She crafts a lot of gourds into bird houses but she's also made Santa, Pinocchio, and a Purple People Eater. It just depends on the gourd.

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The shape of a gourd determines whether it will become a bird house, penguin, or even Pinocchio. Jim Martin and Emily Stroud

(WBIR-Seymour) It's a type of plant known for its hollow, hard, dried shell. Gourds can be crafted into bottles and toys and musical instruments.

An East Tennessee woman sees potential in individual gourds.

"This one is going to be probably a Pinocchio," Jackie Hardin said.

The gourds she grows in her yard in Seymour communicate with her on some level.

"Put the gourd down and just take a look at it and the gourd will talk to you. The gourd will say I want to be red I want to be blue I want to be a monkey I want to be a birdhouse I want to be a Santa Claus. You just have to listen to the gourd and it will speak," she said.

Jackie Hardin can speak about gourds. She's very familiar with the year long process that starts on the vine and ends under her paintbrush.

"We've taken the little banana gourds and cut them off to make this and just some pieces there and taken the tail which was the stem and was on this end and put it on the behind and there you have a pig," she demonstrated.

Patience is important. The gourd must be completely dry.

"You can hear the seed. And when you hear that seed then they're ready to cut. And they're hard. If you do anything before that, if you cut them too early or if you try to do anything too early, they'll rot. Like a pumpkin," she said. "They have to be scrubbed using steel wool and breach and it's a nasty dirty process. And then they become this. And then I'm ready to take it and do whatever with."

Most of the gourds end up as bird houses for small songbirds, wrens, and finches. But she's experimenting with some jack-o-lantern gourds and creating some classics.

"This is a giant penguin gourd without this," she demonstrated with a gourd painted black with a sort of fin attached to the end. "If we sat this up and put the white on this side we would have a penguin. We like to turn them into whales and just add a little extra piece and at Christmastime we take this very same gourd and turn it into a Santa Claus."

Jackie Hardin lets the gourds tell her what they want to be even if it wants to be something odd.

"One eyed one horned flying purple people eater that only great grandparents know what it is," she said.

Her gourds are available at Ijams Nature Center and the McClung Museum and she also sells them at Farmers Markets.

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