Page of Rods by Melynda Lotven
We are honoured to have, as our featured artist, Melynda Lotven, a woman with a dynamic personality and energy to burn. She is an artist in her own right, exhibiting and selling her work internationally. As the founder of the Missouri chapter of the Show Me Gourd Society, she has been a gourd ambassador for many years. Stints on the radio and TV, published works, award and ribbon winner...you get the idea. Welcome to the world of Melynda Lotven.
It is September and has been a perfect summer in most places for growing gourds. At this time of year they will be hanging heavy on the trellis and those on the ground will be soaking up that daytime heat radiating from the earth. Life is good these days if you are a gourd! This month we will explore the final act of gourd cultivation -the harvest. When, where and how...essential questions, particularily for first time growers.
As well we have great mail along with our fun trivia section on dogs, music, gourd sightings and "Other Stuff". Pull out your laptop or IPad, soak up those late summer rays and enjoy this September issue of Gourd Fever.
Melynda Lotven: Gourds Are My Refuge
"Roads weave through buildings and windows of the mind. We live with fleeting thoughts & random pictures pulled together into the local kaleidoscope called life."
This 70" gourd was done during Melynda's Reiki years of learning. It emerged from her mind, body and spirit during a 10 week period beginning in January 2011. Fantasy, spirituality, family, religion, politics, healing, magic and the day's events are reflected in its many colorful images
Melynda Lotven is from the Midwest and has lived in Columbia, Missouri for 43 years. She has been married for 35 years and has 3 children and 2 grand children. Art has always been a part of her life beginning with a grandmother who was an art teacher and a mother who painted as a hobby.
In1990 Melynda and her husband built a house in the country and once completed her builder left 4 green gourds on the doorstep. After 6 months Melynda decided to toss the gross and moldy things away; that was until she picked them up and discovered they had turned hard and they rattled. She washed them up, painted them and after that experience she said, as many before her have said, "There is no turning back now."
With a little work she found others in her area that were "gourd crazy" too. She then formed the "Show Me Gourd Society", a Missouri chapter of the American Gourd Society. Melynda was the first president as well as president from 2014-2016.
Melynda has done close to 1000 Tiger Ornaments. Being from the University of Missouri college town, home of the Tigers and with the Art League being next to campus, many Crown De Thorn tiger gourds have found wonderful homes.
Nine years ago Melynda's father got very ill. It was a terrible painful time. She was sick of the gourds and was frustrated that she had done so many things with very little award. What had she done up to this point?
She had created a website, became a juried member of Best of Missouri Hands, co-created a Missouri chapter of the American Gourd Society and co-written 5 books with Canadian gourd artist Rhoda Forbes of Dawson Creek, BC, Canada. Rhoda was well-respected in the gourd world but sadly passed away a few years ago.
In addition to this Melynda created a how to video and has been published in newspapers, magazines and books. She flew to Hollywood to be on the DIY show Craft Lab. HGTV's That's Clever came to her home to film her making a snowman. She has travelled and sold gourds at art shows as well as in her home. She gave workshops and classes and dreamed about gourds. Despite it all she felt very empty so she declared she was retiring.
After Melynda's father passed away she had a period of healing where she spent several years working on her Reiki Master certification. Throughout this journey she had friends constantly telling her they appreciated her and her gourd art. She then got involved in the city's Art League where she returned to gourds, bumped up her game and took her art to a brand new level. Surprising to her, she fell in love with gourds all over again.
It was during her mom's health issues the past couple of years that Melynda realized that gourds were her refuge. Breast cancer and then dementia entered her mom's life; it is a very hard road that family has to travel down when this happens. You need a place to get away and gourds were Melynda's place. Now her mom is in independent living and is safe and happy and Melynda can take a breath and relax.
Currently Melynda shows at the Columbia Art League as well as selling on ETSY. She does a fall show in Columbia called Fall Into Art of which she is an original committee member. They are now in their 9th year. In December there is an Open House at Melynda's home and sprinkled between all of this are workshops.
Melynda calls this her Birthday Dragon because she started him on her birthday. She took photos of him every step of the way and posted them on FB. It was fun and people really liked it.
Just like the gourd vine Melynda Lotven's gourd career has stretched and reached all over the place. TV, radio, magazines, books, ribbons from many shows on her wall, workshops and classes...there is not much that Melynda has not been involved in. At the end of the day Melynda has learned what is the most important is her gourd art, family, friends and home.
