artists, growtips, info & more

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          Bird Dance by Barbara Bellchambers

In This Issue: 
This month we are very pleased to feature Ontario artist Barbara Bellchambers. Barbara is intelligent with a warm personality and a good sense of humour. Her art has proven to be award-winning due to the simplicity of the subject matter. Our interview with Barbara covers many aspects of art including the study of creativity and artistic expression in young children, and how art, in all of its beauty, can build confidence not only in children but in adults as well.
Also on the agenda are instructional tips on the new Northern Dipper inks and pigments. We have had a great response to these products and these directions will give you, our readers, the tools to use them more effectively.
More new products, an update on how our freshly planted gourd seedlings are doing (and what to expect in June) and another installment in the series of humorous letters from Sherry Davidson titled "The Lone Gourd." will round out this June issue of Gourd Fever.
Before we move on to meet Barbara Bellchambers here is a note to mark on your calendar...

July Is Holiday Time At Northern Dipper

Northern Dipper will be closed from July 1 to July 26th, 2009 during the week. The farm and shop will be open on Saturdays and Sunday only from 10 am to 4 pm. No Internet orders will be shipped from 
July 1- 26th. 

We apologize for any inconvenience. Carolyn and Linda will be taking a well-earned vacation...a little sun, family and rest!

   Barbara Bellchambers

Barbara's attitude about art is one that we could all probably use in other aspects of our life. She states that "One of the wonderful things about art is that there are no rules." This belief was adopted during the many years that Barbara worked as a kindergarden teacher. She had a front-row seat into the excitement of the five-year old mind and discovered that most children are just naturally creative. 

"Young children love the opportunity to express themselves freely in various ways, whether it is painting with bright colours, using stickers, fabric or felts, glueing, and in the case of most boys, building. Yes those boys can spend hours playing with blocks. They build, take apart, rebuild, and keep experimenting until they are satisfied."    
Spontaneity, Barbara continues, is a key factor in creativity. Given freedom with art supplies and recycled items most children will get lost in their projects and truly have fun. When asked they will tell you a long story about what they have made. In too many cases teachers and parents will try to funnel that creativity to produce specific items, following given rules and expectations, so each child makes a piece of art that duplicates every other childs. And surprisingly enough some children do not like to get dirty; a parents' reflection; definitely not a childs.

                                 Woman's Gourd

Barbara knew nothing about gourds until she spotted a course given by Darienne and Ed McAuley of Singing Dog Studios. Why not she thought...Barbara loves to take courses in almost anything, as long as she can walk away with a finished product. Her attitude is "How else are we going to find out what we enjoy?"

Gourds drew her in after that. Although they were a new medium for her they seem to draw upon many of the skills she already had. With a background in pottery she found that with gourds you already have a perfect shape, no matter what that shape is, and it is ready for finishing. Plus many of the crafts she learned from her mother throughout her childhood years could be incorporated into gourds. In addition, coiling the rims she discovered was as relaxing and fulfilling as knitting and hand sewing.

Barbara's favorite technique is hand carving. She is currently learning to power carve but returns to hand carving as she loves the control she has. When possible she will take courses to learn new techniques...Lee Valley offers carving and pyro courses and there are always demos and workshops offered at gourd festivals. She soaks up information from gourd and wood-working books and experimentation is always fun too!

Some gourds sit in Barbara's studio for a long time before she knows what to do with them. Others just seem to scream out to her. Her family is quite use to the fact that gourds travel around the house with her where she can look at them, study them and then inspiration comes. She states,"I may sketch a design many times on paper, on the gourd, as I decide what is right. Sometimes I get an idea from the newspaper, magazines and books. It may be just a small detail that catches my eye and then it slowly grows into a design."
"For example the painted doll sculpture I made started off as a shadow that I saw on the curtain at the side of a stage during a performance. She started off as an angel but became a lady. Once I get an idea, I may make many, while I change and perfect the idea. I want to make more ladies, and have a few partially done but am waiting for the right finishing pieces. I have started pieces everywhere throughout my studio!"


For thirteen years Barbara and her husband Bruce lived in Rae-Edzo, a small native community north-west of Yellowknife. During that time they were immersed in aboriginal art. The Dene women did beautiful beading on smoke tanned hides and the woven bags with fur trim still stand out in Barbara's memory.

