In This Issue: We are honoured to have with us  California artist Betty Finch. An extraordinary 
woman, Betty is in many senses, a pioneer. Throughout her career in law enforcement Betty blazed the trail for women entering a male-dominated field. In the art world she has taken gourd art to a new level. Born an introvert, this amazing woman has taken risks and moved forward living a life that was both challenging and exciting. 
As a child, art was always predominate and as an adult, once time allowed, Betty's active imagination and creative juices resulted in designs that were absolutely mind-blowing. Her life size figures, horses, dogs and cats have stopped people dead in their tracks...some of her figures have used 40 gourds or more and taken years to complete! Please welcome Betty Finch to this March issue of Gourd Fever.
(Above: Betty's life size horse is made entirely of gourds. Below: Face of Evil - After 9-11 this sculpture of Osama Bin Ladin and the smoldering Twin Towers was created.)


Spring is right around the corner and we are gearing up for a big workshop season. We have some new specials listed just to the right and if you scroll down, there are photos of some of the workshops that will be featured. On our website we have listed the schedules -  more may be added at a later date.
Sometimes you just have to sleep on it to get that gourd inspiration or at least that is what Little Hannah thinks. 
Our mailbag is overflowing once again with readers sending in emails and photos of their work. The mail is intoxicating for us as we are constantly impressed with what people are doing with gourds.  We'll finish up in this issue with some engrossing trivia and thoughts of spring daffodils and tulips. But first let's get inspired with our featured artist Betty Finch.

The Wild World of Betty Finch 

Born in Indiana, Betty was raised in the desert outside the small town of Mojave, CA. As one of 9 children living on an art teacher's salary, Betty (and her siblings) would make many of their own toys out of plant materials, clay or reusable trash.
Many of Betty's childhood afternoons were spent fashioning carved Joshua Tree bark horses with leather manes or horse sculptures using broken aluminum TV antennae's with clay and glass eyes. She emulated Louis Pasteur by experimenting on plants making many unsuccessful attempts to graft plants in her pitiful desert garden year after year. Betty states that she came from humble beginnings and although being a middle child sometimes deprived her of attention, it all helped in the artist she was to become.

At age 23, married and desperate, Betty tied a sleeping bag on a Yamaha 500 and rode away escaping an abusive husband. For 2 years she lived under bridges and in park bathrooms. Working as a waitress she put herself through college. One day she parked her motorcycle in front of a printing shop and went inside to get a photocopy of a sketch she had done of herself on her bike. The owner asked if she had done the sketch and hired her on the spot. For the next two years Betty worked as a commercial artist and then she applied to became a deputy sheriff.

