artists, growtips, info & more

Note: If using Outlook click the above bar where it says “Click to download photos” The photos are the best part!

. This piece by Sandra McKelvey has a lovely flow to it. The reed and peacock feather are perfect embellishments.

In This Issue: This month we are thrilled to feature Winnipeg artist Sandra McKelvey. Sandra is a psychiatric nurse with many hobbies or more fittingly, she is a woman who works in order to support her hobbies! When meeting Sandra you quickly realize that she is a complex woman who is most at home with a wood carving knife in her hand and a gourd between her knees. She is a collector of  embellishments and it is guaranteed when going through her pockets or purses you will always find something of great interest. Please welcome Sandra McKelvey...we are overjoyed that she is here today.

How many of you remember the days when the choices of gourd supplies included only shoe polish and dyes? Thank goodness it is 2009 and all that has changed. Carolyn and Linda have been very busy the past few months expanding the Northern Dipper product line and now, in this issue, we are happy to be introducing a few of these fabulous items. It is all very exciting and will open the door for additional choices for your gourd creations.

First Leaves

For those readers who have planted their gourd seeds they should be popping up at a rapid rate. So now that we have arrived here, what is next? We want you to be successful at growing gourds as it can be a very rewarding garden experience. And really, when you think about it, how many artists can really say that they grow their own art materials. Now that is cool!
Now please welcome Sandra McKelvey. She has been pacing in the wings and is now ready to step up to the microphone!  

 Sandra McKelvey 

                     Sandra with a work in progress.

Since Sandra was a child she has been drawn to textures. At a very young age she began knitting and working with fabric; a skill she came by naturally as her mom was very creative with the  needle and thread. As Sandra got older she turned to wood and has spent years refinishing furniture. She states "I love that brainlesss zone I get into when sanding and finding the beautiful wood under the layers and years of paint and grime." 

Sandra accompanied her mom to a carving class and it was like a door opened for her. Wood, sanding, finicky little knives and no chemicals....she just loved it! Her friends joke that Sandra has a "head thing" going on meaning that she is always studying faces. It is just her nature so putting faces in wood was totally natural. 

In the meantime Sandra also worked with glass and then three years ago, she discovered gourds. The thing that first struck her about gourds was the range of art that could be produced. It was staggering and the ideas were endless. She realized that anyone could create something of interest regardless of their artistic ability.

Initially intimidated by the fantastic painting and woodburning examples that she had seen, Sandra 
knew she wasn't quite ready to attempt anything too complicated.  She admits that once she got started it didn't take long before gourds became an obsession, and since that time, has bought books, surfed the Net and looks for other like-minded individuals to share ideas, techniques and tips with. She loves introducing found objects such as fibres, beads and glass bits to her art and finds her carving tools are kept busy when there is a gourd in front of her. 

       Sandra's history with carving makes this gourd unique.                     
The biggest influences in Sandra's art are the plants and textures that surround her. She is the type of woman that can't just look, she has to touch too! Sandra and her sister Joan joke that there is a lot of raven in them - that's why the brilliant colours of glass are so appealing.
Now that Sandra has discovered ground pigments she is really excited. Unlike paint the sky is the limit. She also loves to use repellent ink dyes. The effects created when one drop of dye pushes against another is beautiful and unpredictable.

New techniques are learned mostly by trial and error. Sandra sees every mistake as an opportunity. For example she recalls a project that could have been a disaster but it turned out to be beautiful. "The yearning celtic spoon was suppose to be a gourd carved so that the upper part was the handle. I took out the wrong section and it turned out I loved the effect. I do have a slight problem with that positive/negative image thing!"

When asked if Sandra sells her work or does commissions she states that she has sold her glasswork but her carvings have been given as gifts or as donations to various fundraisers. Sandra and her sister Joan are trying to collect enough finished gourds to show at a local Winnipeg art gallery where they expect to sell lots. She adds with a laugh "Bet you wish you were on my Christmas list." I have to reply quite honestly "Yes I do!"

Sandra has three kids ages 21, 16 and 12. Both her husband and kids have all become use to her (at times) obsessive interest in various projects. When the weather got milder this month she was back in the unheated garage happily grinding the interior of a gourd. She overheard her youngest tell her husband "Looks like you've lost the garage again Dad." The dog Shilo loves to keep her company in both her workshop and in the garage while Marbles the cat couldn't really care less. 

