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In This Issue: Every once in a while an individual enters your life with stories that are full of adventure and great experiences. Add in a large dose of creativity and you would be describing Nancy Miller, this month's featured artist. Nancy has always dabbled in art but in 1986, in a Japanese noodle restaurant that didn't serve dinners, a few pieces of beautiful paper and a small box changed her life. Boxes turned to eggs, and then gourds and now the rest is history. A world-class artist, please welcome Nancy Miller in this May issue of Gourd Fever.  

It was a long horrible winter this year in many parts of Canada and the U.S. but now the time has come where we can get our hands in the soil and play. The Gourd Gardener does just that beginning with choosing an appropriate spot, preparing the bed for planting and then the highlight  -  planting the seedlings. A few easy tips will get you on your way - get ready to have some fun!   
Lots in the mailbag this month plus a little trivia and a music pick with gourd instruments. But before we get to that let us introduce our featured artist Nancy Miller.
(Teapot and sculpture pictured above are the work of Nancy Miller) 

Nancy Miller: Beginning The Dialogue Through Art


Nancy was born in Detroit, Michigan and by the time she was five years old she knew wanted to

be an artist. Once grown she attended college
and majored in art graduating with a "bachelor of arts" degree. Her first job was teaching 7th and
8th grade at a junior high school in Arizona. At
this time she also got married but within a year and a half her husband died of cancer. He had
just turned 24 and had been working on his master's degree. 
Nancy was a shy woman and even though she was surrounded by a wonderful and supportive family she knew she had to do something brave and start again. She applied to the airlines and was hired by Pan Am as a stewardess (as they were called back then).
In 1966 she was based in San Francisco and her very first trip was to Tokyo. But most of the flying for the first 8 years was to Viet Nam on military charters during the war. Eventually Nancy saw much more of the world during her 37 year career with Japan and India being her most favorite destinations.

In 1986, during a layover in Narita Japan, Nancy went to a paper craft class which was held in a noodle restaurant that didn't serve dinner. She quickly went from covering boxes and then eggs with beautiful Yuzen papers. The eggs ranged from quail to ostrich and once decorated were sold at little community craft fairs.
Nancy was then discovered by a wonderful store called Dandelion in San Francisco (where she still sells). Dandelion sells the most beautiful things from Japan. They also act as sales reps for a few unique American artisans. One day they asked Nancy if she put papers on stones and told Nancy to run with the idea.
Two weeks later Nancy sent photos of her first two stones and the rest is history. Her paperwork stones were carried by 17 different museum shops around the country including the Guggenheim in NY, The Chicago Art Institute and the L.A. County Art Museum. Nancy created a lot of stones and within 7 years, had paid off her house in Indiana.
Late one night, while on a crew bus in Bejing China, Nancy showed her crew mates her stones and eggs. One fellow started to tell Nancy about gourds and she asked him to pick up 5 gourds for her the next time he visited a gourd farm.
Once received she applied Japanese papers and gold leaf on the gourds and sold them at an art gallery in Maui. Someone then suggested she go visit The Caning Shop in Berkley, CA. Jim Widess took one look at her work and told her that if he had met her sooner he would have featured her art in The Complete Book Of Gourd Craft. Nancy states that Jim is the nicest and best cheerleader a gourd artist could possibly have and still makes it a point to stop by to get Jim's take on her latest creations.
Nancy participated in 2 juried outdoor shows in Sausaliro, CA and did very well. But it was too far a distance from her home in Indianapolis so she changed her strategy and showed at a few small galleries in the general Indianapolis area. Eventually a fellow flight attendant who lived in Seattle asked Nancy to send her a portfolio so she could show it to local galleries. It resulted in the best sales Nancy had ever had.
Other interests in life are bowling in two leagues every week and going to "arthritis" swim classes at the Y. Nancy loves good movies and can often be seen at afternoon matinees with a friend. With a son, daughter-in-law and grandson in San Francisco, she often goes visiting there as well.
There is a lovely man in her life and most weekends they are out on the town taking in Cabaret performances and dinners. Nancy leads a happy creative life and has plans to continue to create and explore. We have no doubt that Nancy's plan will come to fruition and we look forward to seeing other fabulous and imaginative art coming our way.
Nancy does not have a website but here is a link where you can see more of her work...

