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                             Dolls by Jean Henderson

In This Issue:
If anyone has ever attended the New York International Toy Fair, The Doll & Teddy Bear Expo or the Philadelphia Black Doll Convention, then the chances are good that they have met artist / 
doll - maker Jean Henderson. Jean is the owner of Expressions of Color and her dolls are impressive. Displayed they turn heads at the shows and are found in private collections and in gallery settings across the country. 

Jean began her doll-making career with cloth dolls and in 2006 discovered gourds. Soon detailed costumes in rich fabrics complimented gourd bodies and heads. In addition to dolls, Jean designs gourd vessels and other decor for the home.

Carol Switzer was fortunate to have a family of Purple Martins move in the first year she had her houses up. In this photo are young Martins who return daily for at least one month after they fledge. 

We love Purple Martins. Their agile acrobatics are mesmerizing to watch and it is such a thrill to see the babies grow. An extra bonus is the number of insects they eat, particularily out here in the country.

To celebrate the upcoming return of the Martin we are having a seed and Purple Martin gourd kit sale.
It is our hope that everyone will grow Purple Martin seeds this summer or buy a kit. Imagine, in backyards everywhere across North America, Purple Martins will reign.

It is coming up to gourd growing season so now is time to introduce you to Ken Carlson of Aberdeen, South Dakota. Ken is what we would call 'a bit of a character' and an expert at many things. One of those things just happens to be gourd growing.
Last year Ken submitted an article titled Dippers & Knots: If My Mother Can Learn, You Can Too. (Issue 85) It was funny and informative and we loved it. So much so that we asked Ken if he would like to be a regular contributor regarding gourd growing. To our delight he agreed and  his first installment this month is titled "Growing BIG Gourds In A Short Growing Season" , a subject that many of us think about every spring.
Now off to the magical world of art and doll-making with our guide, Jean Henderson.

Jean Henderson - Expressions of Color


Jean Henderson, the owner of Expressions of Color, is a creative woman with a passion for doll-making. She laughs as she says this because as a little girl, she didn't play with a lot of dolls. She did however have a love affair with fabric from a very young age. At nine a family member taught Jean how to sew and it was at this time her "fabric-holic" addiction began to take hold.  

Fondly remembering her visits to the fabric shop, Jean recalls her excitement in wanting to touch every piece of material she could. Before long she began to make clothes for herself, and then for her family and friends. As Jean got older she discovered she had a real flair for design and where her heart lay was with evening wear, wedding gowns and prom attire.
Doll-making came by almost accidently. Jean decided to make a cloth doll for a close friend and it was at that moment she realized that not only could she make the doll, she could also design the clothes. At the time I don't think Jean realized how successful she would become with this new genre.


When Jean began to make cloth dolls, her husband, who was a master upholsterer, was making furniture for Jean's personal doll collection. She used a couple of pieces of his furniture to showcase a doll at a tradeshow and it sold very quickly. Her husband could not believe that people were interested in his furniture. 

More furniture followed which quickly sold. After a few years Jean's husband decided to cease making the doll furniture in order to concentrate on his own upholstery business. He still does however assist Jean at shows today.

Currently Jean does about 4 - 5 shows a year. She has her dolls in collections across the country and  at a local gallery. She finds it's difficult to keep dolls on her website as they sell so quickly.

Long term plans for Jean is to continue to make gourd and cloth art dolls. She has had many requests to teach but has not done so. Working with gourds, from start to finish, can be quite involved and when people realize how much work it takes, they sometimes decide it is not for them. Jean believes that you have to have a passion for it; a sincere belief in what you have to say that will be projected through the work.

In addition to being a doll artist, Jean is a collector with approximately 2000 African-American dolls in her possession. She is currently the president of the Maryland Society of Doll Collectors, which is a doll collectors club sanctioned by the United Federation of Doll Clubs.

To learn more about Jean Henderson click here:

Thank you Jean, your dolls are wonderful and we love the detail involved in their costumes. It is easy to understand why people are anxious to have your dolls in their private collections as they would quickly become keepsakes. All the best...Carolyn and Linda 

Anticipation: Awaiting The Return Of The Purple Martin

One of the most exciting times of the year for the avid birder is early spring when anticipating the return of the Purple Martin. Back from their long migration from Brazil, Martins will begin to arrive in Canada in late April or early May. The combination of their huge appetite for insects such as flies and mosquitos, their agility in the air and their beautiful song, makes them a much desired addition to neighbourhoods.

The Purple Martin is North America's largest swallow. While the male Martin has dark plummage that almost looks black, the females are lighter in color with pale grey throats and bellies. They lay between 3 - 6 eggs and the youngsters fledge at about 1 month of age.