When thinking about the future Sandra gazes up at the picture above her desk at work. In it is a piece of land that is for sale. Half of it is tilled, there is a huge Quonset hut and room for a dream house. The gourd patch is already drawn in. Smiling she says "I can 'retire' from my work as a psychiatric nurse in 7 years and plan to do contract work in northern communities where you go in for monthly contracts. This would fund my other work - my hobbies - that way. And this is where I would like to live while doing that."

Sandra teaches informally and has given classes to groups. Her youngest son and his buddies have made a few projects in the garage and it is very rewarding when they go home with something they have made for their moms. For those kids and moms it is those moments that memories are made from. And for Sandra, she gets her reward by passing on that gourd glow to others.

   Thank you ever so much Sandra for contributing to this        newsletter. We love your work whether it be carvings or glass or gourds. Good luck with your gallery show with Joan. We are certain that it will be very successful. Carolyn and Linda

    Just as spring brings on new growth in nature,    growth is happening at Northern Dipper with lots of new gourds, books and gourd finishing supplies.

Gourds of every type and description.

A new supply of thick-walled gourds are in at Northern Dipper. Make an appointment and come out to the farm to shop. (See our monthly special on gourds)

If you are too far away, one click of your mouse and leave it to us. We'll choose them, pack them and ship them to you. For more information on dried gourds click here.

           A writhing pile of curly handled dippers.

A fresh new supply.

 Gourd Luster Pigments

         Notes From The Gourd Patch

May is a busy month for those of you growing gourds. There are the seedlings to tend to and decisions as to where to plant and when and how to prep the soil.

This is the time to decide whether you will grow on the ground or trellis. A chain link fence will support gourds as well as simple, strong wooden structures. 

First off lets deal with the seedlings.
1. ) Keep your seedlings moist but not wet.  On cloudy days they may not need water at all. Give them a light fertilizer high in nitrogen every 4 times you water. This will ensure strong root development and lots of greenery.

2.) In Canada, the May 24th weekend is when people plant out. If the weather is cold postpone this date. A couple of weeks before planting out put your seedlings outside on sunny days in a sheltered spot and bring them in at night. This is called "hardening-off" will strengthen your seedings and ready them for planting.

Garden Preparation
1.) Chose a nice sunny spot with a southern exposure. Your gourds are going to need as much sun as they can get in order to reach maturity.

2.) Add compost and a bit of potash to your soil and work it in. If you burn wood you can use wood ash.

3.) If weeds are a problem open up black garbage bags and spread them out over the soil. Secure the edges with soil or rocks.

4.) When planting the seedlings rip a small hole in the bag and proceed to plant.

Planting the Seedlings Outside
1.) Water your seedlings well before planting. This will help them settle in.

2.) If you used peat pots you can plant the entire pot. They are very porous and the roots will just grow right through the sides and bottom of the pots.

3.) Your seedlings will droop and you will worry. They are in shock. Water and wait a day or two and they will spring back into their previous glory.

Good luck growers, our season is beginning!

           The Lone Gourd
       "Where Are Those Boys?"   
      A third of a series of letters by Sherry Davidson.                       These letters were written in 2008.
Boo Hoo! This afternoon two of the female flowers were just about to open. Stupid question # 2...where are the male flowers?
I had to return to Toronto for work and hopefully I will have some flying helpers to do some pollinating this week. They will probobly have a better chance at searching out those boys than me.
Last weekend the little stalks with the ball on top were under the leaves and only about 4" tall. This week they are well over a foot tall. Still can't find the dumb old boys - what do they look like?
I was thinking that we were getting on in the season to just be producing my first flowers. But I am not discouraged and definitely enjoy jumping out of my car every Friday and running up the hill to see "waz up". So if I don't get any gourds I can start next year with a bit more knowledge and a lot more confidence. Next year I will try your method of germinating seeds.
Thanks for your support and guidance. I really appreciate it. This is fun.
Thanks again,
Sherry Davidson

