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Slot Canyon by Phyllis Sickles

In This Issue: Some people love art as an interest or hobby. Others are born with the creativity and drive to make it a life-time pursuit in one way or another. This month's guest is one of those people.

Phyllis Sickles was born with a passion for art and eventually taught art in the school system for 32 years. Now retired she has turned her interest to gourds and the art she is producing is being exhibited in galleries and art shows in the U.S. Finely detailed, Phyllis's art is a reflection of her personality. Please welcome Phyllis Sickles in this July issue of Gourd Fever.
The gourd growers are busy at this time of year with pollination, pruning and watching their gourds grow at a rapid rate. It is also the season of the cucumber beetle in the garden. In The Gourd Gardener we will be talking about this little pest, pollination and pepos.
Lots of mail and other great things. Check out the music pick this month - it will bring a tear to your eye. Plus gourd sightings from Cozumel, Mexico too. First up however, our guest of honour, Phyllis Sickles.  

Phyllis Sickles: Lifelong Passion Runs Calm and Deep

            Each butterfly is carved from a gourd.
As a child Phyllis traveled with a pencil and paper in hand never knowing what would be around the next corner. Whether it was flowers, trees or other objects from her environment her pages would soon be filled and onto the next book. This attraction to sketch did not diminish and once older she made the decision to pursue a Bachelor's Degree in Art. Phyllis graduated and proceeded to teach art in the school system for the next 32 years.
While teaching she worked mostly in oils, watercolors and acrylics. She also did some carving. Once retired she moved to Tucson and it was here that she was introduced to gourds.  
Tuscon is a beautiful town filled with lots of little shops and venues. One day while exploring, Phyllis came across some beautiful gourds with a Southwestern design. She was not familiar with Southwestern patterns but sensed that gourds were a perfect medium to utilize all the skills she had gathered thoughout her lifetime.
At the time Phyllis knew nothing about gourds or where to get them but they intrigued her. She purchased Jim Widess' first book Gourd Crafting and then proceeded to travel to Ohio where she bought gourds. Next she sought out some gourd clubs, did research on the Internet and much to her surprise found a gourd supplier (Wuertz Farm) just up the road from her. She was set and has not worked with anything other than gourds since.
The need to express realism in such detail can be both good and bad depending on the moment. As you can imagine it can sometimes prove to be challenging for Phyllis but in the end the work is superior. Phyllis states that she has tried to loosen up but it is just not is not how she views her subject matter or art.
When discussing style, Phyllis claims that hers has not changed much over the years but it has, at the same time, vastly improved. When people see her work they know it is hers without looking at the name tag. Phyllis has a large following and her lovely images and clean, professional look are, as it turns out, her trademarks.
Her subject matter is normally taken from nature. This great love has grown stronger since childhood and Phyllis never tires of it. She struggles with added embellishments and patterns that require precise measurements, (Symmetrical design patterns) Since they are not fun Phyllis concentrates on the type of work she enjoys doing and is good at.
After teaching art for 32 years Phyllis has had her fill. Often her studio is filled with gourders and Phyllis will gladly share her techniques with others but she is not interested in having formal classes. She has exhibited in many galleries and is actually looking for a new gallery right now. She does the Wuertz Festival every year where she loves to meet up with old and new friends from across the U.S.
When creating Phyllis does not focus on what is happening in the world but rather on the beauty of nature. In her mind her artwork is more of an escape from the unsettled world she sees daily in the news. It is her constant hope that the joy she feels in her art will be reflected in the faces of those who see it. With an increase in art shows, art fairs and galleries it is an opportunity for both herself and other artists to project their own agenda in their work.
Phyllis's life is consumed by gourds but in her downtime she can be found working in her garden. She spends time watching the birds, walking with her dog buddies in the morning and having play days with her gourding buddies. Every day is a delight for Phyllis Sickles and we are so happy that gourd art is apart of it.

Out of The Mailbag

Hi Carolyn,
I am Amanda McNab and we talked about 1 hour ago. I have attached the 3 pictures as promised.
Each of these gourds took about 1 year to do. I spent a lot of time just thinking about what I wanted to do.
The first two won the "Off The Wall" art section at the Erin Fall Fair last year and the year before. The final gourd is one which I may enter this year.
I hope I can come and take a course this year. All the things that can be done with gourds - What fun!
Thanks for sending the seeds. Amanda
Thank you Amanda. These are beautiful gourds and I can understand why the top 2 are chosen winners. The 3rd is too; it's just undeclared at the moment. Carolyn

Gourd Sighting

 Gourds were seen at a replica Mayan village.
Hello everyone,
It was a brutal winter here in Ontario so we, along with my daughter and her friend, took off to Cozumel, Mexico for 1 week. It was glorious! Here are a few gourd sightings we saw while touring.                                                             Carolyn
 All of these were seen in a small gift shop.

