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    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!

       Princess Moonbeam designed by Marla Helton

In This Issue: We are pleased to have with us Marla Helton, an Indiana artist who has been involved with gourd art since the early days. Marla has always 'coloured outside of the lines' and her work reflects this independent thought and creativity. 

Marla Helton's speciality is combining unique weaving with gourds and her work has been featured in high-end art shows and galleries. Next to working with gourds Marla loves to teach. We know that you will enjoy meeting Marla in this issue of Gourd Fever.

This month is the last of the series "The Art of Growing Gourds." During the harvest feelings can be bittersweet. Growing gourds is such a rewarding experience that it is missed when it is not happening. But we know in our hearts that winter will pass quickly and soon we will be back in our gardens tying up vines and pollinating.

Lots of mail and trivia, shows and gourd sightings but first off please welcome Marla Helton, October's featured artist.

Marla Helton

It was early on in the gourd movement and Marla Helton had an idea; an idea that was formed out of necessity as well as creative thought. Unbeknownst at the time, this idea was going to change her life.

Back in 1988 Marla took a basket weaving course. She had always loved weaving but not the traditional type baskets. She visualized two mediums coming together and in her mind a beautiful combination was weaving and pottery.

Marla and a friend, who was a potter, collaborated and came up with a product line called "Potskets." They were an instant hit but after a short time the pottery end of things could not physically keep up. It was just impossible. 

"Mmm" thought Marla "Why can't I combine weaving with gourds" and here the idea of mixed media combining gourds and weaving was born.

    Gourd with yucca 
As a child Marla was always encouraged to pursue whatever interested her and often chose non-traditional paths. She laughs when she says " I guess you could say I always coloured outside of the lines!"

Fear of failure did not hold her back because she realized early on that when moving into new areas of exploration there was bound to be some failure along the way. One fear came in the form of not being accepted by the buying public but this was definitely not the case at all.

Marla's approach to design is exploratory and she often sees ideas in other mediums that will inspire her. She then explores ways to incorporate these ideas into her own gourd art.

Orange Harmony 

Self-taught, Marla states that she will turn to a book for guidance but will generally experiment and develop a technique that works for her. She does a lot of coil weaving and also works with metals and torching.

Constantly trying out new things, sometimes just to see if they will work, keeps her art alive and fresh. Her attitude is that sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't but who cares - it is all part of the learning curve and most importantly, it's fun.

A lifetime love of recycling has been applied to Marla's gourd art and it was actually how the Wild Women were "born". She would either have damaged gourds or pieces of gourds left over from projects and would just hate to throw them away. She decided to use the pieces and created the "wild women".

Soon the wild women had names and little stories to go with them. People began to say that a book should be in the works thus 'The Wild Women of Gourdia' came to be. As it turned out these gals and their stories were actually a blessing in disguise because when the economic downturn hit, the wild women turned into major sellers for a while.

                     Harmony - Red Kettle

When asked about her life apart from gourds Marla just smiled and said," I have a great life that has provided me with the excitement of travelling to shows, teaching and pleasure. But in the end I always look forward to coming home to the peace and quiet of the farm. It provides me with a very harmonious balance in my life."

"My late husband and I had two boys, now grown and off on their own. I am blessed with a beautiful grand-daughter and daughter in law."

"In 2003 I lost my husband to cancer and it left me feeling very lost and vulnerable. But life moves in mysterious ways and one day at an art show I met my current partner. He kept coming back and buying gourds from me until we finally went out for dinner. And then when I was travelling to Vermont to teach at Stowe, he took a class from me."

"Not long after that, Stu Fabe left his corporate career in Cincinnati and joined me on my farm where we both do art work on gourds. His work is amazing and his coiling is superb." (Stu will be featured in next month's issue of Gourd Fever!) 

To view more of Marla's art and to see her show/class schedule click here:

Thank you Marla, it was a pleasure meeting you. We love your work and if we ever have an opportunity to participate in any of your workshops we'll be the first in line!        
                                                                     Carolyn and Linda

The Art of Growing Gourds

This is the last of the series "The Art of Growing Gourds" and this year it seems as though we were just soaking our seeds and now here we are getting ready for the harvest! Just a quick review:

1.) In the north do not harvest until the vines are dead as a result of the first hard frost. (Your vines will look like the above photo.)

