‘Gourdgeous’ Lamps

Artisans in the Turkish countryside can turn pumpkin shells into lamps. Learn how?

Turkish artisan Abroo working on a gourd lamp.

By Maqbool Ahmed Siraj

Pumpkins grow all across Turkey. But Cappadocia region’s volcanic soil is especially fertile for them.  One could see voluminous, orange pumpkins lying in rows in farms. They are mainly grown to be fed to the cattle and to extract their seeds which are a popular dry fruit. Tons of the crunchy stuff could be seen jostling for space in dry fruit retail stores in Istanbul and other big cities. The seeds carry high nutritional value.
That is just one use for pumpkins. The hard shells of the fruits also come handy for conversion into beautiful lamps and lanterns. The fruit if not cut, can remain as it is for months. But if cut open, moulds and bacteria make an ingress into the pulp and lead to its degradation.
The Turk artisans in smaller towns use these gourds to dry under the sun. Once the outer skin appears to have gathered stiffness, they are carefully cut open from the bottom and the inside pulp is removed to leave merely the shell. This is a messy affair and has to be done several times till such time the shell gathers hardness of wood. While doing this, even the outer walls of the shell may gather moulds which have to be scrubbed from a wire toothbrush. After doing this, a solution of bleaching powder in water (in 1:9 ratio) is applied to see that the moulds do not regrow.
As the shell attains further hardness, the edges are sanded to make them smooth. In some cases, the artisans also create some pattern by stitching them. A few coats of acrylic varnishes on the outer surface add a woody finish.
As one is sure that the shell can withstand drilling, holes of various sizes are created with drill bits. For further embellishment, glass beads of varying colour are inserted into the holes. The shades are ready for use. They could be either hung from above or fixed over base lamps to sprinkle light in myriad colours.
(The writer was in Turkey recently)

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