Note: If using Outlook click the above bar where it says “Click to download photos” The photos are the best part!
Red Skye by David Sisk
In This Issue: Many of us have been in the position that David Sisk found himself in a few years ago. At home we produce some pretty fine art but at the same time we have secure jobs that pay the bills. The question is: Would you give up that pay cheque up for your art?
David Sisk played with this question for a long time and one day he bit the bullet, handed in his resignation and became a full-time artist. His sense of design quickly put him on the map and soon his masks found their way into collections throughout North America and Europe. They have been exhibited in many high-end galleries and at art shows. David's story is as fascinating as his art. Please welcome David Sisk to this January issue of Gourd Fever.
We get lots of interesting mail and many times throughout the year we get asked questions about doing shows. In light of this we are doing a series of three articles covering things such as how to find a show, booth design and price points to what promotional material to use. It will be fun and may be food for thought for those of you who have thought about it but not acted on it.
It wouldn't be Gourd Fever without our trivia section. We think the Music Pick of the Month is good as is our Gourd Sighting sent in all the way from Thailand. Now it is time to meet David Sisk.
David Sisk -"Being In The Moment"
David Sisk's introduction to gourds was a serendipitous one. About 10 years ago a friend of his made a comment about how people use to make vessels out of gourds. Aside from David hardly caring at all, his friend kept at him "I've got a wood burner and shoe polish - come over and make a bowl." He finally gave in but having no background in art David had no idea on what to do with the thin brittle gourds. As fate may have it he ended up cracking his.
Embarrassed and rather than ask for another gourd, David got the idea of cutting the gourd in half and making a mask. After a few more masks over the course of a couple of months, David finally asked himself the magic question, "Would he consider selling one?"
David had always been an observer of art but not an active participant; as a matter of fact the thought never crossed his mind. As a teenager, he figured he'd either be a professional football player or a rock star. Simple as that. In college, while studying music performance and education (the education- his parent's idea) David payed his way by working nights at a hospital in the neonatal ICU pushing papers. It was a great job because it gave him a chance to do homework and play his guitar. And then a marvelous thing happened.
The pediatric cardiologists would come in at night and play with a new modality with ultrasound called a color Doppler. The sound's of the machine as well as the colors struck a chord with him. David started standing over their shoulder asking questions, and with the beauty of youth and being naive, he started convincing them that they should teach him. After months of this, the head cardiologist basically told him that if "he'd shut up, they'd teach him."
For the next 15 years David became a pediatric echocardiographer and thought it was the best gig ever. That is until his friend Eric brought up the gourd question. David states. "Now fortunately, I didn't grow up wealthy, and I knew what it was like to have nothing. The natural question to me was, what if the gourd thing worked? That question was always in the back of my mind since I started to make masks. Finally, I knew it would drive me crazy if I didn't try so I put in my letter of resignation later that year and became a full-time artist."
David's sense of design and style quickly set him apart from other artists. His style is constantly changing and evolving even though this gradual change is not a conscious effort on David's part.
Better tools have had an impact along with experience but there are times when David feels a little stagnant. When mistakes happen he turns them around and makes them work. He will actually recreate those errors on purpose on his next mask...those mistakes are his biggest source of "the next thing."
As an artist, David feels that the artist has a responsibility to provide an escape from all the turmoil and craziness we're exposed to. In addition to aesthetic beauty, he feels it is also the role of the artist to challenge the accepted definition of what is and isn't art. He believes that the artist must rise above those expectations to create what's in his or her heart and put it out there. As you can imagine this is not always easy.
At the shows, while setting up his booth, the fear is always "Will the public like them? Will they laugh? Or worse...Will they ignore them?" David is not certain whether this initial insecurity ever goes away, but the acceptance he's received has given him the freedom to try different things rather than only make what sells and has a track record of popularity. In David's mind, to become a mass producer of the same mask over and over sounds like a dreadful job!
While David is the first to give credit to those that teach but the idea of teaching someone to find their own voice in art isn't something that sits well with him. David did not take any classes, and while his learning curve would have been much faster, he relishes the failures, the challenges and the steps it has taken him to find his own voice with the masks. Technically, he says, there are better crafters than himself and that's OK. But for better or worst, he concludes, "my masks are...Me."
While David never became the rock star he thought he would be, music has been an essential part of his life. He plays in a band and is currently starting an acoustic duo with a dear friend. It will keep David in his element of creating and being in the moment. Being in the moment is crucial for David Sisk as it always reminds him that life is good.