Looking Ahead: September 2014

Best Friends Working Together
We first met Bill Colligen a couple of years ago when he was a featured artist. Bill's art was impressive; meticulously detailed and not easy to forget. Since that time Bill has been busy and it will be such a pleasure to re-connect with him and get caught up in the September issue of Gourd Fever.
In the garden the gourds will be large and heavy. Harvest is around the corner (after the first hard frost) and that is what we will be talking about in The Gourd Garden.
Before we close here is a little treat for the readers who are flower-lovers. That photo on the right is a Himalayan Blue Poppy. My friend started 6 plants last year from seed and planted them out in her garden. They didn't do well and that was that or so she thought at the time. This year one came up! It is a magical plant...the blue is the purest blue I have ever seen in nature. Thought you might enjoy it, I know I did.
So that's it for this July issue. Make sure to fit in some vacation time this summer and we'll see you again in September.
                          Carolyn Cooper and Linda Bond 


PS Ideas, photos or stories you would like to share? Send them to


 Volume 10, Number 109 


In this issue:

Phyllis Sickles: Lifelong Passion Runs Calm and Deep
The Bulletin Board: News From Northern Dipper

The Gourd Gardener: The Three P's - Pollination, Pests and Pepos
Summer Workshops Now In Session!

Out Of The Mailbag, Gourd Sightings & Trivia

The Bulletin Board
   Summer Savings!
25% off on selected swan and canteen gourds. These are too thin for carving but are a painter's dream. Stock Up Today!
  Other selected varieties...
 The price: $3.00 each
For more info click here:

Phyllis Sickles

"My work begins with something that I have seen, heard or experienced that excites me. Usually it is the challenge as to whether I can make it out of gourds. I get the idea and then hunt in my gourd stash for just the right gourd."
"As you probably know one can never have too many gourds. If there are imperfections in the shell, just incorporate them into the design."

"I'll hunt the Internet for reference photos and use parts of many photos of a subject to create my own designs. I always draw right on the gourd with no preliminary sketching.
The design is always pictured in my mind before I start."
"The main subject covers the largest part of the gourd. From there, I work in the background."
"If it is a gourd that will have many cutouts, I concentrate on the negative space as well as the subject and try to make sure those spaces are not too large. I watch the placement of shapes to make sure they are overlapping and not have shapes that are just barely touching each other."
Advice For New Artists
"Experiment with a variety of techniques and styles. Once you find a style or technique that you like, expand on it. I believe that when you love what you are doing, it shows in your work."
"Practice, practice, practice...the more you do, the better your work. When I look back on the work I did in the beginning I thought it was pretty darn good. It was OK for a beginner but doesn't  compare to what I do now." 
"My long term plan is to continue with gourds until the joy and excitement has worn off or I'm too old to use my Foremon. I'll probably die with the Foreman in my hand!"
To learn more about Phyllis Sickles and her art click here:

The Gourd Gardener

July is a highlight for gardeners and at this time of year, for first time gourd growers, it can be quite the thrill. Gourds are quickly growing left, right and center and at night there are still lots of flowers.
Most gourds take 120 days to mature so after early August anything that is pollinated won't make it to maturity. In other words, don't waste your time hand - pollinating at this time. Just let them be and nature will take care of things.
Once your trellised gourds get large and heavy, support them using panty-hose. Let the gourd sit in the "bum compartment" and secure the legs to the trellis. 
Cucumber Beetles
This small spotted or striped insect can be either a friend or foe depending on their numbers. Small populations can be great pollinators; too many and they will eat your vines and the gourds too.

Another problem with large numbers of cucumber beetles is that it increases the chances of contacting bacteria wilt. Wilt will quickly destroy your crop - a devastating experience to a grower.
If you have cucumber beetles contact your local nursery. They have products and advice to help.
For more information there is lots on the internet about both cucumber beetles and bacterial wilt.

Baby gourds turn brown and fall off the vine when the female flower is not pollinated. These are called pepos. 

It's A Dog's Life

 "If a dog's prayers were answered....
bones would rain from the sky."
A controversial subject among dog owners is whether or not
to give their dog bones. Dogs
have been eating bones for hundreds of years and common claims are that bones help clean the teeth while providing extra stimulation for your pup. In addition bones are a good source of calcium and phosphorus and are completely digestible.
At the same time others believe that bones can splinter causing tooth and internal damage. 
By following a few guidelines bones can be a safe treat that your dog will enjoy. Please....
1.) Never give your dog cooked bones. They will splinter and cause damage to your dog. (Chicken and pork are the worst.)
2) Never give your dogs cut up neck bones. These can be a choking hazard.
3.) Feed them large, meaty bones from your butcher. (Mickey gets bones from his pal Mike on a regular basis. He eats the marrow and the meaty bits and leaves the bone for us to dispose of.) 
4.) Avoid bones like cow femurs - these are so hard and brittle they can chip or crack a dog's tooth. 
If you are unsure how your dog will respond to bones keep a close eye on him. Lastly, if he is a "gulper" or is overly possessive of a bone, you may just want to avoid bones entirely.  

 Music Pick of the Month

The Artists:
Attraction Black Light & Shadow Theatre 
Performance # 1 
Performance # 2

 Northern Dipper Workshops
Now In Session!

  Summer is the time to get together with friends and family to do the things that you love. One activity that always receives rave reviews are the workshops held at Northern Dipper Farm.
The workshops are theme-orientated, fun and a real opportunity to get to know other gourders in the area. The instructors are pros and make the learning experience one of ease. Most workshops are geared to beginners.
To learn more about the workshops click here:

 Published by: Pam Grossi Victoria, BC, V8R 2Z7


Northern Dipper 
 PO Box 1145
5376 County Road 56, Cookstown, Ontario
L0L 1L0,  Canada
(705) 435-3307
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Northern Dipper Farm - 5376 County Road 56, RR2, Cookstown, Ontario, L0L 1L0, Canada