The native culture is old and both Barbara and Bruce are happy they got to participate in the "tea dances", story telling, family get-togethers, hanging fish and drying meat, the elders sitting and watching, eyes full of knowledge. Bison lumbering along as if they owned the world (and they do), dust from the gravel roads, berry was a wonderful experience in Rae-Edzo. With the established skills Barbara has, combined with the native crafts, the native culture became a part of her.
Barbara and Bruce's children are all Dene from the north. She states that due to both her and her children's strong connection with the northern culture is why the local petroglyphs in her area draw her in so strongly. Gourds are a perfect medium to reproduce the glyphs and there are many in the rocks not far from Barbara's home.

Come to think of it petroglyphs have always been apart of her life. As a teenager she has fond memories of sitting on those rocks eating picnics and running her fingers along the edges. Now the petroglyphs are enclosed with a large structure to help preserve them. Depending on the lighting she adds, you can see many different patterns on the rocks.

                        A Wild and Crazy Gourd Rim

Barbara sells her work from her studio, at local art and craft shows, and in some stores and galleries. For the past three summers she has been part of Artisan Alley where local artisans have set up in downtown Lakefield and displayed and sold their art. Barbara has received many commissions from being seen at this location.

She has also participated in the Lakefield Jazz and Craft Show every July for the past six years. Over the years people have returned to her booth to see what is new. She finds that she no longer has to spend most of her time educating people as to what a gourd is and now spends time talking about techniques, colour and more of the specifics. She also enjoys spreading the "gourd word" at wood shows and at local craft shows.

Long term plans include building inventory to make larger craft shows and additional gallery exhibits a reality. Barbara would also like to participate in the local studio tours and to teach gourd courses in nearby communities. Closer to the home front she would like to start incorporating her other skills into future gourd art such as fabric and fibres, beads and pieces of stone. And last but not least, to continue meeting with her monthly gourd group where chatting, work, sharing and most of all laughing is always on the agenda!

If you wish to meet Barbara check out the following links for the Lakefield shows. Believe me it will be worth your time. Both Barbara and her art are inspirational and you will walk away knowing you have just met someone who is pretty special. 

For more information on Lakefield Jazz and Craft Show click here:
For additional info on the Lakefield Artisan Alley venue clickhere:

Thank you Barbara, it was so nice to talk to you again! We love your art and your attitude about life. Good luck at your shows...we look forward to when our paths cross again. Carolyn and Linda

New Products 
We extensively test every product before offering it to our customers. These products are impressive in their durability, ease to use and in the finished look. In addition they are earth-safe with low VOC's - a factor that we really like.  

What is a VOC?
VOC's are votatile organic compounds. VOC's are found in paints, wood preservatives, craft supplies and many other products. They are considered an air pollutant. Low VOC's = a safer environment for us, our children and the planet. 

Marine Varnish Satin
Characteristics: Non-toxic, water-based, low VOC.

This varnish has an ultra violet additive built into it so it can withstand all temperatures and varieties of weather. It is a state of the art varnish because it is one of the first Spar/Varnishes to be non-toxic and water-based. Lovely for outdoor gourd sculpture, birdhouses and feeders.
Interior Varnish Satin
Characteristics: Non-toxic, water-based, low VOC

Strong durable flexible varnish that will protect for many years. Great on gourds, furniture, wood, paper and more. And finally a varnish that can be used on fabric and does not crack! 

Protective Wax
This is an artist quality wax. It seals and smoothes the surface and toughens the finish when it has cured. The wax covering serves as a water-repellent barrier and it will not fade or yellow.
Gel Generation
Characteristics: Non-toxic, water-based, low VOC
A clear, thick, workable glaze that can be used on any surface. Add gel generation to any surface to give texture, colour and depth. Ideal for vertical surfaces as it does not run or sag.
Bonus: All of the above products can have the Memory Inks and the Gourd Luster pigments added to them.
Characteristics: Non-toxic, water-based, low VOC
These paints have amazing adhesive quality. They will not scrape or peel off when cured properly. Available in Storm Black and White.

For information on these new products plus the Memory Inks and the Gourd Luster pigments click here:

Learning The Basics: Tips On Using The New Products
We are so excited about our new "artist quality" products that it was hard to decide which we should  introduce first through a tutorial. It was tough but we finally decided on the amazing new colours of the "Memory Inks, the brilliant colours of the "Gourd Luster Pigments, and the exceptionally durable but earth-friendly "Generation Green Interior Satin Varnish."

