We are honoured to introduce, as this month's featured artist, Frank Williams. Frank is the owner and artist behind Gourd-Geous Art and is well known throughout the U.S. His work can be found in private collections in the U.S., Canada and Europe and in permanent exhibits in prestigious art galleries in his home state of Arizona.


Frank has gained a reputation for his beautifully detailed masks, although that is not all he does. He has designed a series of sculptural vases using metals such as copper and turquoise as embellishments.


Most recently he has turned his attention to creating gourd cairns.  A cairn is a mound of stones built as a memorial or landmark, typically on a hilltop or skyline. They also show the direction of a trail. Frank's gourd cairns are impressive when placed in a doorway or in the garden.  Please welcome Frank Williams to this September issue of Gourd Fever.


Funky Birds - Created at a Northern Dipper summer workshop.


For those of you who grew gourds this year this is an exciting time. In much of North America we have had hotter than normal temperatures which equaled an ideal climate for gourds. Most people we have talked to have bumper crops; the only complaint was the amount of water that was used this summer for watering, especially by those on a well system.


Now it is just the waiting game; waiting for that first hard frost. One letter we received from Keefe Neilson in Ontario asks some pretty specific questions about the gourd harvest - all will be answered in the Out Of The Mailbag section. We also have trivia and the Music Pick of the Month for your enjoyment so just lean back and do just that....enjoy!

Frank Williams - The Artist Behind

Gourd-Geous Art!



The famous Heard Museum is located in Phoenix, Arizona and this is where this month's featured artist first saw gourd art. The year was 2003 and Frank Williams attended an art exhibit which included a gourd mask artist. These masks were like nothing Frank had seen before and after some investigation decided to take a class in basic gourd craft. He bought some tools and dove in. He states it was mostly trial and error at that point; fortunately not too many errors occurred.


Since childhood Frank had always enjoyed creative activities. While growing up in Chicago, IL. he was fortunate enough to be in a district that allowed him to attend one of only two available secondary schools that offered art as a major. By his senior year he was able to enjoy four periods of art a day.


Great teachers encouraged him to explore his creative energy by trying various mediums. He settled mostly on pen and ink and was encouraged to become an illustrator. But life sometimes has different plans and this was the case for Frank. While working and attending Community College he got drafted into the military and his focus changed. After service he entered the business world but still continued to sketch. He occasionally picked up the pen and inks as well. Now retired Frank is finally able, once again, to pursue art.

The types of gourds Frank uses are dependent on which of the three phases of his art that he is creating. For masks, he will pick a shape that tells him what type of eye opening it will have...the rest of the design elements just seem to follow. The feathers have already been determined and it is the feathers that will dictate somewhat the colors and other design elements within the piece.


Vases are easy in that the gourd shape will dictate to Frank how he may want to inlay a design of copper or turquoise and sculpt its lines. The cairns are the most challenging in that many times he will texture the gourds to give the appearance of stones or rocks. The look of river rock is not that difficult to simulate but other shapes and textures can be tricky.


The farmers where Frank buys his gourds just love him as he is the guy that will buy the badly shaped or even distorted gourds. These are the gourds that he can make look like stone or rock.



The Phoenix area has many art shows year round except in June, July and August. Frank says he is fortunate to be accepted into the "Fine Art" shows, and is usually in 1 or 2 home and studio tours each year too. In addition Frank does the Loveland CO. Fine Art and Sculpture Show. He is quick to add that this August show is a good way to get to leave the AZ. heat for the welcoming Colorado cool. It is a bit of a bonus.


Back home the AZ. shows tend to draw people from all over the U.S. and Canada. Many are part time residents or Snow Birds as they are called. As a result Frank's work is found in homes around the world; the U.S., Canada, South America as well as a mask in Italy.


Frank Williams exhibits in many galleries and has large masks in the permanent collections in the city of Surprise, AZ. art collection as well as the Arts HQ gallery. Frank says that his website is more of a convenience to people who may have seen or heard of his work, want to check to see if a piece is still available, or discuss a commission possibility.



When Frank is not doing weekend art shows he is usually playing in Senior Softball tournaments in the southwest. He use to fly airplanes when he worked but had to sell his when he retired. He and his wife both love to cook and often entertain the many friends they have in the art community and Arts Council. Recently he and his wife have started to play Pickle-ball. It is a relatively new game and is a big deal in the state of AZ.


To view more of Frank's art click here:



To learn more about Pickle Ball (we had not ever heard of this sport) click here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pickleball

Out Of The Mailbag



Hi Carolyn and Linda,

I just wanted to thank you for the fun time I had at your place doing the Funky Birds workshop. I met some new people and am actually hooking up with another participant at her place to do some gourding in a few days. That was an unexpected surprise.