2.) Leave a couple of inches of stem when you cut the gourds from the vines.

3.) Drying can happen outside or in an unheated garage, shed or barn. Make sure there is good air circulation as it aids drying.

4.) The gourds will take a few months to dry. Once you can hear the seeds rattling around you will know it is time to wash and craft.

5.) If the gourds develop soft spots or cracks the chances are high that they will rot...time to toss those ones out.

         A thick black mold will form on drying gourds.

The last thing to look after in your gourd garden is very important. It is 'Clean Up.' Get rid of all the gourd vines, broken gourds and weeds. Cucumber beetles hibernate in the soil and an ideal place is soil that sits under garden debris so clean up!

It has been a great year and as we do the harvest our minds will already be travelling ahead to think about all the things we are going to do with these gourds. We are bubbling over...it is so cool growing our own art supplies!
We will be back in the spring, seeds in hand, ready to witness this beautiful gourd growing cycle. Each year can be different so with anticipation we will wait and dream.
Out of the Mailbag

Regenerate by Julie Anne
Hi Carolyn,
This is one of my latest works. I am getting ready for the Estevan & Area Art's Council Adjudicated Art Show which is in November.
                                            Thanks, Julie Anne

Thanks Julie Anne, this is beautiful; I love your choice of colour and the design draws the eye in for further study. Good luck at the show, Carolyn

                      An ideal day for gourd shopping.

My name is Lily and I have been referred to you by a friend with regards to the gourds.

I have a dance school that uses these gourds as a hula implement and I was told that you may have what I am looking for. These dance implements are called IPU heke and are unique to the Islands of Hawaii.

Is an appointment necessary? When is it a good time? You can reach me at.....
                             Thank you in advance,
                             Lily Talebian
                            "Kupa A Lau Ka Mole Kuhohonu"
                              Deep roots continue to bud forth and florish.

Hi Lily,
As you can see from the photos this letter was sent a couple of weeks ago and you and your group did come out to Northern Dipper. It was very nice meeting all of you. The young women are so enthusiastic and refreshing. If you ever have public performances let us know; we would like to come to see you.
                                  Carolyn and Linda

Mama's Little Helper  

    This is Henry,Carolyn's Siamese helping out in the studio.
In addition to being an artist assistant Henry loves to charm the ladies. It is difficult to see him in the following photo but there he is up on a cat-lover's shoulder getting lovies!
After his official hello he will run & get one of his toys. "Throw it" he meows, liking to impress his guests with his fine retrieving skills! Henry you are handsome & a character too.  

Looking Ahead: November 2011
Next month we are thrilled to have Stu Fabe gracing the pages of Gourd Fever. Stu is a delightful man with a strong business and art background. For years he was involved in the fast paced world of corporate fundraising that aided many large Cincinnati institutions and at the same time, he was a serious photographer with five solo exhibitions under his belt. Life was busy. 

One day it all changed in the blink of an eye, or to be more accurate; it changed when Cupid pulled his bow tight and pointed it towards Marla Helton (whom you just met in this months newsletter!) 

Shortly afterwards Stu gave up his life in Cincinnati and now spends his time creating gourd art, doing shows and enjoying his life with Marla on their farm in Indiana. Please welcome Stu Fabe in the November issue; we know you will find him fascinating.

Christmas is right around the corner and to celebrate we are presenting a tutorial on 'Making a Gourd Snowman.' Using a kettle gourd, these snowmen are adorable and easy to do. You may just want to make one for everyone on your list. 

There is still lots of mail in our bag waiting to be shared plus gourd sightings, trivia, music picks...can you tell we have fun here at Northern Dipper!

See you next month and if you can make it to the Balls Falls Thanksgiving Festival Craft and Art Show or the London Arts and Craft Show stop by; we would love to meet you.
                                    Until then, happy trails!
                              Carolyn Cooper and Linda Bond
Any ideas, stories and comments can be sent to:


Volume 7, Number 79


Email: info@northerndipper.com

In this issue:
Marla Helton - Weaving Discoveries Into Success 
The Bulletin Board: News From Northern Dipper
The Art of Growing Gourds
Out of the Mailbag, Gourd Sightings & Trivia

The Bulletin Board
Upcoming Shows
 Ball's Falls Thanksgiving Festival Craft Show & Sale

When: October 7 - 10, 2011

Where: Balls Falls Conservation Area
Vineland, Ontario
One hundred and forty artisans, live entertainment, children's attractions and more make for a fun time at the Balls Falls Show. See you there!