It's Show Time! - "How to Find A Show"
We quite often get mail from individuals with questions about selling their art at trade shows. Normally we just respond privately but we thought it might be helpful to others who have these questions who do not write us.
We'll cover various aspects of "showtime" such as how to find a good show, booth set-up and display and setting your pricing. We'll also let you in on a few of our experiences-both good and bad that you may find entertaining if nothing else. Here is the first installment of It's Show Time! - "How To Find A Show"
Hi Northern Dipper,
I have been reading your newsletter for a long time and see that you do a lot of shows. I have been doing gourds for a few years now and friends are starting to tell me that I should be selling my work. I am a little hesitant - mainly because I am shy and I don't really know the first thing about doing a show. Can you offer me any words of advice?
Joanna Burkson - Georgia
Firstly I want you to know that almost everyone is hesitant when it comes to doing shows and selling their work. Questions that haunt them are "What if no one likes it and it doesn't sell?" There are lots of questions that flow through a person's mind but in the end "showtime" usually proves to be a rewarding experience.
The first thing to do is research what shows there are in your area. What types of shows you would like to do? Would you fit into a spring garden show? Are there summer festivals or Saturday morning markets in your area? Gourd art always does well at the fall and winter (Christmas) shows. Do you have your eye on the art shows?
You can do initial research on the internet to learn what is out there. Find the venues you would be interested in and walk them. Talk to the vendors as they are a wealth of information. They know the circuit and what shows are good and bad.
You will find that some shows are juried. This is where a selection committee looks at your work (usually through photographs) and then accepts you. A non-juried show is first come-first serve. Juried shows usually attract customers with a higher disposable income but the non-juried show has lots of customers who love to spend. This is where a good $20.00 item can be your saving grace. Non-juried shows are known for allowing imported goods.
Good luck, we are certain you will be successful. Just remember Theodore Roosevelt's quote, "Believe you can and you're half way there." Now if that's not the truth!
Carolyn and Linda
There is nothing nicer than sitting down to a bowl of fresh berries or "peas in the pod" but when it comes to fruits and vegetables sometimes fresh is not nearly as good as frozen. As reported by the SFGate.com, by the time these products travel from the farm to the store and then the fridge and table, many of the nutrients have disappeared.
The researchers compared the vitamin and mineral content of fresh and frozen strawberries, blueberries, corn, peas, green beans, broccoli and spinach in three southern U.S. states. In most cases it was found that the frozen were just as nutritious as the freshly-picked produce. As a matter of fact, in each state, the frozen peas had more vitamin C, A and folate than the fresh ones.
(Taken from The Globe and Mail, December 2013)
Looking Ahead: March 2014
We are thrilled to have with us artist Kristen Treuting. Kristen's gourd art is the study of movement. Flowing, sensuous lines transport you to a brook bubbling over pebbles or some other magical place in nature. Kristen is absolutely delightful; a perfect guest who loves life and the opportunities and challenges it poises.
In "It's Showtime" we'll talk about signing up, booth location, set-up and design. Shows can be very exciting and a little over-whelming when first venturing out. It is our hope that we can smooth the path for you which will make it much easier.
Stay warm everyone, January will soon be over. Spend some time pouring over the seed catalogs that are coming through the mail slot and get back to that gourd piece that needs finishing. See you in March....Carolyn Cooper and Linda Bond
PS Stories, photos or ideas... send them our way at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Volume 10, Number 106
In this issue:
David Sisk - "Being In The Moment"
The Bulletin Board - News From Northern Dipper
It's Show Time! - How To Find A Show
Out Of The Mailbag, Gourd Sightings & Trivia
The Bulletin Board
Happy New Year!
Another year behind us and we are about to embark with a clean slate in 2014. Traditionally many of us review the year and on a personal level New Year's resolutions are made. Good luck to those of you who have done this.
In 2014 one change that will be happening here at Northern Dipper is that this newsletter will be published every second month rather than every month. It will still be packed with good information and will still feature tremendous art and artists.
Our workshop schedules will not change. If anything they will get better with an expanded array of classes.
The farm visits will continue
as will our show schedules.
Every year gets better and better and we expect that 2014 will be our best year yet.
"Being in the moment is crucial for me, always reminding me that life is good."
