artists, growtips, info & more

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The Butter Cream Collection by Claude Francoeur
In This Issue: Quebec, a province in Canada, produces some of the best artists in the country and this month's French-Canadian artist is no exception. Claude Francoeur was born and raised in Quebec and now retired, resides in Toronto. Claude has always been involved in artistic pursuits but it was not until she discovered gourds that she felt she had found her "niche". Please welcome Claude and her dynamic array of gourd art.
Tutorials are always welcomed by our readership and this month we are pleased to present the basics on how to make a gourd rim using Danish Cord. It is easy to do and will add that finishing touch that will make a project look professional and complete.
Inevitability a gourd sculpture will catch the eye of its audience and we are so pleased to present this sculpture created by Donna Bagdan and Brian Heidecker. It is large, dramatic and quickly proved to be quite the conversation piece within their neighbourhood. 
We at Northern Dipper just love receiving mail, particularily when it is a series of letters! This month we have the privledge of presenting the first of a series of humorous, heart-felt letters by Sherry Davidson. These letters are about the bond between the woman and the vine, and in the end we hope they both come out as winners!
  Claude Francoeur
It is a fact that Quebec is well known for its art and creativity. Whether it is visual arts, theatre or fashion, art touches the souls of both children and adults alike. Most families participate in some way and featured artist Claude Francoeur's family was no exception.
As a child growing up in the Laurentians north of Montreal, Claude was inspired by her grandmother who was a very active artist. They spent many hours together experimenting with different materials and talking about colour and expression. As an adult  hobbies included sewing, knitting, crocheting and weaving but at no time did she feel a passion. This was the case until 2004, when Claude discovered gourds. Within days that hibernating passion took over and Claude has not stopped to look back since.

    This detailed rim highlights the natural form of the gourd.

Claude discovered gourds during a visit to her sister Danielle's home in Arizona. Immediately intrigued, she was amazed that they were so similar to wood and that many of the tools used for wood could be used with gourds. The fact that they were an organic medium excited her, and as someone who cares about the environment, she loved that what she didn't use could be composted. 
Sister Danielle had already been working with gourds for a couple of years so Claude picked her brain and learned a few techniques. As the days went by Claude could feel her imagination going wild! By this point she is quick to admit, she was hooked. 

When Claude returned home she began researching gourd art through books, the Internet and lots of trial and error. She had some firm ideas on what she liked and had the insight to know what her future customers would want.

Many of Claude's pieces are functional in nature... that is, they have a purpose. She has found, using this approach, that people are instantly more interested in what she has to offer. Some of her art is multi-functional and her customers love listening to her talk about the various uses that gourds have to offer.
Favorite techniques include batik and carving. (Claude's carved Moroccan lamps prove she is an expert.) For colour Claude prefers leather dyes as there is a good choice of colour. The colours can be mixed and most importantly dyes let the natural markings come through which give the gourd a life of its own. Lately she has discovered Gilder's Paste and states that both her self and others find the pastes very organic looking which is appreciated.

                             Carved Moroccan Lamp
Claude sells her work mostly by word of mouth and  through ETSY. She does custom orders and has organized children's workshops because they are fun. On April 2 Claude will be exhibiting at the SpeakEasy Spring Craft Show at the legendary Gladstone Hotel in Toronto. 

Until that date she will be busy in her studio surrounded by gourds and tools. If you live in or around Toronto mark April 2 on your calendar. Claude would love to meet other like-minded people and we are certain that once you meet, another gourd friendship will blossom.
To view more of Claude's gourd art click here:  

For details about the SpeakEasy Spring Craft Show at the Gladstone click here: 
Thank you Claude. good luck at the show. We
will see you at the Gladstone on the 2nd!
Carolyn and Linda

Tutorial: Danish Cord Rims by Carolyn Cooper 

                    Completed rim using Danish Cord

Danish cord is an easy, economical and versatile material to use for rimming gourds. With a quick spray of paint, the colour combinations and choices are endless. For simplicity for the first timers I have kept the rim of the gourd quite simple with one gentle slope. Add as many valleys and mountains as you like but keep in mind not to have any sharp curves. 

                      Step 2 - Colouring the cord.

                            Step 3 - Starting the cord.
                      Step 4 - Building the rim.
                            Close-up of completed rim.

