that will bring joy to their home for years to come, and to the artist who created it.
Info via Lucuma Designs
Thank you for shopping fair trade this holiday season!
Jacqueline & Plowshare Fair Trade Marketplace