Gourds, part of the squash and pumpkin family, are popular as crafts and gifts. They add a natural touch to decor and offer a range of possibilities. Some gourds become bowls, vases, or planters, while others make birdhouses or even jewelry.
At age 12, Katy Power of Elkhart, Texas, is running her own business of growing, decorating, and selling gourds. She often uses the largest gourds, up to 20 inches long and 20 inches wide, for birdhouses or decorative bowls. She decorates tiny gourds of 3-5 inches as necklaces or Christmas ornaments.
“It’s fun to make the crafts and bird houses,” Katy says. “I really like all the possibilities and the things you can do with them.”
Katy also enjoys teaching others how to decorate the gourds. She offers classes in a joint effort with her mom, Lisa, who leads the classes, while Katy demonstrates painting the gourds. They teach gourd painting to adults at farmers’ markets, antique malls, and local churches.
“I find it really fun to teach others how to [paint gourds],” Katy says.
Katy and her family are now making gourd birdhouse kits for sale at their farm or by mail. The kits contain a large gourd and other items for assembling a birdhouse including a paint brush, acrylic paints, and instructions.
A natural entrepreneur, Katy started out selling lemonade at a farmers’ market at age 5. She later sold worms as fishing bait, but at 7, when someone at the market gave her some gourd seeds, she decided to grow and decorate them.
Growing and harvesting the gourds is a year-long process. Katy’s dad Frank tills and fertilizes the fields before planting. Just like any other crop, gourds have their challenges.
“The deer love to get in there and chew on the vines,” Lisa says.
Mature gourds weigh between 15-20 pounds. After the harvest, Katy cleans them with special tools and allows them to dry for four to five months.
Sandie Thompson, owner of Old Town Vintage and More in Palestine, an antique and craft mall where Katy sells her work and teaches classes, is so supportive of Katy’s talents that she started a youth art show during Palestine’s Dogwood Trails Festival.
“I was so impressed by her,” Thompson says. “I wanted to encourage kids to explore their talents.”
Katy’s penchant for growing a business is no accident. Lisa worked as an art director in San Diego before operating a printing business, which she owned for 15 years. Later, Lisa and Frank operated a specialty aquatic nursery, where they raised water lilies, koi, and lotus for ponds, popular on the West Coast.
Pursuing their dream to own a little farm while living closer to family, Frank and Lisa Power purchased 30 acres near Elkhart and moved to East Texas about five years ago.
As a parent, Lisa said her role is to guide and encourage while allowing Katy to explore new things. Lisa and Katy discuss their ideas, and she allows Katy to make some decisions.
When Katy is not studying, farming, or painting in the art studio, she might be learning to code with Scratch, an online program, or reading library books.
Or, she may be caring for two young goats and an Appaloosa mare named Bella, which she rides as a member of the Frankston Riding Club.
“She’s a really good kid; I’m really lucky,” Lisa says.
For information about purchasing decorative gourds or gourd birdhouse kits, or attending one of Katy’s classes, visit Katy’s Gourd Wagon on Facebook or call (903) 288-9851.