Outside the Piecemakers Country Store in Costa Mesa Saturday, Diane Calderwood was surrounded by gourds — cat gourds, sun gourds, tassel gourds.
She'd made them herself — painting some to resemble felines, or flattening and carving others to look like celestial bodies.
She educated passersby as they browsed her craft station, and those of others.
"It's more of a utilitarian plant like cotton would be," she said. "They do eat it but it's very bitter. Most of the time in history it's been used for instruments and dishes and all kinds of artwork and things like that," she said of her gourds.
Calderwood was there as part of the Piecemakers' annual open house.
About 30 teachers exhibited their crafts and offered sign-ups for classes taught at the store throughout the year.
The Piecemakers, a group of Christians who live communally, sell their homemade wares at a store on Adams Avenue in Mesa Verde. They also invite teachers outside their community to exhibit and lead classes.
"Piecemakers has always been preserving the hand crafts from generations ago," said Piecemaker Jean Moller, an event organizer.
For more than 20 years, the annual open house has given customers a chance to peek into skills they can learn at the Piecemakers' store, ranging from quilting to dollmaking, sewing, jewelry design and more, Moller said.
In a tent outside the store, Jen Kosman's edible offerings were far from the gourds' bitterness.
Open-house attendees signed up for her baking and cooking classes, whether they wanted to learn pizza from scratch, cinnamon rolls or the comprehensive brunch class that includes quiches and a loaf of bread stuffed with eggs.
Even though she's lived in Costa Mesa for 15 years, it took Kosman until 2001 to discover the Piecemakers.
"I was very upset with myself," Kosman said about the oversight.
About a year after she attended a cake club there, she started teaching at the store and now gets most of her sign-ups through the open house.
She works a day job as a pastry chef but fondly considers her Piecemakers teaching a job too.
"I work for a catering company. That's my real job," she said. "This is my awesome job, my fun job."
More information is available at piecemakers.com.