For details on Danish cord click here:

For info on dried gourds click here:

Ghoulish Gourd Sculpture by
Donna Bagdan & Brian Heidecker

Dear Carolyn and Linda,
Here are some photos of some of the sculptures we did for Halloween. They were fun to do and gave us a chance to meet people in our neighbourhood that we may not have met otherwise.
I included a photo of one of our Christmas displays "A Partridge In A Pear Tree" These displays could be addictive. Now when is the next holiday....
Donna and Brian
Hi there Donna and Brian,
WOW! We want a few of these for our yard. They are fabulous. Thank you for sending these in. Please keep in touch and let us know what else you are up to. 
Carolyn and Linda

Reader's Corner
A Ornamental Volunteer
"The Lone Gourd - Bunnies Be Damned!" 
The first of a series of letters by Sherry Davidson
July 9, 2008
Dear Carolyn and Linda,
Just a few words to update my progress or lack thereof. After stopping in and meeting both of you (and giving you the opportunity to meet the cat, the dog and the husband), and after your kind help in repotting my seedlings, and your generous gift of a few gourd volunteers from your lawn, I carefully prepared 3 different spots in the lawn up north (Ontario) with bonemeal and new soil. I carefully planted, staked and watered them and returned to Toronto on the Sunday.
The following Friday I returned and what a bummer...they were all gone. However there seemed to be 2 happy little rabbits hopping around the lawn. I thought my experiment was over.
Two weeks later my husband asked if he had to be careful going around the gourd plants. I said they were gone and no need to take care. While he was cutting around one of the patches he stopped and asked what "these" were. Guess what - the ones that you gave me from your lawn are up and growing again...they are about the same size as when I got them. Bunnies be damned!
So, your plants are magic  - no fail - like the magic beanstock.
I will let you know the progress after next weekend. 
Thanks again,
Sherry Davidson
Thank you Sherry! Readers check back next month to read # 2 in this series of letters titled "The Lonesome Gourd."

The Hog's (Happy Ontario Gourders) Christmas visit  to Northern Dipper Farm. On the table is the gift appropriate at Christmas...ornaments!

In a few months your gourd seedlings will look like this.

Next month we are pleased to feature artists Joan Forbes and her sister Sandra. These two Manitoba women are extremely busy with work and family yet they still manage to fit in gourd art, stained glass, carving and mosaic work. In addition Joan does beading while sister Sandra is a sewer. These two are interesting and vibrant and we are thrilled that they will be dropping in to share their art with all of us. (For a preview of Joan's art look at the top of this newsletter under Scenes From Manitoba.)   

We love April which means that spring is right around the corner. Now is the time to start thinking about what varieties of gourds you are going to grow this year. April is when you will start your seeds indoors and to help you out we will begin our gourd growing reports next month. The first article will be all about seeds - germination, how to plant, maintenance and more. To view seed varieties click here:
Just a reminder that Northern Dipper will be exhibiting at the Stratford Garden Festival March 5 - 8th
and at Canada Blooms March 18 to the 22.
Please email or call at 705/435-3307 to learn the hours of operation during the month of March. The hours will also be posted on our website.

Hope to see you at the shows. If not talk to you next month...
                                              Carolyn Cooper and Linda Bond

PS If you have any stories, photos or ideas that you would like to contribute to this newsletter please send to

   Volume 2, Number 50 


In this issue:
Claude Francoeur - Passion Is  The Driving Force Behind This Art

Tutorial: Danish Coil - "Back To The Basics" by Carolyn Cooper

Ghoulish Gourd Sculpture by Donna Bagdan & Brian Heidecker

"The Lone Gourd" - The First of a Series of Letters by Sherry Davidson

Dear Carolyn, Gourd Sightings & Trivia
Scenes From
Joan Forbes and her sister Sandra
  are involved with gourd art, stained   glass, carving, mosaics & beading.  

   The colours in this rim are lovely.

    Carved Frog
   Thank you Joan for these photos. We like your natural style.  

 Claude Francoeur

    Claude's Workshop
This is where it all starts. Claude turned half of her kitchen into studio space.

 This primitive looking mask is very appealing.
 "My life is surrounded with supportive family and creative friends. I enjoy my simple but enriching life as daughter, sister, friend and artist." 
"I love animals and have a kitten that keeps me on my toes. I am also the local dog walker and you will often see me with a half a dozen of my neighbour's dogs. It is good for them and for my daily exercise too! Life is good; relaxing and full with challenges that I happily enjoy."
"Before retirement I worked in the hospitality industry. I have travelled extensively throughout Canada, the US, Cuba, Africa and England. Now I explore my present home town of Toronto and along the bicycle trails and city pathways. I always keep my eyes open for some great natural findings for my gourd art." 
Flowing Sculpture 
"Experiment and enjoy!" 
This is so cool. Some dots are carved and then painted, some are pyrography and some are painted with a 3D paint.
Ocean Colours
This small twig is the perfect embellishment with this gourd design.