Reader's Corner
We enjoyed your display at Blooms and bought some seeds. We hope to attend a workshop in the near future. Other people we talked to thought you had a great product too. Good luck in the future and please register my email for your newsletter. Sincerly,
Janet K.
You are registered. Let us know how your seedlings are doing. We look forward to seeing you again in a workshop.
Hi there,
Here are photos of my dragon. I sent a close-up of the egg.
Wendy Rinehart
Hi Wendy, 
There is so much detail in this piece...we just love it. Thank you for sending the photos. We can't wait to see your other work.
Carolyn and Linda
To Our Readers: Wendy Rinehart will be our featured artist in the July issue of Gourd Fever

NEXT ISSUE:  We are happy to feature Ontario artist Barbara Bellchambers. Barbara's gourd art possesses a beauty and simplicity which leaves an image that stays in a person's mind long after they have seen it. Naturally artistic, Barbara is involved in other types of art including the art of candy making. Lolipops that look like stained glass, chocolate and marzipan are just a few of her specialities. 
Gourds and chocolate - now that is one sweet combination!
By next month your gourd seedlings will be in the ground and in June they grow at an extremely rapid rate. By the end of June there will be flowers so topics discussed in Notes From The Gourd Patch will be identifying male and female flowers, fertilization and the bugs that bug both us and our gourds!
More new products will be introduced along with a tutorial demonstrating how to use the newly introduced inks. Until that time perhaps we'll see you at the farm, if not, until next month....
                           Carolyn Cooper and Linda Bond 
PS We welcome your stories, comments and photos. Please send to


 Volume 5, Number 52 


In this issue:
Sandra McKelvey - A Raven In Disguise

The Gourd Seeds Are Up - Now What? 

New Products at Northern Dipper

"The Lone Gourd" - Letters by Sherry Davidson 

    Monthly Specials
The new crop is in! 

To celebrate we are offering 10% off on all gourds.

(Applies to farm visits only)
 For contact info click here: .

 25% off leather dyes
For more info click here:

Gourds Provide Cozy Home
HI Carolyn and Linda,
I saw you at the Garden Show on the weekend and here is the picture of the purple martins in the gourd I told you about. I hope you like it.

You have an amazing website and I can't wait to see your farm in person. My sisters and I will have to make it a girls' weekend out and visit you. It was nice meeting you and hope to see you again. Diane P. - Oshawa

Thank you Diane for sending the photos. We are always so happy when people do send in photos of birds and gourds. Carolyn & Linda

Sandra McKelvey
This birdhouse is one of the most unique I've seen.

"My downfall tends to be to overwork any art work that I do whether it be glass, carving or gourds. My carving instructor Robert LeClair nicknamed me the surgeon because I would spend way too long working a tiny area to get it just right."
"My then 10 year old son and I also took a 1 day pumpkin carving course from the same fellow and had a lot of fun togeather. Now that I think about it Robert has taught my mom, myself and my son to carve - that's 3 generations - talk about a family affair!"
Sandra loves anything shiny. Like her sister Joan Forbes, Sandra is a raven at heart.

Advice To New Gourders
1.)Do not get your unfinished gourd interiors wet.
2.)Consider when things don't work out they are just happy accidents. 

When using mosaic or beading on gourds:
1.) Wellbond is wonderful to work with but it takes a long time to dry clear if it is used as a matrix to imbed things in.
2.) Two-part epoxys work well but be careful as it can run if the surface isn't level. You really have to work in small sections so you end up with multiple projects on the go.
3.) Don't use grout as gourd filler - it is way to crumbly. 

Embellishments and Beading
1.) Glue sticks work well to lay embellishments or beads for planning and the glue wipes right off.
 The little fish interlocked with the flowing hair are charming. This design was inspired by a Laurel
Birch Quilt Book.
Lidded gourd box
 The turtle is raised. Is the turtle one gourd and the body of the box another? 
 "Shopping for gourd art can be dried wild grape vine beside a forest trail or a thrift store treasure of old jewellery. There isn't a jacket pocket or purse of mine that doesn't have a stone, pinecone or some weird object in it."
This is gorgeous!
" I have just been using a rotary tool until very recently when I pulled out some hand knives. I was delighted at the clean edges they produced. I have found a couple of riffle file sets that are very helpful for cleaning up edges and achieving a crisp square corner or cutting a fine precise shape that rotary tools can't quite least not in my hands! "

"Crafting Books"

Gourd Art Basics is a must for anyones' library. Most of us know how to clean a gourd but what happens when you drop a gourd and it cracks or breaks. This book will show you how to repair it and believe it or not, even you will have a problem finding the crack later. 