Back then a deputy sheriff made twice as much as a commercial artist plus it had great benefits. With this in mind Betty devised a plan; to work at what was traditionally a man's job, work until retirement age and then live off the retirement and do whatever art she wanted without regard to earning a living. She has, we are happy to report, accomplished that dream.
Betty blazed a lot of new trails for women; the first female Baliff, the first woman on patrol alone in Ridgecrest substation, the first female Homicide Detective and the first female to run the CSI Unit.
It was not easy back then as women were not welcomed. One supervisor told Betty "Women are only good for two things, screwing and frying eggs. Since I have no beds back there I have no place for you." A few months later Betty was working for him and a year later he told her that she was the best detective he had. 
In her off time Betty loved to walk, and one day she spotted some gourds growing on a fence. She couldn't help but think back to when she was a kid and what fantastic toys gourds could have be made into. The grower was generous and gave Betty seeds. Since that first gourd encounter Betty has had great fun growing gourds plus it has opened doors that Betty could not have imagined back then. 
That was 20 years ago now. She smiles and tells us that in the beginning of her gourd journey she was afraid to make anything but then she had the luck of meeting Jim Widess of The Caning Shop at a gourd festival in CA. He showed her how to use a gourd jigsaw and generously let her cut up one of his gourds to get over her "gourdphobia." Betty still has that first gourd shard she made using Jim's saw and with the jigsaw she bought, she has been making things ever since. 
In Betty's early work many horses were wood-burned. But within a few years the light shading oxidized and the details disappeared. This motivated Betty to shift to a style using the techniques used for 3-D sculptures. It was a perfect fit for her...she simply applied the skills she learned in facial reconstruction and looks at a gourd as a skull. She imagines what the face should look like and then proceeds.
Not wanting to cover the gourd completely with paint, Betty painstakingly colors the bits of clay used in the faces to match the natural gourd color. She wants the finished piece to look like it just grew that way with no lines to give away where pieces are joined or where the gourd ends and the clay begins. 
In addition to creating art, Betty has years of growing experience. Experimenting in the garden is truly what inspires Betty. She states that she has tortured many a gourd to see how much skin can be scraped off without killing the gourd. She has learned that a lot of dye can be injected into a gourd growing on the vine but when it comes to picking the gourd no dye will be evident. She will buy gourds for their genetic potential and will cross-pollinate two varieties hoping for a desired shape such as the knobby long gourds she uses for arms and legs. She will also shape them while growing to get the right curvature for limbs.
Molded gourds have always been a fascination as well. She became good friends with Jim Story, an American guru of the molded gourd. Here she learned the basics. She also went to China with Jill Walker (then California Gourd Society President) to speak at the International Forum on Gourds. Here she met Mr Zhang Cairi, a master at molding gourds. Betty was so impressed she wrote a book about him. (There will be links at the end of this article on where to get this informative book.) 
On this trip the Chinese people were wonderful hosts escorting Betty and Jill to the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and many other tourist destinations. She returned home with a new respect for the hard-working Chinese was a trip that is still fresh in her mind and will be for many years to come. 
Typically Betty does one or two exhibits a year. The past couple of years she has had large exhibits at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show, the National Heirloom Expo and the Bakersfield Music Festival. In the photo above Betty was at the Bakersfield Museum of Art Show. It brought people from miles around and was very successful.
She has taught in Florida, Indiana, Hawaii and all over California. Teaching is enjoyable but Betty hates the time organizing so she only teaches if someone looks after that part of it. In her off time she raises colorful appaloosa horses. Her Decker's Red Eagle Appaloosas bloodlines are a childhood dream come true. They are beautiful and artists are automatically drawn to them. 
A few years ago Betty contracted Lyme Disease and suffered some serious fungal lung infections as a result. When she was very ill her hair began to fall out. She saved enough for a wig which is now on her 9 foot ballerina and galloping horse. She still has Lyme but the good news is that she has beaten those incurable lung infections.
As we said in the beginning Betty is a pioneer who has had a very full life. She has been an inspiration for many people and it was an honour to have this talented artist as a featured artist. We will be looking out for future works coming from the wild world of Betty Finch. Until then...thank you Betty, you are a delight.
To view more of Betty's art click here: 
The Caning Shop: (Betty's book Mr. Zhang Cain's Molded Gourds can be bought here.)
The Jim Story Award:
Decker's Red Eagle Appaloosas 

A Sneak Preview of the Northern Dipper 2016 Workshops 

As you can see a large selection of enticing workshops awaits you this year. Get a few friends together and come on out for a few hours for pure escape and enjoyment. Learn while creating some fabulous gourd art; sign up today! 


The workshops are posted on our website. Check out the link below to get details.

For more information click here:

Out Of The Mailbag

Hello there,
I did a Google search for gourd seeds and found you. I tried growing birdhouse gourds one year and must have done something wrong because they didn't grow. I think the weeds had taken over so I'm going to try again with your seeds. I've also purchased a piece of land that will someday be my little gourd haven. Can't wait.
Carolyn, I read the message on your website and it seems we started liking gourds for the same reason. I received a Dremel from my boyfriend at Christmas and have been looking at Pinterest for project ideas. Now I want to go all out and grow gourds so I can let my artistic side loose on them.
I will be placing an order for a few gourds to practice on. I am an impatient and spur of the moment type person and little did I know I would have to wait 9 - 12 months before I could work on the gourds I plan to grow. Thank goodness you sell both gourds and seeds.
Well I just thought I would send you a message to say hello and that I too fell in love at first sight with gourds!
Sincerely, Veronique
Southwestern Nova Scotia
Hi Veronique,
Thank you for your email. For a little extra help in gourd growing go to our website and under Gourd Fever Past Issues click on Issue 113. This issue starts off the growing season and 114 moves on to the prep and planting and so on. Good luck, Carolyn 

