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            The Green Lady by artist Cheryl Polk

In This Issue: Happy New Year! Christmas has come and gone and now we turn the page and walk into 2012. In the Chinese calender, 2012 is the Year of the Dragon. In ancient China the Dragon represented an emperor and power. Today it represents success and happiness. May the celestial Dragon bring luck to all of you.

                     Geometrics by Cheryl Polk

We are opening up the year with a visit from North Carolina artist Cheryl Polk. Cheryl's excitement about gourds is contagious regardless of the season. In the summer she is out in her garden growing gourds and in the winter you will find her, woodburner in hand, lost in the world of gourd art. So without further adieu let's join Cheryl at her work table to see what she is up to.

               Cheryl Polk
     Trial and Error Pays Off!

Autumn in Pennsylvania is gorgeous and the childhood memories of Cheryl Polk include that of her mother coming home with small, colourful ornamental gourds. This was an early introduction to the gourd life and now, many years later, Cheryl's love of this unique gift of nature has only grown.
After leaving home Cheryl joined the army and was stationed in Texas. The climate there was ideal for gardening and among the flowers and vegetables, kettles, dippers and loofa reigned. In the fall Cheryl gathered them all and dried them. What a bounty that first year produced.

Fourteen years was spent in the army and an additional three in Texas where she continued to grow gourds. Then the decision to move back to her home state was made. The movers arrived and when they saw the boxes of gourds, Cheryl overheard them saying "Some people will move anything." She still chuckles when she thinks about it.

Three years ago Cheryl packed up and moved again, this time to North Carolina. Once again her gourds came with her. She states that if the truth were to be known, she would rather leave a piece of furniture behind but definitely not her gourds!
As far back as Cheryl can remember her pencil was always attracted to paper, sketching trees, flowers and whatever caught her fancy at the moment. After going into the army she began to draw cartoons and was a natural. With gourds however the approach proved to be different. There are more factors at play; size, shape, wall thickness. The design will vary depending on the gourd and the circumstance.

With many artists the initial design idea changes as the work progresses. With Cheryl this happens when she works on masks. It is easy to understand because masks are so open ended. They are just waiting for an active imagination.

Cheryl, like many of us, has a pile of gourds kept to the side. These are the "perfect gourds" just waiting for that perfect project. Some of these gourds have been travelling with Cheryl for years. The problem is they are so perfect in their raw form, maybe they will never be cut into or painted!
New techniques are acquired through books or experimention. A favorite technique is cutting. Cheryl admits that for the first few years she used an X-acto knife for everything. It worked but was risky, time consuming and rough. She then discovered the Dremel and what a find it was. Her designs became more intricate and opened avenues that were otherwise closed.
Being a detail-orientated person can be frustrating at times. But overall it works well. Woodburning is new but Cheryl loves it (because of the detail) and in 2012 plans to expand her variety of tips. She also creates botanical gourd gardens with dried flowers and finishes transforming a plain gourd shell into an object of beauty.

Currently Cheryl is faced with a unique problem with what to do with a pile of gourds that the squirrels got into. "This was very sad for me, each gourd lost is like losing a best friend." Packed up now, Cheryl rationalizes that she will have lots of bits and pieces for other projects and who knows, there may just be a design where she can work around the damage.
Other interests include gardening (with a gourd crop going in next spring) and some day she would like to have a horse again. Swimming is a priority...anything outside is where Cheryl is most at home. Dogs have always been a part of Cheryl's life with collies being her favorite. Presently she has a sheltie named Dayz, an older dog but still a great dog and a beauty!

Cheryl has a 12 year old daughter in Middle School who is an A-B honor roll student and who is also a great helper with the gourds. When Cheryl is stuck her daughter can look at it and figure out what is wrong. She has great gourd ideas as well; it is wonderful to have the input of her creative daughter.

Three nephews, ages 14, 16 and nearly 21 are regular visitors and they, along with her daughter are all artistic. From young ages they have all been good at drawing and Cheryl encourages them to keep with it. She states that they all have the potential to do great things and as we all know art can give comfort and inspire us in ways that we cannot even imagine. 

