Santa gourds in Berlin, Maryland

Lacey and I were shopping in Berlin, Maryland, a few miles from Ocean City,  and it was a surprisingly lively town for a January Saturday.  One would expect the stores to be closed in the middle of the winter, but the sprawling Town Center Antiques, at either end of Main Street, attracts a nice weekend crowd.   The quaint town, which was featured in Julia Roberts’ movie Runaway Bride, is a perfect day-trip adventure.  (If you’re a fan of the movie, there’s a walking tour.)  I suspect the summer beach-weary (Do people get tired of the beach?), retreat to Berlin.

On Main Street, Downtown Video (a relic from the pre-Redbox days) had a beautiful window display of hand-painted gourds.  I couldn’t resist and had to investigate.  Joanne’s Original Gourds are featured in one section of the dimly-lit store, which is otherwise lined with shelves of videos.   Joanne uses dried gourds to paint red and white Santas and other figures, including an octopus, a skier, and small cannonball gourd Christmas ornaments.  Some are painted like Russian nesting dolls.  The tole painting is detailed, with the kind of patterns one might see on Czech Easter eggs or Amish quilts.

The price for one of her hand-painted gourds, a ginger-bread-colored Santa, approximately 12 inches high, was a reasonable $30.00.  I asked her if she had a website or an Etsy account, but she isn’t looking to expand because she says she enjoys the painting as a hobby and not as a pressure-filled business.  I’m sure I wasn’t the first to inquire.

I remembered that when Roger placed his seed order this year, I asked for gourd seeds.  That received a quick “No.”  They need a lot of room (vines spreading 30 feet or more) and a lot of sun—we’re short on both.  In addition, Joanne told me the gourds need to dry for about a year before they’re ready to be transformed into decorations.  A little detective work, though, and I found they are easy and inexpensive to order online. (There are whole kits, paint included.)  I see some birdhouse painting in my future!

I figure I’ll be ready with my own gourd Santas in, I don’t know, four years?  Meanwhile, if you want the real McCoy, head to Berlin!

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