If you have walked into Valley Artisans Market, you have probably been immediately attracted to the gourd houses made by artist Chung-Ah Park. A dried gourd is cut open, given windows and doors and made into a sweet room, decorated like a dollhouse with wallpaper, rugs, tables, beds, desks and the like. The rooms have beautiful details, some very sparse and some with a variety of her carefully handmade items. No matter their subject, each one is charming and innovative, and radiate the care and attention to detail that Chung-Ah gives all of her creations. “I love making things and love the whole process of designing, solving problems, and the actual hands-on part. When I am making these gourd houses, my thoughts are all about the process and nothing else. It relaxes and gives me energy at the same time.”
Chung-Ah grew up in Korea where gourds were common. “I always thought they were magical,” she says. “When I began to grow vegetables in my garden [in upstate New York], I learned that gourds could be grown around here by starting the seeds indoors to give the plants the necessary long growing period. Having many dried gourds around the house naturally made me think about making them into useful or beautiful objects.” (She grew gourds for about 15 years, which supplied her needs, but sometimes when she is looking for a particular shape of gourd, she orders from an Amish farm in Pennsylvania.)
A true artist, Chung-Ah isn’t happy unless she is creating. She has tried her hands in sewing, weaving, pastel drawing, print making, book making, card making, pottery, and gourd craft. “I took some time off from gourd craft while I was doing pottery, but I came back to gourds a couple of years ago.” She would still like to try pottery again without using glazes, but right now she is having fun with the gourds. “I love the simplicity of the gourd and the fact I can grow them in my garden and it does not require chemicals in comparison to ceramics. I still would love to explore more of all these media I have tried so far though. I would like to create a piece of artwork which combines all the crafts I have done.”
Because she works part-time as a gardener, Chung-Ah finds much of her design inspiration from nature. “Nature is always the most influential inspiration for me, but I also get inspired by art and crafts of other artisans and artists around the world.”
Sometimes inspiration seems to happen spontaneously, but more often “I sit down and think about how I can design some particular type of pieces.”
Chung-Ah has been having new inspiration lately for her gourd work. “I have been making decorative lights/lamps and am having fun with it. I am not sure whether they will sell or not, but I like making and having them around for myself,” she says. The gourds use energy-efficient LED lightbulbs which run on lithium batteries. Two different lights are available: either a color-changing bulb without a timer or an amber-colored bulb with a four-hour timers. (The light will turn on and stay lit for four hours and then turn itself off; 24 hours later, it will turn itself back on.) Because the gourds have little skylights in them or intricate designs cut into them by using a tiny motorized saw, they cast beautiful shadows and designs on the walls around them.
We look forward to all the ways Chung-Ah will continue to express herself in her gourds and all of her other artwork.