In Latin America, dried gourds are known as ‘mates’.
In the past these hard-skinned marrow-like vegetables were used to make simple every day items such as boxes (cut across the top to form the lid) and ladles (cut in half lengthwise).
They were also used to make story gourds with intricately carved scenes of every day life in Peru or simple geometric patterns, lines and spots. Tearcraft featured these cute ornamental owls in the catalogue a few years ago
First the gourds are washed; they need to be very clean. Once dry a design is drawn on the surface.
Outline details are carved using a sharp blade A technique known as pyro-engraving or carving with fire can be done using either a blow torch or a piece of burning wood
In Peru it is often the women who do the outline carving before the men highlight parts of the design by blackening.
A variety of effects is achieved with a combination of these techniques; darkening the background, the lines or highlighting the images. More effects can be achieved by dyeing the surface of the gourd and carving images that appear white against the coloured background.