Artists At Work: Gourd Art Classes At Northern Dipper 

Hi there, 
After experiencing and completing many workshops at Northern Dipper conducted by Carolyn Cooper and other knowledgeable instructors, I can honestly say that each workshop is always fun and extremely informative. It seems as though new friendships are made at each workshop as well.
Instructions and helpful hints are abundant for the project at hand or on working with hard-shell gourds in general. Each student leaves, at the end of the day, with a completed project that they can be proud of.   
Thanks for the experience.    
                                                Bronwyn Clark 
Good morning Northern Dipper, 
Last year was the first for me to do anything with gourds and I got 'hooked.' I blame Carolyn and Linda for that! I had so much fun at the classes and always felt extremely welcome.
Carolyn is an excellent teacher and keeps her classes small so everyone gets a lot of attention. I have done the thunder drum, ocean drum, egg shell application, cheese cloth application, sculptured leaves, stippling, carving, big garden bird and a Santa Claus.
I look forward to more classes this year. A number of people took multiple classes so I got to know several people I would have never met otherwise. Thank you Carolyn.
                                   Bev Sprayson 
For details on Northern Dipper workshops click here:

The Gourd Gardener: Easy Tips On Prep and Planting

Carolyn's niece and nephew playing in the gourd garden 

It is the beginning of May and my seedlings are looking as though they cannot wait until they are out in the garden basking in the summer sun. Before that joyous event happens however there are a few things that have to be done before we plant.
Gourds love heat and sun so planting in a southern exposure will allow your plants to thrive. Do you plan to trellis or grow them spreading over the ground? Considerations: Space (gourd vines are thick and long) Water - they require a fair bit so you may want to plant close to a water source.
-Takes up less room and is easy to prune.
-Your trellis must be strong; gourds look great along a chain link fence and provide privacy.
-In the fall they can be left hanging to dry.
-To achieve straight handles in long handled dippers they must be grown on a trellis.
Ground Grown
-Best to provide 6 feet between your rows, 4 feet between your plants.
-Large heavy gourds such as Bushels should be grown on the ground.
-In the fall ground grown gourds will have to be cut from the vine and stored for drying (after a killing frost).
Small mini gourds are lovely in containers; a perfect plant for children to grow. Build a small trellis with chicken wire and you will have a nice looking plant all summer long.
Hardening Off
Once the days are nice and warm start setting  your gourd seedlings outside in a warm semi-sheltered spot. This will make them stronger and ready for planting.   

Out Of The Mailbag

Hi Carolyn,                                   

I just wanted to send you a short email to show you my first attempt at working with a gourd. If you will remember Joan and I were in last week to see you for the first time. I'm so happy you are so close - you will be seeing me again soon.
                            Thanks, Doug Allen
PS Here is a picture of Joan and myself with more of my art.
Hi Doug,
It is so nice to hear from you. I must say that your first attempt is awesome and I can only imagine the art that you will be creating in the very near future. We look forward to seeing you and Joan again soon. Carolyn

Hello everyone,

The photos below and to the right are birdhouses made by Kevin Urech.
This kind-hearted and generous man enjoys making both birdhouses and feeders and then giving them to his neighbours and friends. He uses elastics around the gourds and paints them different colours...everyone is a one of a kind piece. We just love them and think you, the readers, will too.

(Gourd birdhouses are a favorite for nesting birds and they will come back to their house year after year. When building birdhouses research the hole size as you don't want them too big. Make sure to put a couple of drainage holes in the bottom too.)

Looking Ahead: July 2015  

Sculpted Figure Created by Carolyn Cooper. All parts are hand molded.

July is an exciting month for us as we get to meet up with Ontario artist Beth Peart. Beth is an extremely talented artist who uses gourds with some regularity in her work. Intricate, unique beadwork on gourds among other things make Beth's work stand out in the crowd. A fascinating woman it is an honour to feature Beth Peart in the upcoming July issue of Gourd Fever.
Good luck with your gourd planting. May the weather be co-operative and the days long and hot. Get ready for late June and July pollination and then it is just a matter of watching those gourds grow. And grow they will if you give them a good start with a well prepped spot and a little 20-20-20 fertilizer.
The old mail- bag is over-flowing these days and it is so interesting we want to share it. We love the mail so please send in your stories and photos and do keep in touch.
Until next time, happy gourding!
                           Carolyn Cooper and Linda Bond 

PS If you have any stories or ideas that you would like to contribute to this newsletter please send to







Volume 11, Number 114 


In this issue:

Nancy Miller - Beginning The Dialogue Through Art
The Bulletin Board - News From Northern Dipper
Artists At Work: Gourd Art Classes At Northern Dipper
The Gourd Gardener - Easy Tips On Prep and Planting 

Out Of The Mailbag, Gourd Sightings & Trivia

     The Bulletin Board

 Upcoming Gourd Art Classes

Come on out to Northern Dipper for fun-filled art classes which are guaranteed to be both relaxing and educational.  
Beginning To End
May 9, 2015
Rimming With Suede
May 10, 2015
Iridescent Texture Vase
May 16, 2015
Stippling (Pointillism)
May 17, 2015
Philodendron Couching 
May 30, 2015

Nancy Miller

"My approach to art is very eclectic. I am influenced by other cultures ranging from Japan to Africa and Australian aborigines. Other art forms which inspire me are sculpture, glass, ceramics, wood and paintings."

