artists, growtips, info & more

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  John Proctor teaches at the Sanford Flemings College and this was his installation for the Facilty Art Show called Vessels.

In This Issue: 
Last month we were thrilled to have the opportunity to visit Earth Tone Studios, located in Haliburton, Ontario. Here we hooked up with artist and musician John Proctor, a soft-spoken man who comes alive when talking about gourds, music and drumming.

During the past few years John has followed a path that he claims "found him." Join us in our interview with John to learn about his life as a musician, teacher and facilitator of musical and related experiences. 
Which witch is which? That is Carolyn in the middle of this bevy of witches at Ball's Falls.
One thing we often hear is that there are not many venues available to gourd artists that only have a few pieces to sell. In light of this we are pleased to introduce a new addition to this newsletter and to our website titled "Submit Your Art." 

"Submit Your Art" is a place where artists will be able to showcase and sell their work to a global audience. We are excited about this new venture and hope to fill the void expressed by so many. 

To begin we will be accepting art from only Canadian artists; and we did have to think of a few rules which may change in the future. But we have worked out the details as you will see when you scroll down.

    The spirit of Halloween was obvious at Eileen's house  with this impressive door wreath is made from mini gourds.

We also have many letters to share with you (we just love the mailbag) and questions for Dear Carolyn. Plus a good gourd sighting that will put you in the autumn spirit. 

In the meantime please join us at the Earth Tone Studios on the ever-changing sonic journey of 
John Proctor. 

 John Proctor
"Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." Berthold Auerbach
This installation consists of a berimbau across the middle with a foot peddle to change the sound. There are two large gourd resonators and the top pieces are PVC drum, 3 pot lids and a juice can guiro with drum heads.
John, a quiet and intelligent man, states that the drumming experience is much more than just banging on a drum. As a child John had taken music lessons and played guitar, but the spiritual connection to music did not happen until he became a hand-drummer in the 90's.
To learn more he and his wife Dani, who is also a well-known artist, enrolled in a Sound Practitioner Course in Toronto. They learned to understand more about the sound and how the human body and the mind experiences it.
Drumming has physical, spiritual and psychological benefits and is considered by some to be a healthy addition and/or alternative to traditional medicine. Sonic journeys can be very profound and healing and promotes both personal and group development and wellness. Now where do gourds fit in?


                                African Djembe 
  The name djembe translates to "everyone gather together" which defines this drums purpose.

Hard shell gourds have been made into musical instruments for centuries beginning, we believe, in Africa. Natural resonators of sound and voice, in combination with their organic look, was what John found appealing about this dried fruit. The fact that he was already making traditional musical instruments, and that gourds were available in so many shapes and sizes...well it was a match made in heaven.
John enrolled in a gourd course with Darienne and Ed McAuley at the Halibuton School of the Arts. In the course they started off making bowls but once John learned the basics, he began his journey in making gourd instruments.

His first percussion instrument was with a large thick-walled gourd that had a crack in it. He was able to practice cleaning, repairing and finishing and still uses this gourd as a resonator for making sound with a "scraping stick."
 Japanese taiko drums are used in both Japanese folk and classical musical traditions. To hear a taiko drum click here:
The practice of making musical instruments and music making has changed John's perspective on life. It has expanded his horizons and opened his eyes to different cultures, life experiences and new people. 

He states that music has gently persuaded his introverted nature into an extroverted teacher and facilitator of musical and related experiences. He encourages all who have not had the chance to experience rhythm to seek it out. It's clean family entertainment, inexpensive and most of all fun!

To further his musical education John trained as a Roots of Rhythm teacher. This allows him to go into the public school system or teach any other group who makes the request. All types of   teachers take the course, including music teachers.
John uses a cross curricular program which allows teachers of all subjects to use music and instruments to relate to other subjects such as history and geography. The students love this approach as it is interactive and it does make all those subjects easier to remember in a memorable way.
John's main business is teaching workshops on how to build drums and percussion instruments, normally incorporating drum circles into that experience. Although he does hold some workshops at Earth Tone Studios, he mainly teaches outside of Haliburton.

Gourd instruments include djembe styled rope tuned drums, frame drums, various shakers such as the caxixi, shekere, guiro, berimbau, kalimba and the rain gourd.

Providing materials for other people to make their own musical instruments is a large part of the business as well. A big problem was procuring gourds with thick enough shells to use for quality drum making. Since the growing season in Ontario is so short he was having to go to the US but now that Northern Dipper is importing gourds, his problem has been solved.
John will be teaching a week long workshop called Making Drums and Percussion Instruments with Hard Shell Gourds next summer at the Haliburton School of the Arts. This will be an amazing and inspiring course so bookmark the school's website listed below. John will also be having a one day workshop on August 7, 2010 called Drumming - A Sonic Journey.

In the meantime check out John and Dani's website as it is very interesting. Do try to attend one of John's drumming circle or classes - they are certain to have a positive effect on your day!