"Other Stuff"
Do you realized that many products that are marketed to women are actually the same products that are marketed to men? The only difference: the colour and the price. This gender-based pricing, also known as the "women's tax" or the "pink tax" is accepted in the marketplace and results in, on average, women spending $1350.00 more per year compared to men. All because of the colour pink!
Examples of some of these products are razors, skin creams, deodorants and shampoos. This shows up in other places as well such as hairdressers and dry cleaners. So women, stand up and take note. Take a closer look at the products you are buying and quite simply refuse to spend those extra $. I personally would far rather see that $1000.00 per year end up in my pocket than in some companies bottom line! 

For more information on CARVING BURS click here:
For information on GOURD SEEDS click here: 
For information on TURKISH BEADS click here: (Will be available mid-March) 

Looking Ahead: May 2016 


We are overjoyed to have a spring visit with Dawn Vavra, gourd wood-burner extrodinaire. Historically Dawn has worked in leaded, mosaic and sandblasted glass before making the easy transition to gourds five years ago. Her designs are fascinating and her array of familiar images will keep you coming back for more. Please welcome Dawn Vavra to the May issue of Gourd Fever.

We will also be keeping you in the loop with our ever-growing schedule of gourd workshops. This year we are offering a larger selection plus a versatility not seen before. Sign up for our Priority List with a quick email and you will always be in know - makes personal planning a cinch.
Here in Ontario we still have a couple more months of winter. It was late coming this year and then we were slammed and now we are back in the double digits. Who knows what is around the corner! But before we know it we will be remembering the words of A.A. Milne in "When We Were Very Young":
She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
"Winter is dead." 
On that note, stay healthy, happy and adventuresome! Carolyn Cooper and Linda Bond 








Volume 12, Number 119 


In this issue:

The Wild World of Betty Finch 

The Bulletin Board: News From Northern Dipper
A Sneak Preview of the 2016 Workshops 

Out Of The Mailbag, Gourd Sightings & Trivia

   The Bulletin Board

Workshop Specials!
 "Bring A Friend" Special
 (Available March 1 - May 31)
Do you enjoy gourd workshops and have a friend who would like to try one? This special is for you. Bring a friend and receive one workshop for 1/2 price. 
Group Special!
(Available March 1 - Oct 31) 
Want to get a gourd workshop for free? It's easy, just become the organizer! Get together 4 friends and as the organizer, you will get your workshop for free.
Workshop Schedules 
Scroll down to see photos of the hot workshops offered this year. You may just have to sign up for more than one.
If you would like to receive an email notice on our upcoming classes just send us your email address with the heading Priority List. It's as simple as 1-2-3 and makes planning very easy. 
New At Northern Dipper

 Filigree Bur - $6.00
For creating filigree designs this bur is the cadilliac. It is used for removing the second soft layer of gourd in order to do the fine lacy work.
 5mm Wheel Bur - $6.00
For carving those straight lines this bur should be a staple in your toolbox. 
 Turkish Beads
(Available Mid-March) 
 Various colors available
These glass beads (without holes) are used to create beautiful, unique gourd lamps. For ideas check out Issue 86 in our Gourd Fever - Back Issues section on our website. Featured is world-class artist Calabarte and his award winning lamps.
 Gourd Seeds
We are shipping now with the exception of the Chinese gourd seeds.
(Links can be found at the bottom of this newsletter.) 

Betty Finch


"My mission statement is 'I work in partnership with nature to transform compelling visions into reality.' That is what I do. I work WITH nature coaxing it to participate in the process."