The colours of the Memory Inks and Luster Pigments are striking!

Memory Inks are semi-transparent, fade-resistant and one 1/2 oz bottle will cover about 100 five to six inch gourds. As they have a slower drying time, you are also able to blend colours. One of the most exciting traits to me is that now it is not necessary to woodburn lines into the gourd to coral the colours from running into each other!!!

Using the ink applicator for large areas not only saves you time but saves you money. Coat the felt with the desired colour, simply rub over the large areas to be covered. When you require more ink, add only a few more drops to the felt. A little goes a long way.

When you are done applying the ink, close up the applicator and save it for the next project. Label the applicators so you can keep track of the colours. For small areas, put a couple of drops of ink onto wax paper and dab a Q-tip in the ink. For even smaller areas, twist a piece of fuzz-free "Gourd Batten" on to a toothpick. It's even easier than using a paintbrush!

Applying Memory Ink to a gourd using the applicator.

The brilliant Gourd Luster pigments come in 15 different colours and can be used in many different ways. They are pure mica with no fillers or added dyes, fade-resistant, and weather resistant. They can be added to Memory Inks, Generation Green varnishes, waxes, paints and gels.

For this tutorial I used them almost like a paint. The borders are Reflex Violet, the frog imprint - Aztec Gold, and the outer swirl is Red Russet. Simply add a very small scoop of pigment to a small amount of varnish, mix well and you are ready to paint.

I mix my colours in a small plastic container with a lid. This way any left over can be saved. A couple of thin coats is better than one heavy coat. I finished by lining the images using an extra, extra fine magic marker.
The final step to make all these beautiful colours pop is to add a couple of coats of the "Generation Green Interior Satin Varnish." This is a non-toxic, water-based, low VOC varnish and it will provide a hard, non-yellowing, durable finish. Use make-up sponges to dab the varnish on. 

Readers Corner                Hey there Northern Dipper,
I want to tell you how much I appreciate the excellent customer service you gave me when I visited your farm earlier this month. I do not know much about gourds or gourd art ( I work mostly in fabric and I paint a bit too) and you took the time to introduce me to all the different types of gourds - your selection is tremendous!
Even more so the time you spent showing me the things that can be used on gourds was really interesting. It has opened up a door for me that I am going to enjoy.
So here I am - the samples of gourd art that you have done and that people have sent you is fresh in my mind, the two books I bought are at my elbow and now I am excited to begin this new hobby.
I will see you again soon at one of your workshops. I think I may be talking to a couple of friends to join me and we will make a morning of it.
Once again thank two women made my day!
Many regards,
Jane Skinner - Brantford , Ontario

Dear Linda,
I met you at a gourd show last year and finally signed up for your newsletter a couple of months ago. I am impressed but am wondering how I can see past issues. I seem to recall that they have been published for a few years now. Can you help me?
Jake Browning - Ohio

Hi Jake,
We are glad you enjoy our online newsletters. If you go into the main page of our website, at the bottom in the menu section on the left hand side, you will see Gourd Fever Back Issues. Just click on this and it will take you in. For your convenience here is a link.

Next Issue: We are very pleased to introduce artist Wendy Rinehart. Wendy has studied graphic design and fine art and has established herself as an artist who excels in three-dimensional design. Known for her award-winning dolls Wendy has now moved into the realm of gourds and her work is absolutely incredible. We are thrilled that she will be our featured artist in the July issue of Gourd Fever

Gold leafing is a beautiful embellishment on gourds and many people would like to add it to their repertoire of techniques. Therefore we will be having a tutorial on using heat activated glue to do gold leafing. It is user-friendly and much cleaner than other previous methods of application.
Your gourd vines will be flourishing in the July heat and the flowers will be plentiful. Along with pollination pruning will be a consideration, as well as a discussion about stink bugs (how appetizing) and powdery mildew. 
Well you know what they say...a perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is warm and the lawn mower is broken! Enjoy yourselves everyone and remember there is nothing nicer than sitting in the shade of your favorite tree working on a gourd.
To close we must repeat ourselves...We do apologize but we do want to get the word out that we are taking a vacation!
Northern Dipper will be closed from July 1 to July 26th, 2009 during the week. The farm and shop will be open on Saturdays and Sunday only from 10 am to 4 pm. No Internet orders will be shipped from
July 1 - 26th.
                                   Have fun fellower gourders!
                            Carolyn Cooper and Linda Bond

