In This Issue: Whitney Peckman is a woman that we can both learn from and aspire to. As an established artist, she has always pushed the boundries exploring new mediums and art forms. She is a risk taker selling her long term home in WA and relocating to NC with her husband and fellow artist Syed. Lastly she is a community activist fighting the social injustice that still lives on today. Whitney Peckman is an inspiration and we know that you are going to walk away from her story and continue to think about it throughout the day.
It is almost spring and people are beginning to plan their gardens so we have once again included an article on starting gourd seeds indoors. In Canada and in the northern US gourd seeds will have to be started early and these easy to understand tips will get you on your way.
We also have some great trivia including a couple of examples of what can be built with Lego. Lego is a fabulous product and these examples will just reinforce that fact. So pull up a chair and get ready to get lost in the ever changing world of art.
Whitney Peckman: A Story of Passion and Creativity
Whitney Peckman was born and raised in Rochester, N.Y. At 16 she left and since that time spent most of her adult life living in the San Juan Islands in WA. Twelve years ago she and her husband had a chance to buy a charming old bread factory in NC and they could not turn this opportunity down. More about this later.
It was back in WA however that Whitney was introduced to gourds. She had gone to a weekend retreat where there were classes in different subjects and through an open door she happened to spot a big pile of gourds. One gourd in particular really struck home. It looked like a lady in a long dress. She sat in on the class, took the gourd home, smoked up the house, got a headache but finished it. It was this first gourd that quickly led to a second and then a third.
Each raw gourd seems to tell a story just like that first gourd did. Much of Whitney's art is botanical and floral themed but she has also done many large Japanese figures and even one or two abstracts. After the 8-10 years Whitney expanded into adding epoxy clay and her work became more and more sculptural. Sometimes you could barely find the original material it was so covered with clay textural elements, shapes and paint!
Whitney's relationship with gourds can be best described as a love affair of sorts. There is always lots of touching and very little arguing. Before gourds Whitney created tapestries and they were another animal altogether. They would begin with a small sketch; maybe an 8" x 12" sketch for a 60"W X 84"H finished piece. As a painter, the canvas always began with color washes and texture (acrylic texture medium). She then props the canvas up in the studio until she "see" something that would talk to her. With painting it was a back and forth, sort of fight...paint, block out, paint over, sand off, scratch through, pile on... a lot of arguing occurs throughout the process.
In discussing style Whitney would not say that her style has really changed per say but rather that it has evolved from very simple work to more intricate, developed pieces that are more conceptually difficult. She states that about 10 years ago she became very bored with what she was doing. She was not challenged so she changed her approach from the static gourd to building wall sculptures. She asked herself "How far can I take this material?" and then she began to experiment.
To begin Whitney would break open the gourd quite literally. Disassembled she would re-construct from the broken pieces. It was exciting and re-lit the creative fires. Whitney talks about how many artists reach that "ho-hum" stage in their work, especially if they have reached some success. Success can be both flattering and addictive but it can kill creativity. The question one has to ask themself is what is more important...to grow as an artist or to stay on the same track and not grow?
Whitney wishes that she could be more in touch with the 2% of her that is very zen, simple and clean. But alas she describes herself as being more baroque. She loves the simpicity of Japanese design but states it wouldn't take her a New York minute to ruin that look with all of her textiles, paintings and hundreds of books. If there was a corner left it would be filled with objects, pottery and sculptures of all sizes. Where she lives now; in an old factory, she can indulge herself. The space is large and rambling but it is only her library and bedroom that show her true nature.
The past few years Whitney has been deeply involved in racial equity in NC. She sees now that after Civil Rights legislation was passed in the 60's, everyone fell asleep. Whitney further states "We thought we were finished - that all would be well. Then it wasn't. And isn't. The injustices are raging and are being accepted as policy. When I leave this plane of existence, I want to be spent and to know that I have made the tiniest bit of difference in the lives of those who have little."
Whitney does not do shows or festivals anymore nor does she sell into galleries. She does do lots of commission work. Whitney also sells from her website and through Facebook. Here are the links:
If you Google Whitney Peckman gourds you will find lots of entries and photos.