Thank you Cheryl, it was a pleasure meeting you. We love your art and your easy approach to art; good luck in using up those squirrel bitten gourds. We have had that problem ourselves and those squirrels and chipmunks can be ruthless!
                                                                  Carolyn and Linda

Out of the Mailbag
I love when your newsletter hits my inbox! I have to stop right away and read about the featured artist and I always find another style, another idea that I want to try.

I have a question - Did you have a lot of gourds rot this year? I had many gourds that looked mature but rotted away - many more than usual and they were large ones, not small.

It was a disappointing year for my gourd crop. Oh well there's always next year!
                      Jeani Warish, Massachusetts, USA

Hi Jeani,
Thank you for such a nice letter. We always like to hear about how much our newsletter is enjoyed.
Send us some photos of the gourd art you do and you can be a part of this newsletter too!

I am not sure what your weather conditions were like this year...was it a cool spring that caused a delay in the flowering? That will automatically shorten the growing season and if so, the gourds would not have the time to mature which would result in rotting.

Here our spring started off cool but picked up. A hot summer and a later than usual fall frost helped too.

                          Rotting gourds

One thing you may want to do in 2012 is get your seeds started early (April) so by the time planting season arrives you will have strong seedlings to put in the ground.

We have a monthly growing guide in this newsletter which will start in the spring and covers everything from soaking the seeds to pollination and bug control. We will also be welcoming stories and photos of the growing experiences people have in their own backyards so keep that in mind. Thanks, keep in touch...Carolyn

Hello Northern Dipper,
First off I would like to thank you for Gourd Fever. I look forward to it and have sent quite a few issues off to friends. Now I have a question for you.

I have not been woodburning for very long and am finding that my tips are getting really gucked up. I can't seem to find information on how to clean them....can you help me?
                                        Sarah Scott - Kansas 

Hello there Sarah Scott,
It is normal to have a build-up of carbon when woodburning and we cannot stress how important it is to keep your tips clean. A buildup reduces the amount of heat that actually reaches the gourd and will affect your overall design.

There are a few methods you can use for cleaning tips, one being to use a fine emery cloth. Another way is to use super fine (400 grit) waterproof sandpaper. Hold your cold woodburning tip at an angle and draw it back over the sandpaper in short straight strokes. Do not press down as that could bend the tip.

There are also tip cleaning kits you can buy from hobby stores or off the Internet if you wanted to take that route. Send us some photos of your finished work; we would love to see it.

                                    Winter Morning 
 NEXT ISSUE:  February is the shortest month of the year but to us, who live in a cold climate, it just seems to go on and on. To break it up there are a couple of things that people look forward to. Firstly on February 2 there is Groundhog Day, an occasion in both Canada and the USA. 

For those not familiar with this event, the story is that if the groundhog sees his shadow when he emerges from his burrow, it means 6 more weeks of winter. If he does not see his shadow winter will end soon. Let's hope for cloudy skies. And there is of course Valentine's Day on the 14th. 

Here, at Northern Dipper, we are very excited as we are featuring Mutamba Rainos, a Toronto musician whose roots lie in Zimbabwe. Through his music he relays the stories and songs that he was brought up with...stories that have been passed from generation to generation. 

A master mbira player, Mutamba weaves colourful images through song and dance. He is a fascinating and we are certain you will love both him and his music in the February issue of Gourd Fever.
We would like to enter 2012 with the words of Jack Layton (Leader of the NDP Party Canada) who passed away in 2011. He wrote in his final letter to the nation: 

"My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we'll change the world."
               Happy New Year everyone!
                             Carolyn Cooper and Linda Bond 

PS Letters, photos and comments can be sent to info@northerndipper.com


   Volume 8, Number 81


Email: info@northerndipper.com

In this issue:
Cheryl Polk: Creative Energy Breaks Boundaries
The Bulletin Board: News From Northern Dipper
Out of the Mailbag, Gourd Sightings & Trivia