London Arts and Craft Show
When:October 21 - 23, 2011

Where: Canada Building at the Western Fairground in London, Ontario

To learn more: 

 Marla Helton  
"When I first got accepted
into top juried art shows I
found it very imtimidating. It was early on in the gourd movement and my work
was so different than what people were use to."
"What happened was that I found immediate acceptance, appreciation and success. This gave me the courage to continue moving into new and unexplored areas."
 "I was an art major at high school but was always told that you can't make a dependable living in art so I went to college and got a degree in social work. Although I loved social work I found that working 9 - 5 was sucking the life right out of me. When my first child was born in 1980 I became a stay at home mom."

"During those early years with my sons I was fortunate to be able to explore working with natural materials that I grew in my garden and incorporated those into various artful arrangements. Working with natural materials prepared me for working with weaving materials."
"My inspiration often comes from just seeing something that I like and seeing how it will work with gourds and weaving. I tend to go through phases where I really find inspiration for a colour or an element and I let that move my art."

Random Weaving

Words Of Advice For
New Artists
 "I would encourage all new artists to develop a few basic skills that interest them and then move into new areas."
"Taking a few classes is a great way to get started because that gives you the opportunity to see what you do and don't like (don't expect to like everything!)"

"Don't be afraid to try something and if it doesn't work don't be dismayed...you may just find some aspect of it that does work. I always tell my students that a mistake is
and can be a creative opportunity!"
"I am a member of the Indiana Gourd Society but teach for many gourd groups including the Florida Gourd Society. I am a member of and teach for many basket weaving groups throughout the US including the Association of Michigan Basket Weavers, North Carolina Basketweavers Association, Misti Washington Gourd and Basketry Association in California." 
"There are many wonderful gourd artists out there and I find I am drawn to the ones who branch out into new and unexplored areas. I also love the art of those who follow established patterns...it is all beautiful work."
"I plan to continue along the same path that I have chosen. I love teaching throughout the U.S. and have thought about doing the same outside of the U.S.

"Since I support myself with
my work, I need to continue to follow whatever opportunities present themselves. I hope to continue to discover new approaches to weaving and gourds for many years to come!"

The Art of Growing Gourds

 While drying the skin on many gourds will separate from the gourds as seen in the above photo.

This cannonball has a beautiful mottled pattern.

There are always gourds that are hidden under the
 thick vines.

This gourd looked mature when harvested but as you can see it was not. As it dryed it collapsed in on itself.

Out of the Mailbag 
A female flower is at the top and at the bottom a male looking like he is getting ready to pounce!
 Good morning ladies!
Gareth Pearson here from Saanich, Vancouver Island just checking in to let you know how my late season gourd growing is going.
I finally got a female flower during the last days of August and although I've had a couple others I didn't bother pollinating. As a matter of fact I went out last night and pruned all the vines except the one that holds my prize gourd.
Isn't she a beauty!
Now the challenge will be to keep the vine alive long
enough to let this gourd
mature. I'm still crossing my fingers for its survival.
Will keep in touch,
Gareth Pearson
Saanich, Vancouver Island
PS The apples did very well this year in both quality and quantity. Usually this old variety gets scab but this year they were picture perfect.

 Gourd Sighting
Happened to catch Fahrenheit 911 the other night; a film by Michael Moore. A gourd was spotted in a clip of a little girl grinding corn. She was pouring the corn into a gourd bowl.
To learn more about this film click here: 
    It's A Dog's Life         
Mickey's pack includes two humans, two cats plus daily feline neighbourhood visitors and four laying hens.
When the hens are out in
 the garden, Mickey often has
2 or 3 swirling about his legs. He doesn't mind though - he has figured out that is where the eggs come from. Yupp, it's a dog's life for sure! 
  Music Pick of the  Month

This is Okavango: An African Orchestra
The song: Khaira 

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


Northern Dipper
PO Box 1145
5376 County Road 56
Cookstown, Ontario,
 L0L 1L0, Canada
(705) 435-3307
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