About the Artist

Deborah Arnold came to gourd art after a long journey through such other crafts as sewing and quilting learned as a child from her grandmother in Missouri. Becoming aware of her Cherokee ancestry only as an adult, she started to understand her attraction to nature and Native American arts and beliefs.

As a community organizer on Smith Hill in Providence, RI, she was associated with a handicraft cooperative which provided for an outlet for her quilts, pillows, and other crafts. During her stay in Rhode Island she also worked as an alcohol and drug counselor in a crisis center, helped the homeless through her local church, and organized people working with local issues. She did all this and raised two children as a single mom.

While traveling in the Southwest, Deborah was profoundly influenced by the patterns and decorations of Native art. Now, having settled in rural Maine, Deborah combines her interest in Native Art with gourds. She cleans, sands, and dries gourds mail-ordered from Missouri. Then the creative process begins.

Using wood burning tools and leather dyes, she intuitively decorates each gourds with patterns, fretwork, and woodland scenes. Then the gourds are adorned with beadwork, pine needles, sea grasses, and shells to create bowls, decorative vases, ornaments, masks, and ceremonial rattles.

An ever-expanding following of collectors seek out these shops, galleries, and shows repeatedly to add to their collections of Mother Nature’s pottery – the gourd.


In her own words...

I have been working with gourds now for about six years, since a friend gave me one and dared me to do "something with it". I seemed to have this natural gift for knowing what to do with it from the start. I went rummaging through my closet and found a wood burning kit, which had never been used. I began burning on it right away and then went looking for some shoe polish, as I did not like the look of paint on that design. I had never heard of nor thought of leather dyes.

My best friend is a Mic Maq Elder named Shining Star, who has taken me under her wing teaching me other Native American teachings and crafts. I grew up knowing nothing of my own Cherokee ancestry, as my mother had died when I was born and I was moved around a lot as a child due to my father being in the service. As I aged I was always drawn to the woods and to Native American beliefs and I was always told I was different. It wasn’t until I was a grown woman that a medicine man, a friend of mine, told me it was time to find out about my family background. I had always just said I was of German heritage and was surprised by his instructions. Going to the oldest living relative in my mother’s family, I asked what my ancestry was. I was told I was "German and Indian". My native friends were not surprised because I had always been drawn to a different path, the one that was leading me home.


Deborah is a member of the American Gourd Society.


CREDITS:  The bars and buttons used on this page, as well as the background, were generously provided by Sam Silverhawk Designs.   They provide fantastic graphics FREE OF CHARGE for personal and not-for-profit use, and licenses are available for Commercial use.  Follow the link below to see some more:

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