Missy Miles: Living The Gourd Life
Missy Miles lives in a world of polar opposites. On the one hand sits a talented and creative artist; on the other hand, an energetic and hard-working business woman. Missy is the owner of Organic Vessels Studio and Gallery, a destination stop located in Hamilton, AL. Her specialities are fine art gourds and planned murals.
Missy's background is in interior design. She worked in that field for many years and states "I am very proud and honored by my past opportunities, however, I could not be more satisfied with my current position of 'Living The Gourd Life'."
And living the gourd life she does. Her studio is filled with colorful river otters, Sphinx cats, assorted fish, turtles and more. There is not an animal or thing that Missy cannot sculpt from a gourd. Her approach to design is quite impulsive at times and sometimes very charted. Her wonderful sense of color is innate. Missy says that when it comes to color she can see (in her head) the tone or intensity before she actually executes the application. In a nutshell she just goes with her gut on color; knock on wood!
(In the following photo is Eyelene, a part of Missy's Fish Series. Eyelene's job is to bring awareness to eye disease or trauma. Eyelene is here to remind us to always wear eye protection when needed.)
In the beginning Missy just painted whole gourds. She then invested in a Dremel with a flex shaft; her "go to" bit was the 1/2" sanding drum. She has worn out 3 of these units over the past 8 years and has gone though 100's of sanding drums. (She uses the spent sanding drums for adornment in her other art.) This summer Missy received a Gourd Master Pro Carver 2 as a gift and it has changed her life. Now she has a full range of motion for her wrist making everything easier and smoother going.
Her philosophy is that if you want to be good it is important to study the best in the business. For example Missy has studied Bonnie Gibson's wildlife creations and her use of filigree cut-outs to highlight the main design elements. Also at the top of her list is Jordan Straker's masterful carvings which make a gourd appear to be leather. The wonderment of Mark Doolittle inspires her to not stop to soon. Missy advises others to take the time for a perfect finish; sand every edge and polish it off with a perfect topcoat. The extra time and eye for detail and perfection will make your art one of a kind, professional and unique.
As you can well imagine being both an artist and a business woman presents many challenges. Managing money and time are crucial to keep everything going. Promoting her work at juried art shows is a gamble and investment in advertisement and marketing are vital. Many artists are introverts and shy away from the lime light. Missy has found that it is essential to be able to step away from her comfort zone and speak to different organizations, church groups and clubs not to mention the general public. The bottom line is that it is important to get your name and art out there - that is how you will become successful.
In addition to fine art gourds Missy has to date completed 33 planned murals. Her first mural was at a private residence in Nashville, TN in 1993. She gradually moved to outdoor murals in Guin, AL. After completing the "Arch" mural in 2007 in Guin word got around and many surrounding communities contacted Missy to do projects they wanted to have done.
Many of Missy's murals are a means of depicting a town's first beginnings and preserving its history. Others honor the Military or an individual. Working on some of these walls is a spiritual and emotional experience for Missy.
Missy loves the outdoor murals as she gets to meet lots of folks walking by. She kids that she is going to write a book about some of the people she has met. This past June and July Missy was on a mural spree and completed 10. They were indoors and much smaller in nature.
Long term plans include the improvement of skills and time management. Her dream is to have more time to spend on her work; the art she could create if she did have more time! Her business Organic Vessels Studio/Gallery has grown over the past 7 years and will remain to be Missy's focus.
Organic Vessels is in an excellent location - #4 on the Marion Co. Arts trail - and this year Missy will spend time promoting the gallery as a destination stop. She has joined the Alabama Mountain Lake Tourism Association and plans to attend many seminars and workshops to promote both her art and the gallery. Also in the works is a brochure which Missy will design herself. In the gallery Missy is expanding her product line by adding a collection of her Father's wood-turned vessels.
On the home front Missy's family comes before anything else and time with friends is very important as well. To sum things up Missy
says "It is important to me to be the 'Vessel' that God wants me to be, and the 'Vessels' he wants others to see."
