Owls On The Run - Jenn Norpchen 

In This Issue: This month we are thrilled to be travelling to Northern California to meet up with Jenn Norpchen, an artist with a large following and an energy that is addictive. Jenn's art is adventuresome with mischievious and fanciful roosters, bugs and other creations which are "one of a kind" in the gourd world. Please welcome Jenn Norpchen in this September issue of Gourd Fever.


 Giraffe - Jenn Norpchen

In the gourd patch the bounty is maturing quite nicely and in another couple of months they will be cut from the vines and stored for drying. In 'The Joy of Gourd Growing' these last steps in your gourd growing adventure will be discussed and will bring this annual story to a close. 


We have mail, trivia and in "Other Stuff" a really cool news item. First up on the agenda, I am happy to say, is artist Jenn Norpchen.

Jenn Norpchen's Wild Gourds - Whimsical Gourds From Northern California! 


Jenn lives in the small town of Danville which is located in the Bay Area of Northern Califonia. She has been there for 34 years, has raised a family and spent her career working as a consultant in the architectural design field. She has a degree in Interior Design with a fine arts minor. Gourds entered her life when she could no longer work in ceramics and at the time, little did she realize, what a mark she would make in the gourd world.

Jenn quickly discovered that she loved the organic qualities of gourds. Her strong background in design, fine arts, ceramics and sculpture helped develop her own concepts. With these skills Jenn could take these beautifully shaped canvases to a new and different dimension. Her imagination soared and the more she experimented the more fun she had.

Looking back Jenn states that art has always played a big part in her life. When she was young she would enter many drawing contests and was always told she had talent. In the architectual and design field she used many mediums and had to know the many different values of colour, paint, lighting and design. All of it is integral to how she approaches her gourd work today.

As with many gourd artists it is the gourd shape that inspires Jenn. As she begins to develop the face and body, it becomes the piece she has already named before starting.

It is at this point Jenn starts adding what she learned in school. Painting techniques, adding armatures and mesh plus a little engineering to make sure that they stand on their own are all required for completion.

Her biggest challenge is, when the art piece is sold, it will be the piece they loved when they bought it.

When asked 'what role does the artist and art have in today's society' Jenn replied, "The role an artist has in society today is enrichment. It is that emotional response that occurs when a person views art."

Jenn's art brings joy and laughter to people's lives and that is enrichment. The conversations which ensure deepen it. She acknowledges that each piece will never be duplicated which is partly the result of the individual uniqueness of each gourd and feels lucky that she chose such a wonderful canvas on which to create her art.

On a personal level Jenn has two fabulous sons and two lovely grandsons. She is close to her family and has many good friends. Being athletic she loves to paddle, play golf, snow ski, hike and travel. She attends gallery events, has dinner with friends, plays with her 3 dogs (and one cat) and of course continues to create her wild, whimsical art!

To see more of Jenn Norpchen's art click here: http://jen-norpchen.squarespace.com/

The Joy of Gourd Growing - The Harvest, Drying and Storage



At this time of year the question foremost in the first time growers mind is "When do I harvest my gourds and what do I do with them once I cut them from the vine?" Rule # 1, and I cannot stress it enough, leave them until the first hard frost kills off the vine.


Currently your gourds look ready but the reality is they are maturing. At this point leave them alone. Once the frost hits and the vines are dead and brown it is time to get out the pruners and start cutting. Do not twist them from the vine...cut them. Leave 2-4 inches of stem attached to each gourd.


If you live down south you will not get frost but the vines will still die off at some point. An indicator of when to harvest is the stem. Once it turns from green to brown and is hard and dry, you will know it is time.



During the drying process the gourds will turn from green to tan. A black mold will form on the outside and on some gourds it can be quite thick. Some gourds also develop a waxy white skin; these gourds are always a little tougher to clean once they have dryed. 


Gourds can be stored outside or in an unheated garage or shed. You can also hang them from the rafters using those lovely long stems you left. Never try to hasten drying by cutting into the gourd. All that does is increases the chances that you will lose that gourd in the end.


Lastly do not take them into the house and put them on your mantle. I speak from personal experience that this is not a good idea. It is better to leave them outside and let Mother Nature take care of things. She knows what she is doing.


Once spring comes most gourds should be dry. You will be able to hear the seeds when you shake them. It is at this time you can proceed to wash them and then act on all the ideas you have been

dreaming about all winter long. Good luck!


PS It is very important to clean up your gourd patch after you harvest. Get rid of those old dead vines and any gourds that are cracked or too small to harvest. 

Out Of The Mailbag

Hi Lori, The gourds are finished and ready for the arrival of the Purple Martins! Thank you for your help; we are so happy with how they turned out. Enjoy the photos. Shalynn, Ellis Bird Farm 

Thank Shalynn for sending in these photos. We have loved and followed Martins for years. Keep in touch and let us know if they return next year. Lori 

PS Next issue we are absolutely thrilled to present some photos of the Martins living in these houses. A future thanks to go out to Myrna Pearman, Biologist and Site Services Manager, Ellis Bird Farm 

Hello Northern Dipper,

I have been playing with gourds for a couple of years now and spend time on the Internet looking at other people's art. I came across this beautiful little gourd girl with my grand-daughter and she fell in love with it. Consequently we now have an entire family of gourd figures which seems to grow larger every couple of weeks! Looks like my 6 year old grand-daughter will be the next generation of gourd artists. Cheryl Canning

Hi Cheryl, It's great fun hanging out with kids doing art projects together. Get out your camera and take a photo of the gourd family...we would love to see it. Thanks for writing. Lori

"Other Stuff"


Photo by Via Getty, Reuters

Here in Canada we are celebrating Canada's 150 Birthday and there have been events across the country all summer long. In Ottawa, Canada's capital city, Long Ma, a giant mechanical horse- dragon roamed the streets breathing fire and steam.

