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This Instructable written by MAKE’s Tim Anderson, documenting the process of Chinese lifetime gourd craftsman Zhang Cairi, focuses on growing gourds into molds shaped to produce portrait busts. But it could be generalized to grow pretty much any hollow form. A speaker horn? A flashlight body? An enclosure for an Arduino or other PCB? A robot chassis?

The master is sculpted in clay, then latex is painted on to produce a slip-off negative, which is filled with plastic resin to produce a duplicate positive. Finally, a two-part negative mold is cast around the resin positive, separated, and secured around the immature gourd with string or wire. The mold needs to be suspended in such a way that the vine doesn’t have to bear its weight.

Portrait Gourds Grown in Molds

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I write for MAKE, serve as Technical Editor for MAKE magazine, and develop original DIY content for Make: Projects.



  1. This is amazing. I’m a gardener but never tought growing vegetables can be so cool. Must try it myself.

  2. Jody Johnson says:

    A spider bot with a molded gourd exoskeleton would look sick as hell and would have a strong light weight shell.

  3. Fred Murphy says:

    Hmmmm. I wonder if this would work with the chillies I’m growing?

    1. Susan says:

      Yes Fred,
      You can do it with anything that will grow large enough to press into the mold. I use clear bottles…cut it when it is full in the bottle, and ask my students how I got it in there. There is a liquor company that does this with peaches and pears…it is really neat. I made an eggplant inside of a plastic Easter Bunny. It was hard plastic, so I chipped away at the plastic to allow for the stem. It was a two part bunny, so I rubber banded it together. It was a hit!

  4. Perry Chamberlain says:

    This is neat, but creepy, reminds be of the movie ” invasion of the body snatchers”
    Imagine growing pumkins with faces for halloween… Verrrrry creepy.
    Could be a whole new industry, celeberty pumpkins. :-)

  5. […] How-To: Grow a Portrait Gourd ( […]