Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Rattling beauty: Gourds as art and music

What happens when you  play with your fruit rather than eat it? According to Santa Fe gourd rattle artist, Marianne Macres, you make music, beautiful, tribal, exotic music.

Music?... from gourds that are fruits, not vegetables? How can that be? Well, sometimes Mother Nature plays tricks on us in the garden and what seems a part of one family can actually be another. As for gourds as a musical instrument, Macres had to explain. "Years ago, I was in Taos and met a friend who showed me gourds where more than just ornamental fall decorations, they were beautiful dried fruits with many purposes, like becoming a musical instrument."

Marianne found her new passion when she picked up her first gourd rattler and shook it. As a trained artist from southern California, Macres, she has been involved in the arts most of her life and now decided to experiment with gourds. She says it took fifteen years to perfect her craft when she founded "Gourdjus Rattles," a line of musical instruments she sells in New Mexico for Native American rituals, spiritual ceremonies, and personal collections.

Before coming to the Southwest, Macres lived in Maui for nearly two decades earning her living as a well-known scrimshaw artist. Her love of flowers was apparent in all of her pieces, each design had a blossom or a plant that she painted in tiny detail. As much as she loved her work, Macres began to get discouraged over the harvested ivory that came from elephants which  provided her art medium. She eventually ended her career working with ivory and focused on raising her family until she moved to New Mexico in the early 90's.

Painting gourds came naturally and so did her inspirations. As a worshiper of the earth, female form, animal totems, and native symbols, Macres found gourds to be the perfect source to create fantastical scenes and imagery. 


She chooses her gourds based on their shape, texture and variety. Ornamentals, including Crown of Thorns, are great for floral designs while hard shells work well for animal/pagan totems. She buys local, getting the majority of ornamentals from a roadside stand in Riconada, NM. If she can't get certain varieties there, she purchases them from several organic farms in California. She refuses to buy imports from other countries.


Macres explains her design process is a random one. She says the stick or handle often comes first, which she finds on her long walks in the mountains. Her favorite material is aged wood that she gets from juniper, cottonwood, sycamore, apple wood and cholla plants and trees. Her prerequisite is that they must have character.


She then matches the handle with the right gourd, which she will dry for six months. Once the gourd becomes moldy, she washes it in water with some bleach and black soap and scrapes off the remaining mildew. She does 8-12 gourds at a time, making the process go quicker than doing them individually. The paint comes last, acrylic is best says Macres, "because of all the amazing colors you can create."

The filler, or noise makers consist of ant rocks and mung beans. Macres believes her rattles posses a direct relationship between the under and upper worlds, and the ants seem to have mastered living in both, which is why she chooses their diminutive, self-produced pebbles. "I couldn't be happier doing my part as an artist to create something that is used to honor the rhythm of life," says Macres.

A deep spiritual connection is apparent in all of Macres's gourds. Creating art from a living, organic source that is used for a ceremonial purpose gives her great pleasure. Healers, Shamans and therapists all use her gourd rattles to call upon spiritual guides from the past to integrate and heal those in the present. Macres says each gourd she designs has its own personality, soul, and sound, which she says "invokes the spirit... driving the heartbeat of Mother Earth."

Gourdjus Rattles range from $30.00 to $75.00 and may be purchased on her Etsy website: www.GourdjusRattles.etsy.com. Marianne Macres may be contacted by email at: gourdjusrattles@gmail.com.

All photos provided and property of Marianne Macres.

1 comment:

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