Hot'lanta Gourd Patch at their monthly meeting at The Jacqueline Casey Hudgens Center for the Arts. Inset: Gourds take many forms in the talented hands of the gourd artists. Tina Shumake Handrop (3rd from right).

Snellville native, Tina Shumake Handrop, has been holding out on the art world. She has spent her life serving the needs of others. Family comes first for Tina - wife, mother, sister, daughter are all roles that she cherishes. As a postal employee and current postmaster of Snellville, Tina has had a full and rewarding career. As a wife and mother, she has rejoiced in the role of raising a family. It was her role as daughter that gave her the gift of art. Tina’s mother introduced her to the art of decorating gourds.

“My mother begged me for years to do this with her,” says Tina. “I knew that once I got started, it would become an obsession…and it has.” Honoring her mother’s wishes became all the more important once Judy Shumake was diagnosed with breast cancer. Tina set about to learn the lessons her mother had to teach. “I made my first gourd with my mom the last week of her life,” says Tina. “She walked me through ‘coiling’ and was supposed to show me how to tie it off, but she passed before she could show me.” The artistry and talent of Tina’s mother lives on in the lessons Tina now shares with her fellow “gourd heads”. Teaching classes from her mother’s notes, Tina continues to further the traditions involved with gourd art. 

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Tina’s prediction that she would quickly become “obsessed” has proved very true. Just two years later, she is now the president of The Hot’lanta Gourd Patch. This group of artists meets the second Saturday of each month at The Jacqueline Casey Hudgens Center for the Arts at Gwinnett Center in Duluth. In addition to having been voted as president for her own local “Patch”, Tina is now on the Board of Directors for the Georgia Gourd Society. 

Former Patch president, a gentleman named Hudi, remarked on the history of gourd art as a craft and as a utilitarian item. “Gourds were used to store dry goods and there is a long-handled variety that was used as a water dipper,” says Hudi. He goes on to explain that there are a variety of mediums for decorating the gourds. “Most anything you can do with wood, you can do with a gourd,” says Hudi. Of his friend Tina and her current role as president of their Patch, Hudi says, “Tina had a great role model in her mother.” 

The local “Patch” has several members who gather to learn more about the craft and share each other’s newest works of art. The September meeting featured flowers made from the seeds of dried gourds. Each member created a unique flower and then they displayed the finished products in a gourd vase (pictured). The delightful group sat around a table filled with hot glue guns and plenty of interesting projects. The aroma in the room was “pot-luck” as each meeting means that the artists bring something tasty to share. 

The variety of food was completely upstaged by the variety of works by each artist displayed on the table. With the holiday season coming up, there were plenty of fun seasonal items. A huge turkey that is reminiscent of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon sat on the end of the table keeping court with Santa and the elves. Several items with scripture and other religious adornments were mixed in among the traditionally crafted items. 

This year, Tina entered one very special item into competition at the annual Georgia Gourd Society’s “All Gourds Great and Small Competition that was awarded a third place ribbon. Designed to honor the memory of her mother, this piece of gourd art blends the color pink with a woven and tiny beaded accent. There are lovely wood burned and painted dragonflies with the scripture referring to “all creatures great and small”. Two of Tina’s friends, Diane and Pat agree that, “Tina’s mom is working through her.” Expressing her grief and celebrating the life of a beloved woman made creating the piece a true labor of love for Tina. “I miss her and I hope this piece captures her life,” says Tina. 

Now that Tina’s talent has been “exposed”, there is no turning back. A love for her mother and the art that they shared with each other is now showing in her work.  With her first ribbon and a healthy obsession for the art form, Tina continues to connect with her mom through sharing her beautiful creations and the lessons she has learned along the way with those who appreciate the “gourdgeous” art of decorating gourds.