This urban art was brought to Ottawa by La Machine, a French street theatre company founded by Francois Delaroziere, a brilliant artist who has a back-ground in engineering. 

To see Long Ma and Kumo, the giant spider,on YouTube click here. They are both impressive.


There are also videos on this site:


Looking Ahead: December 2017

                      Summer Hay Harvest

NEXT ISSUE:  At the time of this writing Christmas seems very far away but we all know that once the time changes in the fall it sneaks up at rapid rate. In our December issue we will be featuring another outstanding artist who will inspire you and spark those inner flames of creativity.

In following that holiday theme we will be presenting ideas for holiday gifts for family and friends. If you have any unique ideas send them in and we will include them in our lineup. It is always so lovely when we recieve mail from our readers.

In the meantime make the most of the beautiful fall days that will be coming your way. September is a busy month for many; those with vegetable and gourd gardens, kids (back to school), routine and this and that. Just make sure to spend some time on yourself; perhaps at the kitchen table working on your next gourd masterpiece.

                 See you in December, Lori Chalmers

PS If you have any photos or ideas that you would like to contribute to this newsletter please send to info@northerndipper.com


Volume 13, Number 127


Email: info@northerndipper.com

In this issue:

Jenn Norpchen's Wild Gourds - Whimsical Art From Northern California!

The Bulletin Board: News From Northern Dipper

The Joy of Gourd Growing - The Harvest, Drying and Storage

Out of the Mailbag

Gourd Sightings, Trivia and More 

  The Bulletin Board



Northern Dipper is moving!

It has been a crazy month here at Northern Dipper. We are moving from Barrie, Ontario to Sault Ste Marie, Ontario and have sold a house, bought a farm and am  now almost through the packing. It's amazing how much stuff has accumulated over the years when you have to pack it and move it!


Consequently we will be closing Northern Dipper for the month of September. This will give us the time to get settled.


We will be open again for business October 1 and look forward to your orders, letters and visits. In the meantime if you have any questions fire them our way. I will be checking my email daily.


Jenn Norpchen 

"My long term plans are to continue my art, grow, teach, and live this beautiful life I have."

"I was intriqued by the form and function of the various shaped gourds that allowed me to shape my creatures."



"My approach to design is as follows: First off I look at the gourd, check the condition, shape and finish. I love to use the natural variations as part of my finish. I give it a name as I already know what it is going to be. In a nutshell, I have fun!"



"I have created many dog gourds or characters for pet owners. Pictured above is an example. They tell me about their dog and the love they have for it. They give me pictures and I work on the creation."


Advice For New Artists

" I know it's a cliche but most importantly follow your passion. I am the owner of each piece of art and I can take it to where I want it to go. I love creating my work and I know I bring joy and especially laughter to many. That is what fulfills me!"



"My art is in six galleries, three being cooperative galleries. I do seven big shows a year and do custom creations for those who want it. I love talking to people and creating special art for them."


"My art can also be purchased through my website. Recently I started to sell internationally and that is a whole new experience.    I love knowing that people appreciate my work internationally and nationally."



 The Joy of Gourd Growing


If you treslissed your gourds or grew them on a fence you can just leave them hanging there all winter. The snow, ice and wind will not hurt them in the least and they do make a pretty picture after a snow fall. 


If your gourds were grown on the ground it is best to cut them from the vine and get them off the ground once they have matured. 



The key to drying gourds is air circulation so if you can get hold of a pallet this is perfect on all accounts. Leave a bit of space between each gourd.


Over the winter check to see if any have rotted. Get them out of there because in the spring it is nasty business cleaning up a collapsed slimy gourd.



Green-peeling is a technique that some artists use with freshly harvested green gourds. Green-peeled gourds have absolutely flawless skins with no markings at all. It is also a cool technique to use for design. To learn more click here:


 Out Of The Mailbag


Hi Lori, How are you? As promised here are some of my photos of my completed gourd birdhouses.


I presented them to my art class last night and they were well received. I even had offers to purchase them! I hope you like them too. All the best,



Thank you Gianna, they are beautiful. Thank you for sending these photos in. We look forward to seeing more. Lori



Gourd Sighting


 A gourd from the 17th century was discovered at the Stewart Museum in Montreal, Canada. It is a piece of Mi'kmaq history and shows the relationship between the Mi'kmaq people and the French.

The gourd is now being exhibited at the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History until October.

For more information click here:


For information on the Mi'kmaq click here:



It's A Dog's Life 


 Last weekend my daughter and I went to Pet-A-Palooza, a pet-friendly event that is full of doggie entertainment including dock diving. (my favorite!) There were many booths including PADS.

PADS is an organization that breeds, raises and trains fully certified assistance dogs. Their service and hearing dogs provide life-changing independence to those with physical disabilities other than blindness.

This group is very much volunteered based and can be a long-term commitment. Some jobs are puppy sitters, breeder caretakers, advanced kennel volunteers right through to office help and public education ambassadors.

If you have ever thought about doing something like this click here...(It is also an interesting website full of stories; so nice to know that a group of people are doing something to make other people's lives better.)


Music Pick of the Month 


The Artist: Sona Jobarteh

The Songs: Gambia


To hear an interview click here:


Another song: Mamake


 Published by Pam Grossi Victoria, BC, V8R 2Z7 bell.grossi@shaw.ca


Northern Dipper 
Simcoe County, Barrie Area, Ontario, Canada 
(705) 817-8000

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