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This weeks lesson: Making a ladle from a gourd
School life: Summer session
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A teddy bear with a gourd head sits on display at The Gourd Place in Sautee. - photo by Tasha Biggers
SAUTEE - People call them the "Gourd Girls," and there's no doubt why. Janice Lymburner and Priscilla Wilson, co-owners of The Gourd Place in Sautee, have created their own little "gourd world."

Gourds of every kind hang from the walls in the shop's Gourd Museum, and objects made from gourds line the shelves - obvious things like dippers, and surprising ones like teddy bears, open your eyes to just how many things you can make with a gourd.

Gourd catamarans - boats made of long gourds bound together - float in a nearby pond, and a sign beckons visitors to "try on the gourd heads," hanging from the wall.

If you buy something, your change comes from a gourd cash register.

"There's something about gourds that captures people's imagination," Wilson said. "Here's this object that actually you can grow, and after it's through growing, it's permanent. It's almost an instinctive thing, because after all, our ancestors really used gourds. They really used them for food storage and stuff like that. I think it's almost natural for some people, like me, to be intrigued with the possibilities of that object. How can you cut it and manipulate it to serve some purpose?"

Wilson and Lymburner do a lot more than just dabble in gourd-crafting. They've made a full-blown career of it.

It began in 1976 when Lymburner and Wilson were driving by a roadside stand. Lymburner said she wanted to get a gourd to make a planter with. Wilson didn't think much of the idea, but ended up getting one, too. After she saw the possibilities of working with gourds, Wilson kept at it.

"She got into it, and I really just had that one idea, but she credits me with starting the business - the wheels turning, anyway, in her head," said Lymburner, who handles the marketing aspect of the business.

They began going to craft shows, selling and selling, until 1983, when Wilson and Lymburner built their first shop. In 1991 they opened the current location of The Gourd Place on Duncan Bridge Road.

Many gourds later, in early 2000, Wilson had the idea of making pottery using gourds as molds. The pots would keep the shape and texture of the inside of the gourd, making a very natural-looking, functional piece.

Now the pottery, called "Gourd Impressions," makes up three-fourths of the business, and Pottery Barn has recently made an agreement with the company to produce licensed ceramic pieces made from molds Wilson created.

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