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  A collection of native inspired dolls by artist Joan Blackwell

This month we are thrilled to feature Joan Blackwell, 
an artist from Tennessee. Joan's positive attitude influences everyone she meets, and in her part of the world, is known for spreading that gourdly glow  through both her art and her classes. Please welcome Joan Blackwell and her wonderful, colourful art.
There was a collective sigh of relief on March 1st as the people in the winter zones celebrated the passing of February. Although the shortest month, February is the most brutal. March brings hope and a sense of renewal, and with it, the planning of the summer garden.
For many of you gourds will be at the top of your list. Trellised minis in the children's garden, cannonballs along the back chain link fence and huge bushels at the edge of the garden. It is a vision that is very pleasing to the imagination and the eye.
This month's article "Planning The Gourd Garden" is a list of things you should consider. The needs of the gourd are few but must be adhered to. Follow a few simple guidelines you will be on your way to success. 

        Joan Blackwell  
      "Revealing The Art Within" 

              Joan Blackwell with a prized gourd 

It was 82 year old Miss Louise that introduced me to gourds. I was visiting at her large cow, horse and goat farm and noticed a gourd hanging from her fence. Noting my interest she gave it to me and I gladly took it with the thought that I would make a gift for you know who - Miss Louise!

Not knowing much about gourds I started to research them on the internet and was amazed at their history and many functions. Gourd art done by artists from around the globe inspired me and made me hungry to learn more.

Miss Louise's gourd was a long handled dipper - ideal for a bird who needs a home. Using acrylic paint, it was amazing how easily the paint flowed on the surface. The design was free hand and took several days to complete. Miss Louise was so happy when I gave her the gift; her gift to me was to open up a new path for my creativity. 

Joan with her good friend Miss Louise
Consistant throughout my history with arts and crafts is my love for colour. My ceramic instructors  always suggested colour schemes but I always had my own ideas and the results were pleasing. In the summer my gardens are ablaze with colour, and in my house are tables and chairs, each with their own colourful personalities.

Last year a farmer gave me a huge sack of gourds and as a thank you I told him I would paint him one. Asking him what he would like, he raised his eyes skyward and pointed to his large purple martin colony. I went home and promptly researched martins on the internet, studying their form and colour.

The farmer loved the finished project and once again the internet was a good source for learning. I also get ideas from books, gourd workshops, and just spending the time thinking of new designs and what I can do next.

Demonstrating at the Tribal Housing Museum in Pembroke, NC

I am a Lumbee Indian and have always been intriqued by the tribal art form, whether it be African tribal, U.S. folk country art, Australian, Asian, mid-Eastern or Native American Indian.

My work is influenced by my Native American heritage. Each piece of work is an original and is signed. The designs usually take about 2 - 3 days to complete and for consignment pieces I welcome particular colours or designs.

I currently live in Tennessee but will soon be moving back to my roots in Pembroke, NC. I recently completed a gourd piece for the new housing cultural centre back home. It will be on permanent display in their museum which makes me very happy.

This Christmas I did Santas. After doing forty my creativity was blocked and I was bored but I must admit they did  sell very well.

I am retired now due to a near fatal hit and run pedestrian accident which ended my 36 year career with the Department of Defense. I have spent many years recovering and am blessed to have such strong family ties and a strong faith in God.

I have 8 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild with another on the way. When the grandkids are here my life is hectic and fun. To complete the picture we have LowBow, our little dog who is always a great joy to everyone.

After five years, I have completed almost 300 pieces of gourd art. More than half of these were gifts or sold. I've exhibited at several Tennessee art galleries and have taught beginners gourd classes at the YMCA, Senior Citizens Center, children's summer camps, private lessons and at several art and crafts festivals.

A colourful bird house 

My days are filled with family, volunteer work, and visits with my many friends. To complete my life I make sure that I have a few hours every week to escape into the world of gourd art.

Joan is currently exhibiting her work at Joe's Diner, the Cannon County Arts Center and Paul's Antique Shop, all located in Woodbury, TN. Also at the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, Stella Luna's Art Gallery in Smithfield, TN and at the Market Place in Murfreesboro.

