Sophia deLaat taught art to California schoolchildren for 25 years, but she only recently discovered the art of gourdwork. Now, she’s having a banner year as a gourd artist.
Two of DeLaat’s works are winners in the Art is Ageless® system-wide competition. “Halleluia Angel” took honors in the mixed media/crafts category, and her “You Are My Sunshine Music Box” won in the sculpture/3-D category. Winners were chosen from the top local entries at all 18 Presbyterian Manors of Mid-America communities. Both of deLaat’s pieces will be featured in the 2016 Art is Ageless calendar, along with the works of more than 50 artists age 65 and older throughout Kansas and Missouri.
This was the first year deLaat has entered Art is Ageless. She has also been recognized as Missouri Gourd Artist of the Year for 2015-2016 by the Show-Me Gourd society, of which she is a member. In the gourd work tradition, all of the materials in the piece must be natural, not synthetic. So, many are carved, painted, and even burned to create designs in the shell.
“You’re working with this natural product and then you take it to the next level,” deLaat said. “Each gourd is so different. What you can do with them is just mesmerizing.”
DeLaat said she created the angel using three different gourds. She used a woodburning technique to decorate the wings and embedded about 75 Swarovski crystals in the piece, giving it a luminescent quality. She made the music box for her daughter.
Since deLaat discovered gourd art, she has traveled to festivals throughout the country and even hosted retreats at her home in rural Raymondville. She and her husband moved to Missouri from California eight years ago to have more room for their horses. DeLaat has grown her own gourds for her work, and she also creates jewelry and masks with them.
DeLaat’s philosophy is that anyone can make art well if they do it to the best of their ability. “Anybody’s work can be beautiful if they have the morality to take the care and work with it in a meaningful way,” she said. “You don’t have to be a Michelangelo.”
In addition to deLaat’s works, a drawing by Andrea McCarty entitled “Good Boy Oso” and a mixed media/crafts entry by Betty Swenty entitled “Candy Bowl” also will appear in the calendar.