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 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


Hi Lori,

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


Volume 15, Number 133 


In this issue:

Whitney Peckman: A Story of Passion & Creativity

The Bulletin Board: News From Northern Dipper

The Gourd Garden: In The Beginning-Celebrate The Seed!

Out of the Mailbag

Gourd Sighting, Trivia and Other Stuff 

  The Bulletin Board 


It's Almost Spring -

Time To Plan Your Gourd Garden


It is planning time once again, an exciting opportunity to choose your garden layout for the year. Give hard-shell gourds a try. They are an impressive plant and at the end you will have a full bounty of art materials to work with.


Quality gourd seeds are ready to go at Northern Dipper! Each pack contains between 10-12 seeds; shipping is a flat rate of $2.75 up to 4 packs. For details check out our website:

Whitney Peckman


"The Universe, the One, the Source, God, Allah, Budda, Father Sun, Mother Earth - whatever you believe - has gifted us humans. We artists are responsible for keeping that gift alive."




" I had created art for as long as I remember but always in non-traditional materials. Most of my work was in weaving large tapestries in the Theo Moorman technique, combined with painted warp."


 "After many years my back gave out so I packed up 600 lbs of loom, equipment and supplies and shipped them off in two big crates to a man living in the Yukon. He was surprising his wife at Christmas. I imagine her happily weaving away the long winter nights!"


"I love working with my hands so most of what I have done falls into the "craft" category, but with art as the intent and result. Decades ago, in the early 70's, people use to have such strong opinions about what was "craft" and what was "art."


"It all seems rather silly to me now, to argue what divides people when creativity is one of the great unifiers!"



Words of Advice for New Artists

"Experiment. Be fearless. Embrace failure. And above all, be patient because your own "voice" will take time to develop. Because you are a creative person you owe yourself some grace. Your ability to be honest about your own work will move you forward." 


"If you need constant approval and accolades for your work, maybe some inner work would be in order first." 


"You must learn to be your own best critic, because you will always be your own best creation."



The Artist's Role Today

"The role of the artist is more important today than ever before. The reason is because real art is being killed off by lack of education and a lack of respect for what artist's do. We live in a world where everything can be photographed and recreated by machine somewhere in China for mere pennies by oppressed people who need to survive."


"The American (and Canadian) public is willing to buy that cheap whatever because we live in a disposable society now. If we don't like it, throw it out and order another. Amazon will gladly accommodate you."


"Creative people, people who are compelled to create, who have something to express, who believe in the human hand and how it can translate joy and pain, desire and play, faith and hope through a multitude of materials need to stake a claim to the importance of doing so."


The Gourd Garden: The Seed

The exterior of a gourd seed is tough and somewhat woody. It is wise, before planting, to soak the seeds overnight in a bowl of warm water. (Keep them in seaparate bowls.)

For the larger seeds, such as Bushel seeds, some growers like to clip the shoulders of the seed as demonstrated in the above illustration. If you do decide to take this route be careful not to clip down too deep. You do not want to damage the seed.

"The Planting of the Seed"

As an ex-commercial gourd farmer we found that Jiffy pots were the ideal pot in which to get our seeds going. They are made from sphagnum peat moss and wood pulp and are 100% biodegradable. We would use the 3" squares; 2 seeds per pot.

On planting day we would fill up the pots with a light soil such as Pro Mix. Do not use soil from your garden. We did that the first year using soil from the field and the weeds were astronomical.

If using 3" pots plant 2 seeds approximately 1/2" deep. Top the pot with Pro Mix, press down and water well. Place in a sunny window or in a heated greenhouse.

Keep your seeds watered and warm. Please note that some varieties seem to take forever to germinate so be patient. Once they do break through the soil it will be like a green storm!

Hardening Off

A couple of weeks before planting outside place your seedlings outside in a sunny, sheltered space. Do not let them dry out. Bring them in at night, especially if the  temperatures are still dipping.

Planting Day

If you are going to keep your plastic bags down when planting your seedlings simply cut a hole in the plastic, dig a hole and get ready to plant. If you do not have plastic, simply dig a hole. Applying a little compst to the hole heps enrich the soil.

If you used Jiffy Pots, 2 seeds per pot, you will have to rip the pot in half with each half holding 1 seedling. Pop the seedling into the ground pressing the soil firmly around the stem. Water very well.

The chances are great that your seedlings will go into shock for a few hours. They will look wilted and sick but do not worry...they will recover.

Now we are ready! Let the journey begin. Good luck everyone. Keep us posted.

Gourd Sighting

This Hour Has 22 Minutes is a Canadian TV production which features Mary Walsh and Cathy Jones as characters Enid and Eulalia. In this skit they are on about Seniors and Pot. To check it out click here: (Keep your ears open for the gourd reference)

In A Dog's Life 


And the winner is....

It's that time again; the 143 year of the Westminister Dog Show. It was held in New York and is the most prestigious dog show in the world.


This year the winner for the Best In Show Award was King (King Arthur Van Foliny Home), a wire fox terrier who took the crowd by storm. King beat out thousands of other canines from over 200 breeds. For more information and photos click here:

Music Pick of the Month



Jeremy Dutcher


The Songs:

Performed at the Polaris Music Prize Gala 2018




To learn more about Jeremy Dutcher click here:



Published by: Pam Grossi Victoria, B.C., V8R 2Z7

Northern Dipper 
Sault Ste. Marie,
Ontario, Canada
1 (705) 817-8000

© Northern Dipper 2019. All rights reserved. No portion of this newsletter may be used in any form without prior written permission from the authors.

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