To learn more about Joan and her art click here:

Thank you ever so much Joan for contributing to this newsletter. We love your bright colourful art and wish you all the best with the upcoming plans you are making.  Keep in touch; let us know how things are going.    Carolyn 

Planning The Gourd Garden

Growing gourds can be a very rewarding experience for both the first time grower through to the experienced. There are some aspects that are memorable such as pollinating on warm summer evenings and the harvest in the fall. Gourds are easy to grow providing that you follow a few basic guidelines. Lets start with the seed.

There is no doubt that waiting for a gourd seed to sprout requires the patience of Job. Some varieties take a week, others take three; the main thing is that you buy your seed from a reputable supplier. Like any smart business, Northern Dipper does germination tests on all of the seed they sell. If a batch of seeds does not have a high percentage of sprouting, it does not go out the door.

Gourds Are A Hot Crop!
Heat is the name of the game with gourds and they take 110 - 150 days to reach maturity. It is for this reason that it is wise to get a head start on planting your seeds whether it be in a sunny kitchen window or under a grow light.

Planning The Physical Garden
Gourds should be planted in a south- facing location where they will get lots of sun. Depending on the variety many can be planted on a trellis. That's right - use that vertical space. Along a chain link fence works well too and will create a screen between you and your neighbour, a bonus for urban dwellers. 

Ground grown gourds require lots of space as the vines do grow quickly and can be massive. They are similar to pumpkin vines. This, combined with the weight of the green gourds, should be considered when determining whether to trellis or grow on the ground.

Other Considerations

Gourds love water but do not like to get their leaves wet. Keep this in mind when planning your garden. 

They thrive in soil filled with compost. Some people plant their seeds in or around their compost piles and they normally get bumper crops.

Heat, water and rich soil...the main requirements of a gourd vine. The beginning however is with the seed.

Have fun; remember there is a gourd for everyone - minis for children, bushels for drum-makers and dippers and kettles for bird lovers! 

For info on seeds click here:
Coming Up: A Series of Gourd Growing Reports
Beginning next month Gourd Fever will present short monthly articles on The Art of the Growing Gourd. They will follow the life cycle of a gourd plant beginning with the germination of the seed, seedling requirements, planting and pruning, bugs and pests and more. We also welcome your questions, photographs and experiences from your own gourd gardens.

Dear Carolyn

                 Lidded Gourds by Joan Forbes
Hi there,
I have been working with gourds for about nine months now and really enjoy it. I have done quite a few projects but my last one did not work out. It was going to be a lidded bowl, but ended up having a pine needle rim instead.

For some reason the space between the lid and the bowl was ill fitting. Any tips you can offer will be welcomed.
Alica Russell, Nova Scotia, Canada

Hello Alica,
I think everyone who has ever cut a lid in a gourd has encountered the same problem. You are not alone.

There are a couple of tricks in cutting a lid. Follow these and your lids should fit like a glove.
1.) Using a pencil draw your lid design onto the gourd. Be precise as the cut line must be smooth for a tight fitting lid.
2.) Find a spot along your penciled line - a straight section at the back of the gourd is the best. Using a strong utility knife score a line approximately 1" in length.
3.) Keep cutting into the scored 1" line until you are through the gourd. This opening is where the jigsaw blade will enter.
4.) The blade for the jigsaw must be a fine-tooth blade, thin and narrow. A small 18th tooth hand-saw can be used as well. Place the blade into the scored spot and begin to cut. Make a continuous line; if you wander off the line do not stop to fix it but direct the blade back to the pencilled line.
You may want to practice on some gourd scraps before you tackle your project. Good luck, let us know how it works out. Carolyn

         Cherry blossoms in Vancouver during the Olympics    

We are honoured to present Patty Sorensen, an artist who is passionate about gourds and basket making. An expert at combining these two art forms into complex pieces, Patty has the natural gift for composition and texture. Never afraid to wander outside of the box, Patty's art will inspire us all. 