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


 Volume 5, Number 53 


In this issue
Barbara Bellchambers - Finding Life's Balance  

At Last! New Low VOC Products Now Available At Northern Dipper

Learning The Basics: Tips On Using Our New Inks and Pigments

Notes From The Gourd Patch - May Showers Bring June Flowers 
The Lone Gourd - 'Prayers For Gord' - The fourth in our series of letters by Sherry Davidson

   Monthly Specials  
Back Due To Popular Demand
     Dried Gourds
10% off
Farm Visits Only
Alcohol Leather Dyes
25% off
Farm Visits & Internet Orders

To view dried gourds click here:

To view leather dyes click here:

Barbara Bellchambers
"For me, time in the Kindergarden helped me lose restraints and freed me to create. The children constantly inspired me! They were happy and working with gourds now, makes
me happy!"

Barbara Bellchambers

"No matter a person's ability or disability, art is achievable for them. Art removes the boundries we set for ourselves and others, making us all equals."

"This is a doll made with 7 pieces of gourd. Even the flower on her hat is 2 pieces of gourd. Her purse and baby is gourd too. She was painted with an antique white background and then painted with flowers. Many people think this is decoupage but she is painted - a bit at a time!"

"Gourds let you take what you already know and incorporate that knowledge in a new form. They open up new possibilities for learning new skills too. It is cool that all parts of the gourd can be used - they fit the current ecological and green mindset of today."


"I find inspiration everywhere.  It may be a movement, a feather, a bead, a cluster of rocks or a picture. Too many things are waiting to be done!"


" When you see my carvings from a distance, many feel they look like burnings in the skin of the gourd. That comes from painting over the burning!"

"Within the carving, I am able to add personality to each figure. Not everyone will notice these bits...the heart carved into the chest, a swirl for the stomach, the layers of fur for the animal, the variety of clothing on a group of children."

"I like the details you can hide in the bigger picture. Maybe I looked at too many "Find Waldo" books with my children when they were young but I find that this concept really works with my gourd art."

Words of Advice for
New Gourders
"You can do it!  Be open to all possibilities. Things may look hard but with proper instruction and time they become easy. You do not know what you like until you try it."

"Remember gourds are a wide open field. Bring what you already know to your work with gourds and let the two blend together. Ask everyone you know about their work, read and look at books, take courses."

"And at all times take safety precautions. Who would know that you sometimes need to dress like an alien to do such a wonderful craft? Good mask, apron, Kevlar gloves, safety glasses!"

"In a nutshell, ask, try, get involved."

A Doll Named Elizabeth
"Elizabeth Gorden taught me to make the face. Elizabeth is Inuit, so the face I made was native to go with the Dene I worked with. A wise elder in the community I lived was Elizabeth Mackenzie. I decided  to name the doll after both of them. The Dene women wear a lot of blue and they always cover their hair with large scarves."

Close-up of a Gourd Petroglyph 

An early work

Tatting is an old art, a form of lacework. You use a "shuttle" that is about 2" long, and has inside it a spool of thread. Basically you tie knots into the thread by passing the shuttle over and under the same thread. Barbara's mother tatts and taught her and recently there has been a renewed interest in tatting, though using needles.
Another interest that Barbara is passionate about is candy-making! She & her friend Darienne (another confirmed chocolateholic) get together on a regular basis to experiment and perfect their vast collection of candy recipes. Barbara laughs, "We are learning from our mistakes! Luckily, most mistakes are still edible and so good. (Except for my burnt sponge toffee, that was a bit of a disaster.) Truffles, chocolates, caramel, nougat, candy suckers, marshmallows, candied orange peel, we have tried it all!" 