"I am inspired by the gourds themselves and by materials (mostly from nature, but not always.) Bones, thread, seed pods, bamboo, beads...I love them all. I even have some small glass laboratory tubes that I have been thinking about using for over 15 years."
"My biggest challenge in my art is figuring out how to execute technically what I want to accomplish."

 "Most of the techniques I use in my creations have just come from my desire to create a certain piece or look. I have taken some classes but have not continued the techniques that were taught apart from resist dying. And I have expanded on that."

"When I get an inspiration or idea, I usually create a few pieces in that vein...I just have to see what happens or to get it out of my system. I like feed back from anyone, good or bad. Art is very subjective isn't it?"

Advice To New Artists
"Have fun, let the whole world be your inspiration, there are no rights or wrongs to this. If you are not enjoying it, do something else. Don't be afraid to experiment."
"Art makes life richer for the person creating it and for the person seeing it. And that person is often in a "co-creator" person. We as artists just begin the dialogue and the art is further enriched by the mind's eye and heart of the person looking at it."
"For the past 5 years I have been an Indiana Artisan, a statewide juried group of artists and foodists. We have a big show at the Indiana State Fair grounds Expo hall the last week in March." 
 Nancy's Basement
Nancy has been featured in 3 of Jim Widess's and Ginger Summit's books:
- The Complete Book of Gourd Carving (pgs 139-145)
- Making Gourd Dolls and Spirit Figures (pg 99) and
- Gourd Pyrography (pg 80)  

Artists At Work  
Dear Northern Dipper,
I have just come from your art class titled Stippling (Pointillism) and must admit I am all pumped up with the new knowledge I gained this afternoon. I cannot wait to get down to my workshop to apply it to a nice new gourd.
I should let you know that I have attended a few of your classes starting with Beginning To End. That really filled in the blanks for me and got me on my way in this crazy gourd world. Oh the ideas I have!  
In short, thank you for the fine afternoon. It was a beautiful drive up and it is always nice to see you. I learned a lot and met new friends. It goes without saying that I will see you again very soon.
Simone LeDuc
Port Dover, Ontario 

The Gourd Gardener
Prepping The Bed
Gourds love a rich soil with a pH of 6.0-6.5. Load up with compost and dig in well.
To warm the soil (and control weeds later on) cut open large black garbage bags and spread out. This method also keeps the moisture in; important if you are living in an area experiencing drought.
For watering a trickle hose can be spread out under the plastic.
It's Planting Day!
Rip a hole in the plastic and dig your hole. If you have 2 seedlings per Jiffy Pot gently rip the pot in half and plant 1 seedling per hole. To give them a good start place a circle of 20-20-20 fertilizer about 1 1/2 inches away from the stem. Water. (*Keep the roots moist - the leaves don't like to be wet.)
Your plants are going to go into shock and droop. Don't you go into shock now - within a couple of days the seedlings will resume their previous glory.   
Gourd Sighting  

We love this gourd sighting of Winston. Winston is Carolyn's niece's dog and he is what you might call "a dog with personality." Here he is wearing his custom made gourd hat. He loves his hat and we bet that all his pals wish they had one too. 

It's A Dog's Life

 Summer is almost here and along with it come the fleas.  These tiny brown insects causes unbelievable scratching and if your dog or cat are sensitive, fleas can result in hair-loss, inflammation and secondary skin infections.

Fleas are hard to deal with and if a serious infestation occurs your house and bedding will have to be cleaned out too.
To deal with fleas many pet owners use preventable flea remedies such as Advantage. They are fast, easy and effective and require a once-a-month application. There are also medicated flea removal products such as shampoos, sprays and powders.
 Natural treatments such as essential oils (i.e. lavender), lemon and apple cider vinegar are gaining popularity and are worth while looking into.
For more information here are a couple of websites including one which deals with fleas in your house.
and Home

Kevin Urech's Birdhouses


Music Pick Of The Month
The Artists: Faran Ensemble
The Songs:
Oriental Music
Amiri 3

 Published by Pam Grossi Victoria, BC, V8R 2Z7 

Northern Dipper
 PO Box 1145
 5376 County Rd 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