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Gourd art by Candy Brown

#TraditionsTuesday: Candy Brown, Gourd Art

Ohio artist Candy Brown started as a gardener, and her art just grew from there. After harvesting gourds one fall and using them as a display in her home, she decided to investigate further decorative options rather than just throwing them away once the season ended. Her research led her to start painting the gourds using acrylic paint and simple designs. But a personal trauma made her begin to see the simple gourds in new ways.

Gourd art by Candy Brown. Photo courtesy of Candy Brown.Brown became more open to really being in touch with the materials she used, and the process she used to create changed dramatically. Her practice became more spiritual, as she felt a new sense of openness to hearing what the materials wanted to become, and to the inspiration which came to her in dreams. “You know when you’re supposed to be doing something by how passionate you are and how it feels,” Brown said. “If it flows freely, that is confirmation for me that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”

She delved deeper into her own spirituality and connection with Mother Earth and began to produce pieces that she said she hopes bring positive energy to the spaces they inhabit. Her animal totems, rattles, and decorative vessels are created with special care and attention paid to the materials. The gourds can be colored with leather dyes or acrylic paints, carved using pyrography (wood-burning), and inlaid with cabochons of stone. Some pieces feature leather, buckskin, antlers, feathers, or bone, which are ethically sourced, often by Brown herself.

Gourd art by Candy Brown. Photo courtesy of Candy Brown.Brown is quick to point out that, although she has a very small amount of Cherokee heritage, she is not registered with any tribe and she feels no one should refer to her work as Native American art. It is, she says, simply what has manifested from the inspiration she receives. Some of her pieces are designed for ceremonial healing practices, such as reiki and chakra work, while others are meant to support personal reflection. Her shop, Speaks with Ancestors, focuses on the general spiritual connection of the artist, the materials, and the person for whom the piece was meant.

To learn more about Candy Brown and her gourd art, visit her Instagram: @candy.brown.9277

Do you know an artist you’d like us to look into for #TraditionsTuesday?  Send us an email at

Take up the #TraditionTuesday:

EXPAND: Gourd art has been practiced all around the world. For more information specifically about Native American Gourd Art, visit:

EXPERIENCE: You can visit artist Candy Brown on Instagram or her Etsy shop, Speaks with Ancestors. Or, check out the 58th Annual Ohio Gourd Show, which will take place at the Delaware County Fairgrounds October 1 - 3, 2021. See gourd art, listen to music featuring Mbria Ohio, and more.   

EXPLORE: The Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences features a lesson on gourd crafting on their Garden Based Learning website. The site delves into the history of gourd art and has instructions on how to paint your own gourd, make a shekere (a traditional percussion instrument from West Africa), and how to make a gourd birdhouse. Visit to get started!

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at


Article by Amy Ruggaber, Ohio Arts Council Folk and Traditional Arts Contractor
Featured photo courtesy of Candy Brown

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