To see where Whitney lives (in an old factory - it is gorgeous) click here:
(If there is a problem with this link go to AirBnB and type Salisbury, NC Artist Loft)
Whitney also has videos on YouTube so check them out too.
The Gourd Garden: In The Beginning-Celebrate The Seed!
During the past couple of months we have received many letters asking if we will once again be selling gourd seeds. We were also asked if we would be including growing tips in our newsletter and as you can see the answer is yes and yes.
Gourd growing can be a lot of fun. They are a dramatic looking plant whether grown on the ground, along a chain link fence or up a strong trellis. And once the actual gourds start growing they will be the talk of your neighborhood.
For the artist, growing gourds offers a super big thrill. Not only is money saved by growing your own, it gives an extra measure of satisfaction knowing that you were responsible from the time that tiny seed was planted through to putting a price tag on a finished piece of art.
Characteristics of a Hard-Shell Gourd
1.) Gourds grow on a vigorous vine which can grow up to 30 feet. You will be pruning at 12 feet so do not be intimidated. It has beautiful, white, night-blooming flowers that last only one night.
2.) The vines have strong tendrils which grow close to the fruit. This makes them natural climbers and depending on the variety, trellissing or a strong fence could be considered as a growing platform.
3.) Gourds can be grown on the ground but keep in mind that they do require a fair amount of space. Heat is a big requirement as is water. They take 120 days to mature and the drying occurs over winter.
4.) Ornamental gourds are fun to grow too. In pots or the garden they are so easy to grow you may want to get some going with your kids or grandkids.
5.) Another type of gourd are the luffas. These should be trellissed.
Planting Out In The Garden
1.) Location: Choose a hot, sunny spot with a southern exposure.
2.) Rich soil and heat: Enrich your growing area with lots of dug-in compost a few weeks before planting your seedlings. To give your soil a kick start regarding heat, cut open a large black garbage bag and spread it out over the soil. Secure the edges with either rocks or soil.
3.) Water: Gourds require a fair amount of water so if possible, plant near a water source.
Ground or Trelliss - What Is Best?
- Ground grown gourds can be placed in hills or planted in straight rows. Best to plant 3 - 4 feet apart.
- Heavy gourds such as large Bushels should be grown on the grown. Dippers, if grown on the ground will always curl.
- Trellissed gourds take up less room and are easier to prune. At harvest time the gourds can be left on the vine to overwinter.
- The trelliss must be very strong as green gourds can be very heavy.
- Dippers, when grown on a trellis, will be nice and straight.
If you have any questions about starting your seeds or planting or anything else for that matter just email. We will be happy to help you.
Out Of The Mailbag
Dear Northern Dipper,
Great newsletter! Just started to get it and I will be sharing it with my crafting friends. Bonnie Peters, St John's, Newfoundland
I have been getting your newsletter for 10 years and have always loved your music pick. You may want to include Jeremy Dutcher one month. He is very good. W.T. Graham, Wpg, Man.
Hi W.T., I checked him out and included him in this issue. Thanks for the tip. Lori
"Other Stuff"-The Wonders of Lego
David Aguilar, a 19 year old bioengineering student at the Universtar Internacional de Catalinya in Spain has built himself a robotic prothetic arm using Lego pieces. He was born without a right forearm due to a rare genetic condition.
The first version was built when he was 9 and since then every version has more movement capability than the one before. His latest version is fully functional as you will see in this YouTube video. For more info click here:
A life-size Bugatti Chiron made of Lego actually runs! It is made with more than 1 million pieces of Lego Technic pieces and its top speed is 12 mph. The engine uses 2,304 motors and 4,032 gear wheels from the Lego Technic parts catalogue. These parts work together to create 5.3 HP and roughly 68 lb - ft of torque. To see it in action click here:
Looking Ahead: June 2019
School will soon be out, summer is here. A time for friends and family reunions, days at the beach, hours spent in the garden, lazy days...we deserve it after working hard all year. In this issue we will be bringing you another wonderful artist, tips on pruning gourd vines along with recognizing pests and disease and lots of other interesting information to pique your imagination.
Until then stay healthy and happy and we will see you again in June! Lori Chalmers
PS Ideas, stories or photos... send them in to send to firstname.lastname@example.org