 Cat Lady
"During my career in law enforcement I moved from doing thumbprints sketches of the attorneys on the court list (I could not remember names so this was my cheat sheet) to drawing suspect sketches for the sheriff's department. This led to the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) sending me to the National  Academy facial reconstruction course in Quantico, Virginia."
"When it comes to gourds I sometimes dream up ideas in my sleep. More often than not however, ideas are sparked while rummaging through a pile."
"I become so driven when working that I go without eating and get very little sleep. I fear I may lose momentum and it will join the mountain of unfinished projects in my garage."  
"I don't create art to sell. There isn't really any artwork for sale on my website. Some of the larger pieces take years to complete and contain 40 gourds or more. With that investment of time and materials it is not realistic to expect to sell them for a profit." 
"Instead I look for opportunities to exhibit pieces to appreciative audiences. I am out to have fun and nothing is more enjoyable than watching people whip out their cameras as they admire the gourd creations."
Words of Advice For New Artists 
"Find your own unique style. An easy way to do this is to combine as many of your interests into your work as you can. This will add passion to your art."
"Here is how; list everything you are interested in on a piece of paper. Then brainstorm with a friend on ways to combine more than one of those interests into your work."
"For example, if you are good at painting, enjoy growing plants and love cats, make gourd planters and paint cats on them. Try several combinations."
"Concentrate on what you do best and enjoy most, then work to perfect it. If you excel at carving, then carve. Just consistently work to improve your craftsmanship and push yourself to do more challenging pieces."
"When working I ask myself 'How can I top this? My gourd sculptures were limited to what I could fit in my car until I challenged myself to build a sculpture that could be taken apart. The ballerina on the galloping horse (pictured above) is 9 feet tall and can be assembled from a box in 3 minutes."
"The first large sculptures I built had springs, hooks, hidden pulls and other complicated methods of attachment. I thought about it, experimented and devised simpler methods using only gravity to make them easier and faster to assemble." 
Betty raises Appaloosas horses. Pictured above is Betty's colt Tux. These horses are known for their colourful coats and intelligence, gentle dispositions and abilities.   Easily trained they are used in driving, jumping, trail riding, cattle events and reining. They are great in a race and are even seen at the circus!
It is believed that the Appaloosas have been around for thousands of years. In the ancient cave paintings found in Lascaux and Pech Merle, France, spotted horses have a home.
Characteristics include:   
 - Vertically striped hooves. 
- The manes and tails are normally thin and fine in texture. This was valued as it helped the horse escape the entanglement of briers. 

Out of the Mailbag 

 Hi Carolyn, Here is a photo of the planter I made for a friend. Nothing exciting but it did look great. Almost done my crochet and knitting to follow. Thanks for all your help. Val AKA Michelle
Hi Michelle, We love this planter. It is very original and has a lovely sense of design. Thanks for writing.
Carolyn and Linda 
Good morning, I thought I would send a photo of the drum with the cow hide I made. Hope you two had a wonderful Christmas and blessings for the New Year. Miigwtch 
Hi Miigwetch, Thanks for the photos. Love your drum. There is something special about connecting with a drum that you have crafted yourself.

 Gourd Sighting

The other night we caught the last half of an old 1959 movie "Our Man In Havana" It was set in Cuba and throughout the movie gourd marakas were spotted. 

It's A Dog's Life

Does your pup have bad breath or problems eating? Does he ever paw at his mouth? These could be signs of tooth decay, broken or chipped teeth or dental disease.
Many professionals now encourage dog owners to brush their pet's teeth to avoid future problems. Here is a breakdown of the types of teeth your dog has and the best way to care for them.
Starting from the front:
1.) The incisors are those 12 little single rooted teeth right in the front. They are used for grooming and gentle snipping.(biting off the tips of grass) These teeth are easy to keep clean with a brush.
2.) Canines (or fangs) - These large pointy teeth in the front are used for grabbing hold of objects i.e. a bone or toys These too are easy to brush.
3.) The premolars are located directly behind the canines. They are multi-rooted and are used for cutting large food items. There are 8 in all and brushing works as does the occasional chewie.
4.) The 10 flat teeth right in the back are the molars. They are used for grinding and are almost impossible to clean. With these teeth, dental biscuits or Greenies will help keep them clean.
There is lots on the Internet on cleaning your dog's teeth so check it out. It may not be your dog's favorite pastime  but it will save the agony of bad teeth and gums in the future not to mention what can be staggering vet bills.

Music Pick of the Month 

The Artists: 2 Cellos
The Songs:
With or Without You 
To learn more about the 2 Cellos 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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