Etched Gourd Russian Nesting Doll Ornament and a Giveaway


Playing with gourds and making Matryoshka (Russian Nesting Dolls) again! But this time the inspiration comes entirely from my friend and brilliant art teacher, Gail over at "That Artist Woman".


Image and etching by Gail at That Artist Woman

In June, Gail gave her second grade art class paper and pastels and let them scribble away! Then the colorful sheets were covered... well you must take just a minute and read the post so you too will know how this is done! It is NOT what you think!

Since I was working with a gourd instead of paper, I thought I should do some testing before committing to the adorable, perfect little little 3" tall Russian Doll shaped gourd.


I happened to have picked up a packet of 48 oil pastels on sale recently, so I started testing with those. Placed several colors on the test gourd and marked their position.


Then Prisma color pencils. Watercolor pencils worked well also. Both laid down a nice even layer of pigment.


Sharpie pens. Worked great but for reasons you will soon see - NOT a good choice!


Crayola Crayons - I was surprised - they did not work well because of the unevenness of the gourd surface.


Once all the test materials were applied and marked, the test gourd was covered with black acrylic paint. As you can see, I left the neck unpainted where I had my notes.

As the test gourd was drying, standing upright skewered on a bamboo stick, my sweetie glanced over and asked if I was making a penguin.

I responded: "why? Does it look like a penguin?

Not to be one to ever, ever discourage me in my crafty endeavors, in a quiet voice he replied "Well... um...a little."

Poor guy. He has been a patient man indeed these past four years as his wife has renewed her passion for craft.


So! If you visited Gail's post, you know what comes next!

I tested all the marked areas to see which one worked the best on the gourd surface using Gail's special tool!

Oil pastels and colored pencils both worked well - beautiful colors peaking through the scratch marks. I did notice that some of the color from the pastels seems to etch off with the top coat however. The pencil color remained bright and in place.

The Sharpie section was disaster! I couldn't remove the black paint with a crow bar! What a bond! But not recommended!


The Crayola Crayon didn't work too well either - because the unevenness of the base application of color really showed through the scratches.

What I really didn't like about all of the test patches was the jagged edges of the scratch lines.

If you look closely at Gail's images (they can be enlarged a lot using that magic tool that appears over the image on her site) you will see that the lines in her project and those of the children were not this jagged.

This may be the result of the kind of acrylic paint I used - Plaid Folk Art Acrylic Paint - my favorite acrylic paint! I really think it would be worth trying out other brands of acrylic paint before committing to oil pastels as I decided to do. For the top coat, the paint is, in my opinion, the best solution - IF you can get jag-free lines!

NOTE: At the time I am writing, my e-mail is sick. It has been sick for hours. So the urgent message sent to Gail yesterday requesting the name of the paint she used remains unanswered.  As SOON as my e-mail starts working again and I have her reply, I will add the information for you.


Wanting smoother etch lines, I made a couple more color spots (pastel and pencil) on the tester gourd, covering them with black oil pastel instead of paint. My etched lines appeared much smoother.

And since I liked the depth of color appearing in the scratch lines where I used the pencils, this is the route I finally took to create the Russian Nesting Doll - colored pencil base and black oil pastel top coat. But a little warning, actually make that a big warning, black oil pastel is messy.


So! Here we are! Ready to commit!

Of course, if you wish, you can scribble color all over the entire surface (except the face of course) and apply the black layer and draw away!

But I wanted to have a little more control so I colored areas of the gourd following the design I had first penciled on the surface.


I understand why I colored the front as I did. Why I colored the back in splotches instead of completely solid in color patches I don't know!


It worked fine to do it this way - until I got to the part where I had to color between the flowers! What a mess!

Take my advice - unless you just want to redraw half of your flowers again - solidly cover the entire area with color splotches, add the top coat, and then draw your little designs where ever you are moved to draw them!

NOTE: Oil Pastel is messy! Messier than black paint in my opinion because you will be getting black pastel on your fingers and must be very careful not to smudge that pretty little face!

Whether you use paint or pastels, in either case as you scratch away, you will end up with a lot of teeny tiny black "bits". These can easily be brushed away with an old paint brush - preferably one with slightly stiff bristles.


Once the back was completed, I tackled the front by first covering the "apron" area with black and scratching in the design. Then I covered the "cape trim" leaving a few hints of the apron outline so I could see where to draw them once the black was applied.


The "cape" border design was scratched in, and colored pencils used to make the hair, eyes, mouth and the bit of ruffled collar.


To protect the design and keep that smudgy old oil pastel in it's place, I sprayed my little doll with coat after coat of matte acrylic spray.