To learn more about John and Dani at Earth Tone Studios click here: 

To learn more about the Haliburton School of the Arts click here:
John also sells at the following galleries.
Thanks John! It was fun seeing you at the CGS Gourd Fest and we'll see you again soon. Carolyn and Linda

Submit Your Art                          This is the perfect venue for gourd artists who do beautiful work, but it is not their full time livelihood. It is for those who have often thought about selling their work, but where do you sell when you do only a few pieces a year?

Northern Dipper has heard this sentiment from many artists and crafters the past few years and after much thought, has decided that it would be fun to help fill this void and provide a venue for this group.

This month we will present some of Carolyn Cooper's work. It will give you a good idea of how your work will be presented.

Artist: Carolyn Cooper, Cookstown, Ontario
Carolyn has been dabbling in the arts as far back as she can remember. Originally a woodworker designing whimsical creations and reproduction furniture, she quickly fell in love with gourds. And now; as a co-owner of Northern Dipper, she takes full advantage of the mountains of gourds surrounding her.                                                         
This unique looking drum is from a swan gourd. It has a goat skin head and black lashings. The neck has a wood burning of an eagle which is painted red. Approx. 13" tall with a diameter of 12". $110.00
To view more of Carolyn's art click here:
Want to sell your work too? For details click here:

Reader's Corner
Hi Linda,
Here are the pictures of my little shop of horrors! Thanks for the drying info, I will let you know how they turn out...Carlin   

      What a perfect environment to grow gourds...a lovely                     place  to sit, meditate and read too.

Thanks Carlin for sending in these photos. Let me know how the gourds do in the long run. I would like to see what you do with them once they do dry. Linda
Hello there,
I can't tell you how much your small packet of seeds (all $3.89 worth) has given me this summer. My family thinks I am truly nuts but they too have enjoyed watching as the vines grew inches every day. I've attached a photo of the trellis I built for the vines.

From the 4 plants we got 5 gourds however one is small and is rotting. I was pleased my first year with this yield and will start my seeds indoors earlier next year.

Thanks again...Jillian Haight
 This trellis, built by Jillian, is strong and looks absolutely lovely covered with gourd vines. 
      Jillian we love this photo. There is nothing nicer than  standing under a trellis full of gourds on a hot summer day.

Thank you Jillian for the photos. We just know that next year you will have a bumper crop!
Linda and Carolyn
Hello there,
I am very excited to get started on my gourd that I purchased from your exhibit at Monroes on Sunday, October 4th. (It was my birthday) My husband, a very tolerant man, endulges my passions for artistic mediums and I am always looking for something new to try. I would like to invite you to visit my website if you have time.
Thank  you,
Renee "Gourdie" Havers
To view Renee's website click here:
Hi Renee,
Thanks for writing. We checked out your website and your stained glass is fabulous. When will we see some gourd art put up? Can't wait for that! Keep in touch...

Dear Carolyn
Hey Carolyn...
I am sure you have gotten this question before but here goes. I harvested my gourds and was pleased but now that they have been sitting in my shed for 3 weeks I noticed a couple are getting soft around the top where the stem is. Will these dry or should I ditch them now?
Gene Harris
Here is an immature gourd collapsing in on itself.
Hi Gene,
Thank you for your letter. It is still a little too early to decide whether these gourds will rot but if they are really soft, and the softness is spreading, then I am afraid they will not make it.
Keep your eye on them, make sure they are getting good air circulation, and if they do get worse get rid of them. Gourds, it must be remembered, are just like people - they may look mature but the reality is you can't really tell.  This is the main reason people lose their gourds to rot...lack of maturity.
Good luck, Carolyn 

ecember is a month of celebration, and the passing of another year for this newsletter is an event that we smile about. We have watched Gourd Fever grow from a few subscribers to thousands from around the world. We cannot begin to express the joy that we feel when we think about how gourds, art and aspirations can bring so many people together.

To celebrate we are going to go back through our archives and highlight some of the artists that have graced our pages. It is our way of saying thank you and to let the contributing artists know how honoured we are to write about them.

Next month, seeing as it is the season of gift giving, we will be putting together some ideas for products that may strike a chord for those on your list that have an artistic curiousity about gourd art. It is our experience that people sometimes buy for themselves too...that's OK...sometimes it's fun to make yourself # 1.

So until we meet again keep that mail coming!  
We would love to see any holiday gourd art you have created or hear any thoughts you may have.
                          Carolyn Cooper and Linda Bond
PS If you have any stories or ideas that you would like to contribute to this newsletter please send to


 Volume 5, Number 58 


In this issue:
John Proctor - Haliburton Soundscapes 

The Bulletin Board - Northern Dipper News
"Submit Your Art" - A New Venue For Selling Gourd Art

Reader's Corner, Dear Carolyn, Gourd Sightings & Trivia

  "The Bulletin Board"  Northern Dipper News
Northern Dipper will be exhibiting at:
Originals Christmas
Craft Show
When: December 10 - 20
Where: Lansdowne Park, Ottawa

This a a busy show featuring over 200 Canadian artists, artisans and designers. 

