Percy Medina, A Story to Tell

Decorated gourds are among the oldest indigenous art forms of  Peru, perhaps of the Americas, dating back some 5,000 years.  In the remote town of  , Cochas Chico, Huancayo high in the Andes, the art of decorating dried gourds, or “mates” has been kept alive through the work of several families, who have continued this ancient art in the tradition of their ancestors.   Percy Medina is a member of a distinguished family of gourd artists  who continue this tradition.   Percy and His wife, Elizabeth Chanco reside in Maryland where he produces new works such as the masterwork that he is holding and the celtic knot design that Liz is showing above.

Mariano Flores Kananga embellished the gourd art form by including motifs from Spanish silver services into his designs. 

His sugar bowl shown below that is on display at the Smithsonian in New York depicts —the final encounter between Peruvian and Chilean forces at Arica on June 7, 1880

A Quechua Native American born in the Andes, Percy follows in the footsteps of his grandmother, Catalina, and  father, Evaristo, who were masters of the ancient art of etched and burnt gourds, "mates burilados".   Percy is recognized as one of the most talented gourd artists of his generation.  His gourd art can be seen in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington and New York as well as the Infinity of Nations book.

Percy's grandmother, Catalina Sanabria passed on the gourd story telling tradition that she learned from Mariano Flores Kananga .  Often called the Witch of the gourd because of her uncanny likenesses  of individuals as she recorded their activities of village events.  early in her life she was ridiculed for her gourd art, but she lived long enough to be recognized as a national treasure by the President of Peru.

Evaristo Medina's work can be found at the International Folk Art Museum of Santa Fe, as well as the Smithsonian Museum, and photographs of his work are featured in the book Spirit of Folk Art, published by the International Folk Art Museum of Santa Fe.  He worked for Disney World and Bush Gardens for many years demonstrating and producing gourd art to sell. Liz and Percy Medina tell me that container loads of cleaned gourds were imported into Florida for Evaristo and his students to carve.

Percy uses tools that he has made and burns quinoa wood (quinual) sticks to shade the designs by blowing the flame and smoke toward the gourd surface.  Gourds with black backgrounds are dyed by applying a mixture of oil and charcoal of ichu (charcoal made from straw).  

The dye adheres to the incisions the outer shell has been removed.  The gourd's outer smooth surfaces are cleaned leaving the gourd with a black background.  He does not draw the design with a pencil instead he carves his design directly into the gourd shell

When the gourds are harvested, the outer green skin is removed with a dull knife, exposing the lighter brown color underneath. and dried in the sun.  Percy has provided seeds and worked with a U.S. gourd grower to prepare the gourds that he uses.

Percy hopes to write a book that tells the history and shows the story telling process.  He has begun to prepare sample gourds depicting each step in the process.  Percy explains the stages shown below.

Traditional Peruvian sugar bowl gourds are hand carved and burned on a gourd prepared by scrapping away the green skin as it dries to provide a blemish free surface.

1° lid, usually has designs that tells you something about the gourd's main theme.  

2° drawing lines to separate the different parts of the gourd: lid, border (it's located between lid and body of the gourd), body it's where the main design goes, and bottom where artist signature and date goes.

3° cutting the lid off, using the special tool knife which is sharp all the way.

4° the final gourd art.

For now Percy expands his use on non-traditional subject using traditional Peruvian techniques.

Scraped gourd ready to carve.  The seeds will not germinate if the gourd has been subjected to heat.

Percy's sister (Bertha), brothers (Fredy, Pabel) and cousin (Tito) learned the traditional carving methods.   

Bertha resides in 
New Mexico

Percy's rendering of 
the tropical forest and
obeying your mother

Property of Reggie Eakin

Percy and Elizabeth closed down his website because his designs were being copied and being reproduced.   You can purchase Percy's artwork at the Shows and Festivals listed below or send him an e-mail: 

Mountain Heritage Arts and Crafts Festival
June 14 , 15, 16
Jefferson County, WV

Pennsylvania Gourd Fest
June 20, 21, 23
Shady Maple Farm Market
East Earl, PA

37th Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival
Saturday, August 24, 2013
9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Downtown Cary, NC


Personal interviews and e-mails with Percy and Elizabeth Medina
Gourd Pyrography 2012 by Jim Widess, Sterling Publishing Company, NY 
Hand Decorated Gourds of Peru 1976 Manzie & Karneke  - Publisher Karneke
Infinity of Nations:
Infinity of Nations 2010 Harper/Collins, New York  
Peruvian Folk Art
The Spirit of Folk Art 1989 Margarat Donovan Editor, Publisher Harry N Abrams, NY
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