To see more of Missy Mile's work click here:
For Missy's Facebook site click here:
To visit Jerry Brown's Pottery click here:
The Ornament Express
Every year the Christmas boxes come out of the basement; boxes that contain decades of treasures and memories. The family collection of Christmas ornaments consists of store-bought as well as the special hand-made ornaments made by the kids or received as gifts. They are passed down from generation to generation and even if you move across the country, there will always be a little space in the truck for that family box of Christmas ornaments.
Historically Christmas trees were decorated with apples, nuts, sweets and pastries shaped like flowers and stars. As time passed glass beads made an appearance along with hand-sewn snowflakes. Now there are shops that are dedicated to one theme - Christmas!
As gourd artists it is a real joy to be able to make our own Christmas decorations. Place a few in a nice gift box with a ribbon and they will be a keepsake for some lucky recipient.
Need some ideas? Following are a few links to YouTube videos worth checking out.
Bernadedette Fox "Painting With Wax"
The Woodland Elf's Gourd Snowman
Make A Gourd Santa
Out Of The Mailbag
Hi Carolyn and Linda,
I met you in Ottawa a few years ago and am looking forward to seeing you again this year. As you can see from my photographs I enjoy painting gourds and giving them to my kids and family. I want to make a cute little purse for my grand-daughter and will come to visit your farm to buy more gourds.
I did grow gourds this year but they were thin walled. I did give my daughter in Utah some of the seed I bought from you and she had a beautiful crop. Better weather for gourds down there. Anyways here are the photos...see you soon.
Renee Bourgeois - Ottawa
Thank you Renee, Love the snowman and we bet the birds will return year after year to nest in your birdhouses. See you in Ottawa. Carolyn
I have been receiving your newsletter for a couple of years now and really enjoy it. The artists you feature inspire me in my own work and I love all the trivia, especially the music picks. I have recently relocated to Ontario and am not far from you. It is my plan to follow your workshop schedules in the spring and sign up. I plan to bring my sister who I know will quickly be converted into a gourd-head! Have a nice holiday season and keep up the good work.
Pat Johnson - Peterborough, Ontario
Despite geography, cultural background or history, most humans are compassionate and want only love and security for both themselves and their families. How can we, as single individuals, make a difference in today's precarious world. One way is by joining the "Pay It Forward" movement.
Pay it forward is described on Wikipedia as "an expression for describing the beneficiary of a good deed repaying it to others rather that to the original beneficiary." It is a selfless act and proves that caring and kindness can make a difference.
Examples of simple acts that can be done are:
- Do something nice for someone you don't know. Buy a homeless person a coffee or lunch. If they have a dog buy something for them too.
- Look for opportunities to help someone in need. Maybe an elderly neighbour needs their leaves raked or sidewalk shovelled. When shopping a woman with a baby may need help loading her groceries into her car. There are thousands of ways you can help.
- Introduce yourself to a new co-worker or neighbour and make them feel welcome.
- Donate to local charity whether it be clothes or food or maybe your time.
Whatever you choose to do make it part of your lifestyle. It will make you feel good and make the recipient feel wonderful. It is the best win-win situation I know of for bringing people together.
Looking Ahead: January 2015
For many people New Year's is a time for celebration - out with the old, in with the new - a time to look at things in a fresh light. One thing that never changes at Northern Dipper are the beautiful relationships we have formed over the years with our customers.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have supported Northern Dipper whether it is through purchasing gourds and supplies, attending workshops, stopping to say hello at the shows or dropping us an email.
We would also like to thank the incredible artists who have been featured in this newsletter. Each month we are impressed by their generosity and the amazing art that graces these pages. We often think about how the humble gourd has created such a strong art community and that is in part, what art is all about.
We send all of you our warmest thoughts and best wishes. Have a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year. See you next year!
Carolyn Cooper and Linda Bond