What are ornamental gourds?

Ornamental gourds are the dried fruit belonging to the Cucurbitacea plant family which is characterized by either trailing or climbing tendril-bearing vines. Native to Africa the gourd has been cultivated in multitude of places in the world (known as קרא in Hebrew, as نبات قرع in Arabic, cabaça in Portuguese, calabash in many African languages). There are several dozen varieties of this plant with different shapes and size. When the fruit dries up it becomes hollow and hardens like wood and is used for various purposes such as musical instruments, storage containers or fixtures.

How did it all began?

I came upon gourds when I was living in Northeastern Brazil. One day a local fellow came by on his way to work in the field carrying a gourd that served as a water canteen.
It dawned on my that the creative possibilities of gourds may be endless. At the time I was looking for an idea for making lampshades for my house and the solution was right in front of me. By the following day I already owned a few gourds into which I punctured hundreds of tiny holes following a pre-drawn design. That became my first series of ornamental gourd lighting fixtures. The work filled me with joy and enthusiasm that only increased when the fixtures were connected to electricity creating magical atmosphere in every corner where they hung.
Subsequently I also used coconut shells as well as coité gourds. Coité is a fruit native to tropical areas of South America who have traditionally been used in various ways; some Amazonian tribes use it as drinking and food vessels. .
Experimenting with different natural materials for my designs I also used the scales of the Pirarucu a giant fish of Amazonian rivers and lakes.

How to make a lampshade?

In my case observing a gourd for a while cases ideas, forms and images to arise. These are very individual and thus lead to the finish product to indeed be a unique art work. The process of making the lampshade includes cleaning of the gourd inside and out, drawing, cutting, drilling, grinding, painting, varnishing, and finally installation of electric power.

Are they fragile?

Like any other glass or porcelain house object, the gourds are durable and with adequate use will last for many years.