Blue Quilled Hunter
"When I started making masks I made a conscious decision NOT to study the cultural significance of Native American, South American or African mask design. It didn't seem to be my place to be able to turn to page 77 in a book and knock off someone else's sacred designs."
"Not only that, but it has saved me from having to apologize when someone of that culture comes into my booth. On many occasions, I've been thanked for not copying the designs that they would have to get special permission from their tribal leaders to be
able to create."
"As far as inspiration goes, I'm inspired by everything I see. At art shows, the medium is unimportant. I see what other artists are capable of and am humbled...I'm forced to go home and do better after every show."
"My approach to design is completely a result of my artistic limitations. If you look at 99% of my work you'll see that there isn't any true "drawing" happening. The reason for this is simple. I can't draw to save my life!"
"This is probably why I waited until I was 39 to "become an artist." I equated ability to draw animals, landscape, etc. to artistic talent. With this limitation, I've been able to
find strengths in other
methods of creativity."
"Over the years, I've found pleasure in geometric designs, symmetry and have tried to take that in as many directions as possible."
Words Of Advice For New Artists
"While I've heard so many
of the starving artist stories, I haven't experienced much of that. When I started, I played WAY over my head, trying to surround myself with the most talented people I could find
and hope I could land on
my feet. While I haven't
always succeeded in this, I think it's the most important thing I can do."
"To the artists just starting out, don't worry about what's being done by others. Do what you do and try to do it well. Don't judge yourself too harshly. Make the very best work you can and put it out there to see the reaction."
"One of the hardest things for me was finishing a piece and finding out that maybe it wasn't my favorite mask. My grandfather had a saying that has served me very well. "There's an ass in every seat." I've learned a lot from that saying, finding that by putting
a mask on the wall that wasn't my favorite, it still spoke to someone."
" The other thing I might say is simply show up at every show or event with a smile and as much confidence as you can muster and hope for the best. Why? Because every person that comes into the booth is a potential collector. Sitting in the corner reading a book or not being willing to look them in the eye and engage will only assure failure."
"I've been extremely fortunate to have my work accepted at some of the best shows in the country. I've sold work all over the world and have the support of some amazing galleries. I
hope to continue to create work that makes me happy, and hope they continue to be appreciated (and purchased).
"Anyone who has done art shows knows how fickle the buying public is. As a result of this, I am always honored that someone is willing to put out their hard earned money to own a piece of mine."
"On the one hand, I'd love to be successful enough that commissioned work would sustain me. There is a satisfaction of knowing a piece is already sold when I start to work on it."
"On the other hand, it's essential to be at the shows, to see what people are reacting to or not reacting to, not to mention keeping an eye on what other artists are able to create to push me forward."
This photo is a collection of gourds seen in a marketplace in Koh Samui, Thailand. It was sent in by Kelly McBride who is Linda's niece. Thanks Kelly for thinking of us.
It's A Dog's Life
Winter weather can make our dogs frisky. Mickey, pictured above, loves swimming in the Pacific ocean in January and hiking up the mountains in zero degree temperatures.
Winter also brings things that we owners must be very careful with. They are as follows:
1.) Antifreeze: Never, ever leave vehicle antifreeze where your pet can get at it. This includes both dogs and cats. Antifreeze is highly toxic and it quickly causes kidney failure.
To make matters worse it has a smell and taste that is appealing to animals. If you spill it clean it up quickly and thoroughly. Store it in a place that is away from your animals.
2.) Rock Salt: If you live in a cold climate the chances are almost 100% that you will use some form of ice melt on your sidewalks. Rock salt is commonly used and it works great on cement but it is not good on your dog's paws or in his intestines.
If ingested it can cause gastrointestinal tract irritation, weakness, seizures and cardiac problems. When a dog walks on it it can cause dry, irritated paws.
To be safe wash your dogs paws when returning from a walk. (If your dog's underbelly is wet wash his belly too.)
Dry well. Another thing you can do is get booties. If your dog is active like Mickey I can guarantee that it will be tough keeping them on.
Music Pick of the Month
The Artist: Nora Jones
Angel (with Wax Poetic)
Live At LPR, NY
To learn about Nora Jones click here:
Published by: Pam Grossi Victoria, BC, V8R 2Z7 email@example.com
PO Box 1145
5376 County Rd 56
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© Northern Dipper 2014. All rights reserved. No portion of this newsletter may be used in any form without prior written permission from the authors.