Tutorial: Creating a Danish Cord Rim 

Required Materials
( For this project I used gold and blue spray paint  on the cord)

- Paint or dye of your choice
- Prepared gourd
- Varnish
- Danish cord
- Newspaper
- Irish linen thread
- Needle
Step 1 - Cut and clean your desired gourd. I have painted the interior with a mixture of black paint watered down with water. The outside I left natural. I did however give it a light spraying of varnish. If you decide to do two coats of varnish remember thin coats are better than thick. 
Step 2 - Colouring the cord.
Choose your desired length of Danish cord. Keep in mind it is easier to cut off the excess than to add. Place down on newspaper and spray to desired colour. I first used gold and then added blue at different intervals. Let dry and you are ready to go.
Step 3 - Starting the cord.
Choose the colour of waxed linen thread to compliment your cord.
You will not be placing the cord at the top of the rim but rather against the gourd. This will give your work a good strong foundation.
Go through the first hole from the inside to the front, tie a tight knot and hide it at the back. This is the only time you will go from the inside out. The rest will be from the outside to the inside.
Go through each hole twice. You will find that one stitch will slant and the other one will be straight up. Go all the way around back to your starting point.
Step 4 - Building the rim.
Once you have gone all the way around and you are back at your starting point, you are going to slide under the first stitch without piercing the cord. Do this to each stitch.
You will have to push the stitches where you want them to be but after the first round it gets easier. Now you just keep going until you are happy with the finish.
The decoration on the front of the gourd is quite simple. I took a few pieces of cord, unraveled it and then stitched it to the front of the gourd.
Send in photos of your finished rims (other materials welcomed in addition to Danish cord) and be published in Northern Dipper's Gourd Fever.

Gourd Sculpture 

 Partridge in a Pear Tree

  Dear Carolyn 
 Hi Northern Dipper,
My sister has just started crafting with gourds and when I walk into the kitchen the air is filled with dust. The gourds are mouldy before she cleans them and I can't help but wonder how good that is for her lungs. I have mentioned it to her a couple of times and she just brushes it off. What is your opinion on this subject?
Frustrated in Seattle,
Lisa Iverson
Hello Lisa,
The mould on the outside of gourds, the dust created when cutting or carving, and the smoke that is created when gourd / wood burning is very bad for the lungs. The particles are very fine and although some people can work for years with no apparent  bad effects others immediately feel distress in their lungs or on their skin.
Most artists that work with gourds would agree that it is essential to follow these guidelines:
1.) Always wear a good mask when cutting, cleaning or wood burning. Some people use a simple dust mask or particle mask for minimum protection. Others use respirator masks which have filters in them.
2.) Work in a well-ventilated area. Some people work outdoors or in a garage with an open door. Others set up a simple exhaust system that will draw dust and smoke outside, away from you. 
3.) To protect the skin wear gloves when cleaning gourds or when dying. If using sprays always spray outdoors as some sprays are toxic and not good for your health.
I am adding a couple of links for you to show your sister. One is on Farmers Lung, a respiratory problem that farmers get when working with mouldy hay or other crops. The symptoms are the same when working with dirty gourds. Good luck Lisa...
For more info on respirator masks click here:
To learn more about Farmer's Lung click here:

Through Northern Dipper
After numerous requests from gourd artists looking for an affordable venue to sell their finished gourd art, Northern Dipper is pleased to offer advertising space through our website. Space will be limited. Look for more information & details in next month's issue of Gourd Fever.

  Gourd Sightings

This is the Afro-Cuban All Stars. The musicians range in age from 13 - 81
and their music contains the full-spectrum of Latin dance music.


Gourd instruments (drums, guiro and mbira) were spotted on SCN television. To learn more about the All Stars and to listen to some clips click here:

 Published by:
 Pamela Grossi
Victoria, BC, V8R 2Z7
Northern Dipper
5376 County Road 56
RR2, Cookstown, Ontario
 L0L 1L0, Canada
Ph: (705) 435 - 3307
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Northern Dipper Farm - 5376 County Road 56, RR2, Cookstown, Ontario, L0L 1L0, Canada