April will be the first in our series of the gourd growing reports. In it will be a discussion about starting your seeds; what you will need and what their requirements will be. It is a great summer hobby and the best part of it is that you will have art supplies in the end!

We hope to see some of you at either the Stratford Garden Festival or at Canada Blooms. Both shows offer spectacular gardens, speakers and workshops and of course seeds and supplies for every level of gardener. Make sure to stop by and say hello if you can attend, we would love to meet you. 

We'll be back next month full of vim and vigor...see you then.
                              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 6, Number 61 


In this issue
Joan Blackwell - "The Woodbury Gourd Lady" 

The Bulletin Board: Northern Dipper News

Planning The Gourd Garden
Reader's Corner, Dear Carolyn and 
Gourd Sightings

 The Bulletin Board
 Hours of Operation
Northern Dipper will be closed from March 3 - 8

Spring Shows
The Stratford Garden Festival
March 4 - 7, 2010
At the Stratford Rotary Complex
For details click here:
Canada Blooms
March 17 - 21, 2010
At the Direct Energy Exhibit Place
Halls A and B
Toronto Ontario
For details click here:

      Joan Blackwell
"Study a new gourd and take the time to decide what you want to do."

"Will it be a mask, a bowl, a doll or a gift for a friend? What colours will you use and what embellishments?"

"Contemplate these questions, take your time and the art will soon
reveal itself."

The Cat

"The greatest inspiration I find in my art is the encouragement and compliments I recieve from my family and friends. When I gave a gourd to my only son, an Army pilot, he said, 'Wow mom, this is beautiful, you could sell this...' My gifts are from the heart and I thank God for my talents."
My gift to Miss Louise 

Words of Advice For NewArtists
"Keep up the good gourd work, paint from the heart, get to know other gourd artists, go to gourd festivals, exchange ideas, and get to know the farmers who grow gourds." 
A Gift For Tina Jones
"Only twice did I grow gourds myself. The first time I threw some seeds into a space beside my patio. The vines grew up the wall and over the roof of the house! My grandson often came over to watch the process. It was fun."
 Pretty Goose
Future Plans
"I shall continue with my gourd art and hope to establish workshops in my hometown."

"I also plan to seek a grant to establish a gourd museum in Pembroke, NC. Here we will offer classes to children and adults on how to turn the gourd into works of art."
Greeting Elder

 The Gourd Garden

A trellised garden is a great place to hang out on a hot summer day.
A female gourd flower ready for pollination.
 A lovely green gourd
Minis, easy to grow and the
perfect ornament gourd.

   Submit Your Art
Many gourd lovers are collectors of gourd art. In light of this Northern Dipper has started a new service on their website where people can showcase their art for viewing. Here are some samples of what is featured.
This unique piece was designed by G. Alan. In the top of the balloon is a nesting area for birds and in the basket below is a spot for bird seed.
 This is a beautiful drum by Carolyn Cooper.
 To learn more about submitting your art click here:

   Reader's Corner
 Hello there Northern Dipper
Just a short email to let you know how much I look forward to your newsletter showing up in my mailbox at the beginning of every month.
My favorite part is the featured artists. Some obviously have years of experience while others are fairly new. All of them inspire me in my own work.
I have thought of contacting you to see if you would like to feature my work. How do I do this?
Thanks once again!
David Massie, CA
Hi David,
 Every month there is a buzz of excitement in our office about the featured artists. Through words and photographs we try to get a sense of the artists and what motivates them in their art. The process and the finished work is always a beautiful experience.
We would love to see what you do and will be in touch soon. Thanks David...
Carolyn and Linda

 Gourd Sightings
The 2010 Vancouver Olympics just finished. It was quite the party that brought the world together and both the athletes and the audiences should be congratulated for a job well done.
Many people had cowbells which they rang to encourage their countries on. In the speed skating crowd a gourd shaker was spotted in someones there is a fan that has really caught that gourd bug! For more information click here:

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

Northern Dipper
PO Box 1145
5376 County Road
RR 2, Cooksville, Ontario
L0L 1L0, Canada
(705) 435-3307
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