As the layers dried, I began to notice that the surface was looking more and more like black lacquer! So, in all, I think I applied at least ten coats! I love that she looks lacquered!  Unexpected bonus!

(Pictures are before spraying because I do not like to photograph shiny gourds.)


Halloween is coming - right around the corner almost! And I am thinking that this technique would be perfect for making Halloween gourd ornaments!

And since I know many of you don't have easy access to gourds, I am having a little gourd giveaway so three lucky readers can make Etched Halloween Ornaments! I will send each of the three winners two small gourds, one for practice and one for the "real" ornament!

To enter, just leave me a comment and tell me what you are thinking of etching - spidey webs, spooky faces, haunted houses, cats, goblins...... Oh and you must share on your blog in October! Part of the deal!

Giveaway is open until 6:00 pm Pacific Standard Time on August 26th.

I am sorry, but this time I can not include international readers except for those in Canada. If I drew three overseas winners, my sweetie would put his foot down on the posting fees! He is a generous soul but he does have a budget to consider!

Good luck everyone! And thank you for indulging my gourd play! More to come soon!

Oh I don't know how I missed

Oh I don't know how I missed this post but I'm so happy you linked to it from your zentangle post! What a great project and a great giveaway. I would absolutely love to win gourds that I could make into Halloween ornaments using this technique! Thanks Pam.

How clever! I love babushka

How clever! I love babushka dolls. :)

I think I would do a scarecrow since that could be also used for Thanksgiving.

Your gourd gal looks

Your gourd gal looks terrific! I was wondering if the rough surface of the gourd makes a difference whether you have smooth lines or jagged lines. My kids loved to scratch those papers when they were in school. It is expensive to buy but much cheaper and more fun to make our own.

I think a ghost gourd would be fun for Halloween.

I'm not here to enter, but

I'm not here to enter, but just to say, "HELLO, BRILLIANT!" Wow! I loved doing scratch art as a kid and love seeing this application. :)

This is just so smart. I'm

This is just so smart. I'm only sad that my grandfather passed away before I could show him this: he grew and proudly displayed gourds and adored bubushka dolls so this would have been right up his alley. I might have to make him one anyway!! :-)

They are beautiful and you

They are beautiful and you are right, Gail is awesome. I love that you shared with us all your trial-and-errors. You are a persistent lady! And we so benefit!

Thanks so much for this

Thanks so much for this post.....I have lots of little gourds I want to do this to....I will be starting tonite!
But I think direct painting will turn out best for me.
By the way - if you go to - you will find lots and lots of ideas for decorating/crafting with all kinds of gourds. This is the web site for Meadowbrook Gourds, a Pennsylvania business I saw a tour of on our PA public network a few years ago. I have been wanting to forward it to you since you enjoy tinkering with the fall "fruit"! Let me know what you think.

I used to love this technique

I used to love this technique when I was a child maybe because I am incredibly bad at drawing and painting so this technique made my stick figures look good.

oooh! I would etch swirling

oooh! I would etch swirling leaves! pretty!

Yay for Canada, we can

Yay for Canada, we can enter!

Well a big thank you to Gail for inspiring this beautiful etched craft. Your doll is so pretty Pam. I want a floral gown like hers. Do you think you could etch me one?

I was wondering about the black paint. I did a project last year where I applied paint to a plastic surface and then etched out a design. I found that the etching worked best when the paint was not quite dry. I wonder if that would work with this gourd surface? Hmm... If I win the gourd, I'll give it a try and let you know!

Oooh, how fun! I will have to

Oooh, how fun! I will have to try this on an art journal page!

If I won a gourd, I think I would try to make a kid in a kitty cat costume for Halloween.

Hi Pam, Since I don't

Hi Pam, Since I don't celebrate Halloween and also live way down under I am not a contender, but I can't leave without saying how much I love this particular craft you are demonstrating. What an effort but well worth it as the finished result is awesome. As you know, I can't get distracted by jumping to another blog until I consume all you have to offer. Now that I've said hello, I will allow myself to be transported over to 'That Artist Woman'.

I love your blog! I just came

I love your blog! I just came across it in search of some autum decor, and have fallen in love!
I'd love to win, and honestly I don't know what I would etch. I've had a witch obsession since I was a kid, so maybe a witch.
also, is there any easy way to follow your blog? I don't want to miss anything here!

Oh boy- you don't know how

Oh boy- you don't know how much I would love to win those goards!
I actually read your post last year about how to make the little Russian doll ornaments and I fell completely in love. Looked everywhere for the right shaped goards and was SO disapointed to not find them! I think if I was to paint one for fall, I'd try to do a scarecrow; don't you think that'd be cute?