Rattling Beauty: Artistic Gourds by Marianne Macres

Santafe.com - June 12, 2012

"Artist Marianne Macres believes her rattles posses a direct relationship between the under and upper worlds"

What happens when you  play with your fruit rather than eat it? All sorts of beautiful things can happen, according to Santa Fe gourd and rattle artist Marianne Macres.

But wait a minute...gourds are fruits? How can that be? Well, sometimes Mother Nature plays tricks on us, and gourds happen to be one of those incognito exceptions to the rule. Macres knows this better than anyone, as she been camouflaging them with her magical drawings, converting them into artistic sculptures also known as rattles.

Macres, began painting ornamental gourds for ceremonial rituals after she met a friend in Taos several years back who taught her all about the viney fruit.

A trained artist from southern California, Macres found a new passion when she picked up her first dried gourd rattler and shook it. Fifteen years later, Macres founded Gourdjus Rattles, a company that sells her custom made designs for Native American rituals, spiritual ceremonies and personal collections.

Before coming to New Mexico, 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, as each design had a blossom or a plant that she painted in tiny detail. As much as she loved her work, Macres began to question and ultimately reject the process of harvesting marine mammals to provide her art medium. She ended her career as an ivory carver 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. Some of her favorites pieces include flowers and pagan goddesses.

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 and pagan totems. She buys local, getting the majority of ornamentals from a roadside stand in Riconada, New Mexico. 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 eight to 12 gourds at a time, making the process go quicker than doing them individually. The paint comes last and 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.

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."

"I couldn't be happier doing my part as an artist to create something that is used in the healing process," says Macres.

Rattles range from $30 to $75.  Marianne Macres may be contacted by email at: gourdjusrattles@gmail.com, or by her Etsy.