Wonkey Weaving Gourd Baskets

I’ve taken three Gourd Art classes from a talented artist,  Margaret Sullivan of Rio Verde, Arizona.  In two of the classes we used very large gourds that we stained with leather dyes before we launched into the time consuming technique called ‘Wonkey Weaving’. The bare bones of the weaving is done with reeds soaked in water to make them pliable. The wonkey meant you were supposed to leave lots of odd shaped gaps to fill in later with wool or other pliable materials.

My first gourd had not become very ‘wonkey’ at all by the end of the class. I took it home and completed the rest of the weaving and added purchased feathers and beads.

At the second class, I achieved wonkey.

In the third class, we made a Totem Pole  from small gourds. We stained the gourds, etched them with a dremel, then decorated them with feathers, beads and paint.

Back in Canada, I could add feathers that I had collected from the grounds around our house. (In Alberta, it is legal to pick up feathers off the ground. It is not legal to do that in the United States, according to the American Migratory Bird Treaty Act.)

American Migratory Bird Treaty Act Reform – There is movement towards decriminalizing accidental bird killings. Federal Judge Edith H. Jones observed that the MBTA prohibits all acts or omissions that “directly” kill birds, but she also said that where these bird deaths are “foreseeable,” as is the case for all owners of big windows, communication towers, wind turbines, solar energy farms, cars, cats, and even church steeples, it seems unreasonable that these people or businesses should continue to be found guilty of violating the MBTA.

There are so many criminal and regulatory laws and regulations that no one can count them. It is estimated that the average citizen breaks 3 laws a day without even knowing it! Can you think what any of them might be!?

20 thoughts on “Wonkey Weaving Gourd Baskets

  1. Well…..I learned something Margy. I had no idea it was illegal to pick up any bird feathers in the US. I always thought it was only feathers from protected species such as hawk, eagles owl etc……This kind of blows me away!


    1. In the USA, you can pick up feathers from birds that are not native to North America. Then there are rules for hunted birds etc. You really do have to know your birds, what their feathers look like and what the law says about it all!


  2. These gourds are so beautiful. I’ve always wanted to grow some and try this.

    I’m surprised Canada sells specialized feathers since they also signed the Migratory Bird act. Strange? Many other countries have also joined the effort because the birds were hunted almost to the point of extinction for their feathers. .

    We use a lot of non-native bird feathers for wreaths and decoration, which are okay, but I’m mostly partial to beads. (Shiny!!)

    Yours are especially lovely and I like the wonky as well as the “traditional gourds. Now maybe this will inspire me to plant decorative gourd seed next year.


    1. Feathers are beautiful, aren’t they! The purchased feathers I used were from game birds and non-native birds that had all been legally obtained.
      The feathers I find in our yard are primarily from a type of owl that doesn’t migrate. It is still protected in the Migratory Bird Act, of course, but Albertans can pick up naturally shed feathers that they find on their own property.
      I’d like to grow gourds too – I’ll have to look for some seed!


  3. Very clever and creative, Margy.

    Since the statute of limitations has run on this I will now confess, in 1994, I removed the tag from my mattress.


    1. I hope you can find the classes you are looking for! It is an interesting hobby, but not one I would take up on my own. It really needs a large outdoor space that you can be very messy in, which was perfect in Arizona.


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