 The Bulletin Board   

Spring Shows
Stratford Garden Festival
March 1 - 4, 2012
The Stratford show is a spring highlight for both vendors and visitors. Well laid out they accept only the best of products including seeds, gardening tools and art. Breath- taking gardens and displays will knock out the winter doldrums so make sure to mark it on your calender.
For more information click here:
  Peterborough Garden Show
April 5 - 7, 2012
Peterborough is a show where a gardener will feel right at home. Fantastic exhibitors, garden displays, speakers and a flower competition in a relaxed enviroment makes a very pleasant day. See you there! 
To learn more click here:

  Cheryl Polk
Walking Seabirds
"Art has always played a part of my life. My whole family is creative beginning with my
mother who, at 82, still paints, draws and sews. My 2 brothers are both artists and my sister, who we lost three years ago,
was very expressive through
 both paint and the written word.
That is an art in itself."
 "I haven't had any formal art training. As with most things in my life I like to teach myself how to do things. If I can't figure it out on my own I usually use books for research."
"I love a challenge and with the gourds they most certainly have presented that! Lots of trial and error but the ideas constantly flow and are endless."
Words of Advice For New Artists
"Never give up! I have always admired artists that could just sit down and draw or paint a beautiful picure the first time! I have never been able to do that. I have to erase this or that and start over and over again until I get it right."
"Sometimes it just takes practice. For example I have done lots of Santas and  always had problems with their eyes. Enough was enough so I sat down one day and spent a couple of hours just drawing eyes. Now I have no problem and am happy with the results first time round."
"I think we all are creative and it just needs to be tapped into. When you do tap into it the sky is the limit! Get connected with yourself and your art - there is no greater feeling than feeling that creative energy and being able to use it to create a beautiful piece of art."
"Embellishing a gourd can make it more interesting and unique. Just walking outside in the
woods or along a beach is a treasure trove of natural materials that can be implemented. My brother did a gourd and inlaid shark's teeth that he found
on a beach."
"I really want to try pottery. The idea of working with clay is very appealing. There are lots of kinds of art I would love to try. Someday I will have the opportunity to try them but now the gourds are my passion and I hope that I will always be able to do them."  

 Out of the Mailbag
Greetings, thanks for the ever interesting newsletter. One day I will visit your farm.

My burning question...What is
the best way to clean the
outside of the gourds that I
grew two years ago?
Reinhardt Kusserow, Ontario

Hi Reinhardt,
Thank you for your email.
Cleaning is an easy but
messy task. Throw those gourds in a bucket of water to which
you have added a shot of
bleach and a bit of dish soap.

Let them soak for a bit (you
may have to weigh them down because they will bob in the
water or you can turn them.)

Scrub them down with a scrubbing pad. Give them a
good rinse, let them dry and
you will be ready to go!
 Northern Dipper,
Just wanted to let you know
how much I like your Music Pick of the Month and I liked last month's selection - Jim Cuddy 'Everyone Watched The Wedding'

I was a bit disappointed though because I thought you should have used a Christmas song. What gives? 

Alex Boyd, Saskatoon, Saskatchwan

Hi Alex,
Thanks for your letter. I
wondered why I didn't use a Christmas song as well! So
 better late than never. Here is
 a beautiful rendition of The
First Noel sung by Elvis
 Presley. Enjoy....


Gourd Sighting

Over the holidays we checked out a couple of Christmas movies on the tube. This year we saw The Homecoming, a movie which launched the series The Waltons. (1971-81)

The gourd sighting was auditory. When the kids were milking the cows Mary Ellen said "Daddy said it would be easier if we could just open the cow and dip the milk out with a gourd."
To learn more about this movie click here:
Here is a scene from The Homecoming: A Christmas Story

 It's A Dog's Life
Mickey had a grand time at Christmas sniffing out his  stocking (and everyone else's too!)
A long afternoon hike and a special dinner had Mickey wishing that Christmas would happen more than once a year. Happy New Year!

  Music Pick of the Month 
  The Artist:
   Bill Callahan
The song:
Too Many Birds
 To learn more about Bill Callahan click here:

 Published by
Pam Grossi
Victoria, BC, V8R 2Z7

 Northern Dipper
5376 County Road 56
Cookstown, Ontario
L0L 1L0, Canada
(519) 443-5638
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