  Step-by-step instructions along with 176 photographs. Learn how to chip and chisel a gourd into a decorative piece for the house or outside.
Maria Dellos is an expert in inks and stamping. Her techniques will change a project from humdrum to stunning. Fifty-two pages of step by step instructions, patterns, templates, product uses, recipes and more.
 NOTE: All the inks discussed in this book can be purchased at Northern Dipper
To learn more about these books click here: 
"Gourd Luster Pigments"
(Colour chips pictured at the left)
These pigments are deep luster, non-tarnishing, weather resistant and colourfast. They may be added to any slightly thick medium such as paint, varnish, glue, etc to produce a pearlescent or metalic luster.
Keep a watch out for upcoming workshops at Northern Dipper to learn the basics on how to use this wonderful new product.
"Memory Ink Dyes" 
These ink dyes are an amazing product. Vibrantly coloured, these    inks are alcohol-free, fade-resistant,  permanent and easy to use.
Streak-free there are not the drips and uneven colour that you can get with gourd dyes.
Great on their own or blended, a small 1/2 fluid ounce will cover 100 5"-6" gourds. We carry quite a few colours, here are a few samples.
Barnyard Red
Canary Yellow
To learn more about the Gourd Luster Pigments and the Memories Ink Dyes click here:
 We have a few other great products  that we will introduce next month so stay tuned. 

Dear Carolyn 
Oh my gosh I forgot about starting my gourd seeds. Am I too late?
Tonya Thomas - Calgary, Alberta
Hi Tonya,
This is a good question and believe me you are not alone in asking. Your timing is perfect as we have a germination tip from this month's featured artist which seems to speed things up considerably.
Sandra McKelvey wrote "I get the coffee grounds from the machine at work for composting. I soaked a pile of gourd seeds for a day and then planted them in the re-wetted coffee grounds. Holey Moley! They were popping up within a week! "
"As they cracked and threw out a
root, I sifted through the grounds
and transplanted them into pots - (plastic beer cups from the dollar store.)"
"I found I had fewers duds compared
to usual and knew exactly how many seedlings I would be dealing with." 
"I tried the wet coffee grounds from home and they grew mold so it seems the grounds have to dry out completely before being re-wetted and  put into the warmth of an indoor greenhouse."
Thanks Sandra for the tip. Tonya give this a try. It will buy you a bit of time and your seedlings will catch up.
PS Keep them warm.

    Gourd Sightings
 Been receiving your newsletters and love them. I have a gourd sighting if nobody else has mentioned it. On a recent big screen movie Madagasar 2, when they are about to roast Alex the lion, and in the segment when Alex and his father dance around the fire, all the people watching are wearing gourd hats. Another gourd in this same movie is the lions' baby rattle.
Kim Bader
Baltimore, Ohio, USA
To see the trailers click here:
Thanks Kim for sending this in. I'll have to check this out with my little nephew.

Pure Trivia

I am sure most of you have heard about Susan Boyle, the woman from a small village in Scotland who was on Britains Got Talent. Susan is an example on why we should not judge
a book by its cover and how all of us, it doesn't matter who we are, all of us, have a talent that we excel at.
Here is Susan Boyd on YouTube.

(Photo by Jeff J Mitchell /Getty Images as seen in the Vancouver Sun April 22, 2009.)

Reminder -
Northern Dipper will be closed:  
Mothers Day - Sunday May 12th
the weekend of May 22 - 24th.

  The Gourd Fever newsletter
is published by:
 Pam Grossi
Victoria, BC, V8R 2Z7
Northern Dipper Farm
5376 County Road 56 
RR2, Cookstown, Ontario
L0L 1L0, Canada
(705) 435-3307
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Northern Dipper Farm - 5376 County Road 56, RR2, Cookstown, Ontario, L0L 1L0, Canada