There is something for everyone...home items, stocking stuffers, one of a kind art, fashion and gourds too! 
(Northern Dipper will be showing mostly finished art at this show.)  

For details including directions and a link to a Google map click here:

Ball's Falls Photos 
Last month Northern Dipper exhibited at Ball's Falls, a craft show which Carolyn describes as "one of the best around." The setting was beautiful, the people were fun and Northern Dipper was very well received.
 The Falls
Carolyn and Linda likes to see gourd interaction so they had a "mini workshop" with the theme being Halloween. The big decision for everyone was choosing exactly the right gourd to cut and decorate.

We would like to extend a special thank you to Katlan; our friend who helped us keep up at Ball's Falls by cheerfully washing gourds!

  John Proctor
"Drumming started as a hobby and soon progressed into a career. It was not intentional, it found me.  I just let the music take me to shared and unexplored places." 

John experiences pure  joy while drumming.

"Teaching became a natural progression of my musical knowledge. It was important to me
 to share my knowledge and pass onto others the experience of
sound and its healing powers."

Gourd hand drum with a tie-dyed
goat skin.

Although one day John may be running a workshop for traditional drum making, and the next be facilitating a classroom of kids building and decorating coffee can drums and soup can shakers, his real passion is gourds. 

A drumming circle

Some of the benefits in participating in a drumming circle are:

- Shared musical experience of the participants

- Musical communal gathering, where people working together create in the moment music, using drums and percussion instruments
- A place where everyone has a voice and is empowered to use it

- Where the creative spirit is shared by everyone in the circle
- Recreational music making where the focus is not the making of the music but on personal or group development and wellness 
- No experience necessary, any age can participate and it is just plain FUN! 
Advice To New Gourd Instrument Makers
"I am probobly one of the few gourd crafters who spends more time working with the inside of the gourd than the outside."

"Two reasons - Careful cleaning
and sealing make the best gourd resonators for percussion instruments. One hundred years from now, when a skin needs to be replaced, I want the new owner to say,  Wow, whoever prepared this gourd did a great job!"

"Secondly, as we all know, any amount of time can be spent on artistic decoration which is of course why gourds are perfect to work with. However I make instruments that are meant to be played and that are affordable. I want people to take their drums to drum circles, not hang them on a wall." 

John displayed a large variety of percussion instruments at the CGS Gourd Festival.

"I use stains, inks and tung oil  that brings out the beautiful markings of the gourds. I have also been known to do the occasional coiling using waxed linen on the bottom rim of the drum as well."

Sometimes John hears people say "But I don't have a sense of rythm!"

His response -"Everyone has a heartbeat. Everyone breathes in, 
 out and rests. Everyone walks
 in rhythm. The circulatory system is rhythmic. Everyone has a sense of rhythm whether they believe it or not. And when playing music together there is a natural phenonemon
called entrainment that occurs.Therefore we
can all make music together."
Here is a fine mbira / thumb piano that John made. The mbira is African in origin and is now found throughout the world in music circles. To hear the mbira click here: 
An informal drum circle at the CGS Gourd Festival.

To hear some West African drumming click here:

Note: All of the instruments in this article were crafted by John Proctor.

   Submit Your Art

A brilliant cardinal hand painted in a winter scene is a wonderful gift for that special someone. The top of the gourd is cut into the shape of poinsettias. This natural coloured gourd is approx. 15" tall and an 8" diameter. $105.00

This unopened gourd is striking with its brilliant iridescent colours of copper, gold and violet. The background is a solid artprint brown. It stands about 12" tall with a diameter of 8 1/2" $65.00  

    Reader's Corner
Carlin's curly handled maranka
 Carlin you have a green thumb! 

Good day Northern Dipper,
I just received my gourds and am so pleased. They are beautiful and truly resonated with me.
Thank you so much for adding the little ones, they are all so wonderful and I could not have asked for better. I am looking forward to artistically
and spiritually working with them.
Thank you again from my heart.
Sincerely, Mary Cousins 
Thank you Mary for your email. Send us photos of the gourds once you
are done embellishing them. We would just love to see the finished results. Carolyn and Linda
Here are a couple of the latest pieces that I have done using gourds I purchased from you. I have been using Swarovski rhinestones so I am calling these "Fabrege" gourds. 
Barbara Weed 
Hi Barbara,
These are gorgeous rich looking designs. We really like the heart shaped one. The insides are beautiful too. Thank you for sending in these photos and keep in touch. We would love to see future projects. Carolyn

Gourd Sighting
This gourd sighting was seen in the booth of Nicole and Daryl McMahon at Ball's Falls. Between the beautiful reproduction antique furniture and primitive dolls and folk art, Carolyn found her new "pumpkin head." The sighting - a gourd bowl which is full of mini gourds. 

Nicole & Daryl will be having a Christmas Open House Friday, Nov 13 from 6 pm - 9 pm, Saturday Nov 14 & Sunday Nov 15 from 9 am - 4 pm. 

The address is 98 Broadway St West in Paris, Ontario.
For more info email at:

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

Northern Dipper
5376 County Rd 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