Melynda has found a good balance in her life. If you ever get an opportunity to attend one of Melynda's workshop or to view her art in person please do. You will be richer for it.
Here are some websites for you to explore beginning with Enchanted Gourds.
The Garden Arts: The Fall Harvest
The reports we have received is that it has been a great year for gourd growing. Some people had a bit of a late start but with the extreme heat that seems to be happening in many places the gourds quickly got caught up and are looking good. The big question that first time growers have is 'When do I harvest the gourds?' and 'Once I harvest them how do I dry them?'
These are excellent questions. At this time of year the gourds look large and mature but don't let appearances fool you. They are still growing and maturing and will be for some time to come.
The general rule of thumb when living in cold climates is:
DO NOT CUT ANY GOURDS FROM THE VINE UNTIL AFTER THE FIRST HARD FROST!
If you live in a hot climate where you get no frost, do not cut from the vines until the vines die off.
After all the vines have died off, the gourds can be cut from the vine. Using garden hand pruners cut them from the vine leaving about 2-3 inches of stem on the gourd. If it is an interesting stem; curly for example, you can leave more and possibly fit it into your creative design when crafting.
Gourds can be stored outside or in an unheated shed or garage. The key to drying gourds is to provide good air circulation so try to leave a few cm./ inches between the fruit. Storing them on pallets works well. Do not bore any holes into the green skin. Despite what some think, it does not hasten drying.
One other point I would like to make is do not be alarmed when your gourds start getting moldy. This is natural and cannot be avoided. The mold can range from white to black and can be quite thick. A waxy skin is normal too.
Let the gourds dry over the winter. In the spring, once you can hear seeds rattling around inside, you will know they are ready to wash and craft. Some varieties seem to take longer to dry than other types. The minis of course take no time at all.
Lastly make sure you do a good cleanup in your gourd garden. This will dash the plans of the cucumber beetle who would love to hibernate under all that debris not to mention other diseases and pests that may be lurking.
Out Of The Mailbox
Hello Northern Dipper,
I am a first-time gourd grower and found the information you offered in your newsletter about growing very useful. It was nice knowing what was going to happen before it happened. I ended up with some pretty nice gourds which will make my wife happy...she is the artist in the family. Once again thank you, keep up the good work! Harry Reynolds, Colburg, Ontario
Thanks for writing in. So happy that the info was helpful. Send in some photos of your crop; we would love to see them. Lori
I have heard something about green-peeling gourds in the fall as soon as they are harvested. Have you ever done this and what are the advantages? Bonnie McRae,Dallas, Texas
Yes I have done green-peeling which, when all is said and done, will leave a flawless shell on your gourd. Many artists and especially carvers and wood-burners love this look as it gives them a clear canvas to work.
To green-peel is easy. Using a sharp exactor knife simply peel away the outer skin on the gourd. Make sure that you do not cut into or scratch the gourd during this process. Wipe with a mild solution of bleach and water and let dry over the winter. Let me know how it works out for you. Lori
"Other Stuff" The Special Olympics
The athelete's code: "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."
This summer the Special Olympics took place in Antigonish, Nova Scotia , Canada and Seattle, WA, USA. These games are all about enriching the lives of individuals with an intellectual disability through the transformative power and joy of sport.
The Special Olympics offer year round programs and in Canada alone are supported by more than 19,000 volunteers including more than 14,000 trained coaches. As a participating athelete hours of training and dedication are done in order to prepare. Lifetime friendships are formed and everyone walks away a winner.
Support the Special Olympics if you can. Following is a link with more information:
Looking Ahead December 2018
Along Poet's Walk in Central Park, NY the mighty elms are a blaze of color. Everywhere the trees are turning and the scent of leaves underfoot will be sure to put a smile on everyone's face. But before we know it this scene will be changing to one filled with glistening snow and frost. The winter holidays will be upon us and here at Northern Dipper we will be ready.
In December we are honored to have with us artist Cindy Kendall. Cindy's art is reflective of the nature that surrounds us. It is very unique with soft earthy patinas and embellishments such willow branches and pine needles. In a nutshell, Cindy and her art will be an inspiration to us all.
Many people love to craft gourds to give as gifts for friends, family and co-workers. In the December issue we will be presenting ideas you may want to pursue. Seeing other gourd art tweaks ideas and the end result will be yours alone.
So until that time relish every summer day that is left, celebrate the change into autumn and we will see you again when the winter winds are blowing. Take care everyone. Lori Chalmers