The best part of the workshop was now I have a Funky Bird sitting in my front garden and everyone stops to admire it. I must admit I really like it myself.


I will be signing up for the I Love Snowmen workshop as soon as I send this email off. Can't wait - I am very excited! See you soon.

                                       Sue Bowlers - Toronto, Ontario



Hi Carolyn,

I grew some gourds this year along the chain link fence in my back yard and boy oh boy did I ever get a lot of gourds. Some of them are pretty big. As this is the first year I've grown gourds I am a little unclear as to when I should cut them from the vine. And what do I do with them once I do cut them from the vine? How long before I can use them for crafting? Any information you can give me would be helpful. Thanks,

                                         Keefe Neilson,  Ontario



Hi Keefe,

These are all good questions and as a first time grower important. At this time of year the gourds on the vine are still maturing.; even the large ones. Do not cut them from the vine until after the first hard frost. In other words, once the vines have all died off and are brown, then it is time to harvest the gourds. This usually happens at the end of October and sometimes not until the beginning of November in Ontario. 


When you do cut the gourds off try to leave a long stem attached. Use garden pruners for a fast easy cut. Sometimes this stem can be worked into your crafting design; especially if it has a curl to it.


To dry the gourds they can be either left outside or spread out in a cold shed or on garage floor. Leave a bit of space between them if possible. Try to keep the gourds off the ground. If you have an old pallet lying around you can use this. Do not worry about the winter elements; the snow, ice and wind will not hurt them a bit. 


It will take the winter to dry them so just leave them until the spring. They will get moldy (this is normal) so be patient and let Mother Nature do her thing. Good luck, send us a photo if you like; we would love to see your gems. Carolyn

PS - When you harvest, if any gourds have soft spots pitch them. The chances are high these ones will rot and it is a slimy mess to clean up, especially of you are drying them in a shed or garage.


PS 2 - Also please note Keefe, in your case, as you grew your gourds along a fence, you have the choice on whether to cut them from the vine or leave them. They would dry beautifully just where they are. 

 "Other Stuff"

(Photo of Gene Schkair by Mariah Tauger/ Los Angeles)

As the baby boomers age the question of retirement is coming up more often. Some would love to retire tomorrow and others shudder with the question - 'What will I do?' Some look down the road and see independent living (much like the places where many of our parents are moving to or living in now) Others will stay in their own homes. Others will head off down to Florida to reside at the Burbank Seniors Art Colony.

The Burbank Seniors Art Colony is a new concept in seniors' living. The colony has 141 apartments; (all rentals) and it's focus is the arts. It offers painting, theater, writing, film making, yoga and meditation. People are busy, challenged and happy.

The Burbank Colony was the flagship and has proved to be a raving success. Since that time 2 more colonies have opened and more are being planned across the U.S. It is an excellent idea and we hope it catches on around the world. For more information click here: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/oct/23/home/la-hm-relative-senior-arts-20101023

Looking Ahead: November 2016



This summer has been amazing here at Northern Dipper. As you may have noticed we have cut back on our show schedules and instead have offered a very successful series of summer workshops. We are very pleased as we have met many new friends and have found once again that gourd people have to be the nicest people in the world!


We also took some time off to spend at the cottage and camping. It was totally relaxing and we have to admit that it was just great to spend a few days doing nothing but read, swim, visit and fish. As you can see in the above photograph we were successful with the fishing. That is a 134 pound sturgeon we are holding - what a thrill it was finding that on the end of the line! (Catch and release method was used.)


But now September is here and it is back to routine and schedules. By the time the next newsletter "hits the stands" in November the snow may well be flying and many of us will be back at our tables creating the gourd art we love. To inspire you we will have a fabulous featured artist as well as many other topics that will tickle your fancy. Until then stay well - see you in November!

                                    Carolyn Cooper and Linda Bond  



Volume 12, Number 122


Email: northerndippergourds@gmail.com

In this issue:

Frank Williams - The Artist Behind Gourd-Geous Art!

The Bulletin Board - News From Northern Dipper

"Out Of The Mailbag" - Mail From Our Readers

Gourd Sightings & Trivia

 The Bulletin Board

Fall Workshops

In the fall many of us begin to think ahead to the Christmas season which seems to creep up quickly every year.


In light of this, the workshops offered in September and October are Christmas themed.  Sign up quickly, some are already full.



I Love Snowmen

Saturday, Sept 3


Old Time Santa

(2 day workshop)

Saturday, Sept, 10



Whimsical Santa

(2 day workshop)

Saturday, Sept 24


For more information on the Northern Dipper workshops

click here:



Frank Williams

"I don't foresee any limit to my creativity. I've only begun this exploration into gourd craft." 



