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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Denise Mendoza, Dirty Bird Gourds and Soaps

Nov 21, 2014 12:00AM ● By Brandi Barnett

The Soap Maker

December 2014

Denise Mendoza, her husband Chris, and her parents Diana and Bob Pearcy have been pooling their efforts for years to make all of Dirty Bird Gourds and Soaps’ one-of-a-kind creations.

ENJOY: What’s the origin of Dirty Bird Gourds and Soaps?
DENISE: We always had a garden at my parents’ house growing up. Today, my mom still grows all the gourds at her house, and she grows the luffa that we put in our soaps. When she first started growing luffa, I don’t think she expected so much to pop up. So we had to find something to do with it. That’s when we started making soap with slices of the luffa inside. We both do that, and my dad and husband help, too. But it’s my mom, Diana, who paints the gourds and does all the arty stuff.

ENJOY: Can you tell us a bit about the gourds? What’s the process?
DIANA: I’m the one who grows the gourds, and then I carve and paint them. But any artistic DNA in our family, I blame Aunt Agnes. She started painting on rocks first, back in the day. But I like gourds because you have a bit more leeway to make things out of them.
You use gourd tools to carve them…that’s what I call my tool arsenal. I’ll often use a Dremel wood-burning tool to etch pictures and patterns into the surface. You can get pretty detailed. We also make drums out of the gourds. That’s what people did thousands of years ago, make drums and rattles out of gourds like these.
ENJOY: Tell us about your soaps.
DENISE: The soaps we make by hand, and we have all kinds of scents, it just kind of depends what I feel like putting in there. I get a new scent, and then I go crazy with it. We also have some Star Wars-themed soaps now, which are fun. There’s one that is in the shape of Han Solo frozen in carbonite that is especially funny. 
We put the luffa that we grow in most of our soaps. Most people don’t know that luffa is a vegetable; they think it’s something that comes from the sea. But they’re part of the gourd family and we let them grow and dry on the vine. At that point they are really ugly and moldy, but when we bleach them and clean them, they become very beautiful and delicate…and then we can cut them up and use them.

ENJOY: Where can people buy your creations?
DIANA: We sell in quite a few places: Embellish & Restore in Visalia, but also Hometown Emporium and All Dolled Up Salon & Boutique in Exeter; Colors Gallery & Gift Shop in Three Rivers; and Virtuous Woman Boutique in Woodlake. And we do take custom orders, mostly through our Facebook page.
    We’re also at the Saturday farmer’s market in Visalia during the fall. 

ENJOY:  What’s your plan going forward?
DENISE: We’d like to sustain what we have been doing. My favorite thing about this business is that I get to work alongside my husband and my family. It’s just great to be all together.

Dirty Bird Gourds and Soaps • (559) 909-5331
Instagram @DirtyBirdGourds