           GOURD PATCH! 
June brings both joy and sorrow when travelling through the gourd garden. The joy is rapid growth and flowers just waiting to be pollinated. The sorrow is the battle against that most dreaded invader - the cucumber beetle.
What is a male and what is a female?
Common features are:
-Both are night-blooming.
-Both have white petals.
Differences are:
-The centers.
-Females have a pepo, which looks like a baby gourd under the flower.
Male flowers have a flat pale yellow center. They are usually the first flowers you will see, they are prolific and have a long stem. Their goal in their short one night life is to pollinate the females with their pollen.
The female centers are a deep yellow and have a raised bumpy center. Sometimes it takes a bit of a search to find the females...they bloom later than the males & like  to hide under the large gourd leaves. 
 These small gourds sit under the female flowers. They are not found on the males so if you are not sure what is a male and what is a female,  just look for the "pepos." The flowers in this photograph were not pollinated; therefore the flowers have died. These pepos brown off and will not be growing into larger gourds.
 To pollinate go to the Dollar Store and pick up a pack of small paint brushes. Dab the male and then the female and you will end up with a lovely crop.
If you have a large crop attach the brush to a piece of dowel. It will enable you to reach those far-away and hidden flowers plus it will save your back.
Cucumber Beetles
Cucumber beetles love gourds.
They will chew the leaves and once you have gourds they will chew their way through those too.
These beetles are active in the cool of the evening. Some growers like to watch the population build up a bit as it helps with pollination but don't let them get out of control. Visit your local nursery and they will be able to recommend products to help control the cucumber beetle.
Leaf damage by the cucumber beetle.
Pruning the main vine using an Exacto knife.
 Other Tips
1.) Keep your vines well watered, preferably with a trickle hose. Gourd leaves do not like to get wet!
2.) If you have trellissed gourds tie up the vines using twist ties; they are the easiest.
3.) Keep your eye on the main vine. Once it gets to be 6 feet long prune the end using an Exacto knife. This will result in lush lateral vines (the side vines) which you want as this is where the gourds grow.
4.) As soon as you have female flowers pollinate! Our bee population is way down as are other species of night-flying insects. Mother Nature can use your help! 

The Lone Gourd 
"Prayers For Gord"
This is the fourth of a series of  letters by Sherry Davidson.
These letters were written in 2008.
Hi Carolyn, 
We must both say prayers for the lone gourd until the 14th of November as Lou and I are presently in Hong Kong leaving on a cruise out of Bangkok to Beijing. We will return to Toronto on November 10th so the first weekend I will be able to rush out of the car and up the hill is the one after I return.
I read about trellising and "Gord the Lone Gourd" was hanging off a teepee made out of red parking warning reflectors but as he grew he was only about 2 " off the ground.
Time to be creative. I made a frame out of oven racks and elevated Gord. Now the poor guy is all by himself hanging about 6" off the ground.
Is he mature? No idea - I'm just grateful he's there at this point. Will he rot? Hopefully not.

So say those prayers because Gord the Lone Gourd desperately deserves to be in the workshop soon.
Take care. Talk soon. Hopefully it will not be to plan a funeral for Gord...
Sherry Davidson

Gourd Sightings
On May 4th, 2009 close to two million children across Canada all began singing the same song. Sing, Sing, Sing was written by Juno-award winning singer/songwriter Serena Ryder. The aim of this exercise was to highlight the importance of music in education.
The gourd sighting were gourd musical shakers played by a group of children. This was seen on The Journal which is part of CBC's The National, a nightly news program.
To hear Serena Ryder sing this song in Toronto click here:
For more info on this event click here:

Nature Trivia
Webcams have made a huge difference in our world. We are now able to look into the world of nature as never before.

In British Columbia there are webcams set up in the tops of trees and thousands of people have been fortunate enough to witness the life of the eagle.

The building and repairing of existing nests, the laying and piping of eagle eggs, and now daily updates on how the baby eaglets are growing at a rapid rate.

The parents are leaving the nests more and more now but returning with food for their starving brood. We are very excited and can't wait until these babies take their first flight. We just hope that we are at our computers when it happens!!!!

Our thanks to David Hancock who brought these webcams to the homes of thousands!

To get a bird's eye view (sorry about that bad pun) click here. This is a fantastic website with webcams, photos and archived info.

  Published by:
 Pam Grossi
Victoria, BC, V8R 2Z7

Northern Dipper Farm
5376 County Rd 56
RR 2, Cookstown, Ont
L0L 1L0, Canada
Ph: 705/435-3307
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Northern Dipper Farm - 5376 County Road 56, RR2, Cookstown, Ontario, L0L 1L0, Canada