 "I knew nothing of gourds way back in 2003 other than having seen some routine gourd craft on a few occasions. Soon after that Heard Museum experience I learned that gourd art and craft is very popular here in Arizona. I decided to pursue mask making and started off by taking a basic class which introduced me to various techniques."



"My approach towards design is simple. I travel to gourd farms and  find the gourds that speak to me. Sounds corny, but that is why I have expanded my repertoire beyond masks to include sculptures (Cairns) and contemporary vases."


The cairn below is mixed media-metal and red "rock" gourds.



"Artists by nature are always evolving. If you are truly creative there are no boundaries and with gourds, because of their many unique shapes and sizes, this can be especially true. I mean, it is not like a painter where you start out with that same blank canvas every time. With gourds nature has already done most of the work."


"As an artist you just have to follow nature's lead and apply your vision enriching what nature has already started for us. I usually have two or three pieces that I am working on at the same time. Often I will be working on a piece and think of some design element that I must try on a future piece."


"I have become good at finding thick dense gourds that can be carved or sculpted to add dimension. Sometimes the shape may be perfect but the thickness may limit some design elements."


"Many people mistake my work for fired pottery. Others pieces have been mistaken for metal. This is due to several textures that I have developed over the years."



"I do a lot of volunteer work with a non profit called The West Valley Arts Council. They have a beautiful gallery in the city of Surprise AZ. that hosts about six showings a year."


"Some of the showings are for emerging or young artists. I hang all the shows for the Arts Council so I get to meet all ranges of artists. They also sponsor art scholarships as well as employ interns from local college art programs."


"My advice to new artists is simple. You are an artist because you are creative. So create! Follow your visions."

Frank also works with skulls. If you own a skull or would like Frank to source one for you, he will design a "one of a kind" piece of art for you. He also works with bison and elk skulls. Just give him a call or email him for an estimate.   

Out Of The Mailbag 

Hello Northern Dipper,

I have heard about green-peeling and would like to know more about it. Can you help me?

Thanks, Lea Thromberger, N.M.

Hi Lea, Green-peeling is a process where the outer skin is peeled away from freshly harvested green gourds.

The result of green-peeling, once the gourd has dried, is a shell that is clear of all mottling. (The mottling  is caused from the mold that forms on the gourd during drying.)

To green-peel use a dull knife and gently peel away the outer skin. Be careful not to cut into the gourd.

If you want a whiter dried gourd  shell mix 50% Javex/Clorox and 50% water and wipe the gourd down after peeling. It may take a few applications. Store your green-peeled gourds in a spot that gets lots of air circulation.

Who loves green-peeled gourds? Carvers and wood-burners - those artists and crafts people who love a clear canvas to work on.

You can also green-peel designs into the gourd which is pretty cool. (See photo above.) Have fun; I always found this task hypnotic - a nice job to do while sitting on the porch under the autumn sunshine. Carolyn

 Gourd Sighting



This beautifully painted birdhouse was spotted in a large birch tree in a Quebec back yard. It was a bright spot of color among the green foliage and provided a lovely home for a pair of birds in the spring.

 It's A Dog's Life


"So many steps we took together..."


Losing a pet can be the most heartbreaking experience one can go through. They have been our constant companions for many years and the bond that develops is strong. We enter into a grieving process that can last days, months or longer.


Emotions range from painful sadness through to feelings of guilt. 'I should have done this or that' and in the case of euthanasia, these feelings can be magnified. Just stop and remember all the great times you have had together.


As a person who has said goodbye to a few pets over the years I find the following points have made the process a little easier. They are:


1.) If your animal seems off or is unwell take him/her to the vet. It is better to have the facts and if it is serious the vet will talk to you about available options and quality of life.


2.) Spend lots of time with your pet. Give them special treats, take your pup to a place where he loved to walk (if he is up to it), create a comfy quiet place for your pet to lie and rest.


3.) Cry - Tears are produced in response to the strong emotions you will be feeling. Do not feel embarrassed - crying is a release both physically and emotionally and it is all part of the grieving process.


4.) Talk to your friends and family. There will always be those people who have not had that special bond with an animal - ignore them - they can be mean and hurtful and will make you feel weak or crazy.


5.) If you do have to take your animal in try to be there with him. It will give them comfort and will help provide a sense of closure for yourself.

Music Pick of the Month


The Artist: Shari Ulrich 

The Songs:

She Remembers


Lifting My Heart -Shari Ulrich, Roy Forbes and Bill Henderson

(Roy Forbes is the song writer.)


 Published by: Pam Grossi

Victoria, BC, V8R 2Z7 



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

PS If you have any comments, photos or ideas that you would like to share send them our way at:   info@northerndipper.com 

© Northern Dipper 2016. All rights reserved. No portion of this newsletter may be used in any form without prior written permission from the author.


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