Joyce Palm has good memories of childhood. Working with her mother and sisters on a variety of crafts was an important part of her younger years.

Though she never had any formal art training, putting things together artistically stayed with her.

When Palm and her husband Lou moved to Quail Creek in 2004, she learned there was a gourd club, and she found gourds to be an ideal form to work with artistically.

Her home now is a showcase for gourd dolls, animals, and wall accessories she has designed in a variety of heights, styles, colors and attire.

Palm enjoys going to gourd farms and hand-selecting the ones that appeal to her.

“I’ll buy ten to fifteen gourds at a time. I make everything for the dolls except the feathers on the head,” she said while showing how she starts to dress a gourd.

“I have no pattern, no drawing. I just start. I paint and do the finishing. I emboss, add yarn and do the accessorizing. The head is usually a separate gourd,” she explained.

When transforming a gourd into a doll, Palm works on one a time. The single subject gets her full attention.

Dressing them is done in style. Some gourd dolls sport colorful cloth, some get beads, and some have painted accents. Using her innate artistry, others may have necklaces or a furry wrap.

Displayed together, the dolls look like sisters, each with their own elegance and individuality.

Palm created her own style of facial features and has placed miniature Huichol beaded bowls in the hands of some of her dolls. She meticulously beads each small bowl that is also part of a gourd. And though each bead is incredibly tiny, Palm manages to create a detailed star design with other patterns around it.

The head of each gourd doll is “Palm-styled” with colorful, fashioned feathers for hair and Palm’s personal touch for the distinctive eyes, tiny mouths and slightly-blushed cheeks.

When completed, each creation is secured to a firm base.

“I get pleasure in doing the finishing, making something pretty and seeing people get pleasure. If I sell a stunning one, I’ll make another,” Palm said.

She credits gourd artist Diane West for getting her going with gourd art when she took a class from West about 10 years ago. West started the Green Valley Gourd Group and was president for seven years.

“Joyce took my gourd art class through GVR. I think her work is fantastic. It’s not totally Southwest, but it has some Huichol Indian tribe designs. She does some totems, has developed her own style, and has come a long way in 10 years,” West pointed out.

The GV Gourd Group has one show every year. It’s held indoors at the Lutheran Church of the Risen Savior on La Cañada Drive the first weekend in December.

Palm does three shows a year — the Green Valley Gourd Group, Quail Creek’s Fall Festival in November, and a huge show by the Arizona Gourd Society in February in Casa Grande.

“The shows I do are very good for me. The big show in Casa Grande is a very good show as is the local Green Valley Gourd Group show. I enjoy making the dolls and plan to continue making them and taking them to these three shows as long as I’m able,” Palm says.

Contact Green Valley News freelance reporter Ellen Sussman at


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