What better way to attract and provide these beautiful birds with the very best and natural housing than a cluster of Martin houses. These large gourds provide deep nesting cavities and the natural insulation ability of the gourd offers protection against not only the cold but the heat. Proper drainage in the gourd is important as is the location of the gourd in the cluster.

To help you establish a Martin colony we are now offering a kit which includes 4 large martin gourds  with pre-drilled entry holes and a cleaned interior. (The exterior is uncleaned.) The cost for the kit is $40.00.

For more information on becoming a successful Martin landlord we urge you to check out the  website of the OPMA (Ontario Purple Martin Association. It is chocked full of valuable information and even has videos to watch.    

Growing BIG Gourds In A Short Growing Season by Ken Carlson

About this time last year I happened to meet a worker from a local nursery. After he grew tired of my complaining about our short growing season, he informed me that the nursery will allow customers to bring seeds in and start them there, at $18.00 per flat per month.

That evening I looked up our growing season here in South Dakota - in 2012 the last spring freeze was May 11; the first fall frost, September 11. That means our growing season is 120 days long. But then take into account that our temperatures from May 11 to May 21, and from September 1 to September 11 are only in the 50's so those 20 days cannot be considered good growing days either. That leaves 100 days of good temperatures. 

Too short for any large gourds, but if I take my seeds to the local nursery on April 1, I can pick up an additional 50 days and they will be grown in ideal temperatures. I was informed that I could put as many seeds in a flat as I wanted but that if I didn't want them to get spindly I should put the big plants in big containers, at least 18 plants per flat.

I started multiple flats of big gourds and extra long-handled dippers. Out of the 36 bushel gourd seeds I bought off Ebay, you guessed it, 2 entire growing season lost. (The extra long-handled dipper seeds I got from Carolyn at Northern Dipper all germinated.) I suppose there is a lesson in there somewhere.

Anyway, last year our spring got real warm real early so I picked up my plants fom the nursery on May 14 and at $1.50 per plant I gained 45 days to my growing season. I tied knots in about 100 dipper gourds, bent zig-zag patterned handles in another dozen and got one litre Coke bottle with a 36 inch neck growing out of the was a fun year with my favorite gourds, the long-handled dippers.

Out Of The Mailbag

Hello Northern Dipper,
I have a growing question for you. I have been growing gourds in the same spot for two years now. Should I be rotating? Thanks, J.B.

Hi J.B.
We are strong believers that crop rotation is a good thing. Gourds are heavy feeders and quickly deletes the nutrients in the soil plus rotation will help decrease both the pests and disease which affects gourds.

If you find you don't have the space to rotate don't worry. You can replenish the soil by adding lots of rich compost and as for pests and disease; if you cleaned up your gourd garden in the fall, pests and disease will automatically decrease.

Let us know how your gourd garden does this year.
                                   Good luck, Carolyn

Looking Ahead: April 2013 

Percussionist Jamie Andrews has had a positive influence on many people for the past 20 years. Whether it is leading a drum circle, giving private lessons, working with school children or bringing a cohesive feeling among corporate clients, Jamie teaching style is always relaxed, accepting and confidence building.

Jamie's passion is Western African percussion and he is proficiant at playing many instruments including the yembe, dununs and bolons. He is an expert at building instruments and our interview with Jamie portrays a man with many interests and talents. An extremely cool guy, please welcome Jamie Andrews of Jembe Solutions to the April pages of Gourd Fever

We will be showcasing some new products in April and will also have some photographs of the One Of A Kind Spring Show and Sale. Hope to see some of you there.

So until next time, stay warm in this last month of winter. It is so nice to be at the end; we can already feel our spirits improving just thinking about spring!                         Carolyn Cooper and Linda Bond


PS Stories, photos or ideas that you would like share... send to in to


  Volume 9, Number 96 


In this issue:
Jean Henderson: Mad About Dolls! 

The Bulletin Board - News From Northern Dipper

Anticipation: Awaiting The Return Of The Purple Martins

Growing BIG Gourds In A Short Growing Season by Ken Carlson

Out Of The Mailbag, Gourd Sightings & Trivia

     The Bulletin Board
Celebrating The Upcoming Return Of The Purple Martin
Buy 4 Packs, get 1 free

To celebrate the springtime arrival of the Purple Martin, Northern Dipper is giving
 away packets of Purple Martin gourd seeds. 
With every 4 packages or more of any type of gourd
seed you buy, Linda and Carolyn will throw in 1 free package of Purple Martin seeds. Let's work towards a worth-while goal and fill the sky with Purple Martin houses.

For seed varieties click here:


$40.00 per kit

 Buy 4 Martin gourds and
we will pre-drill the entry
hole and clean the interior
for you. The gourds are
large with deep cavities; exactly the type of houses Martins love.

For more information click here


The One of a Kind Spring Show and Sale
When: March 27 - 31, 2013
Where: Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place, Toronto, Ontario

Northern Dipper will be in Booth E22 in the One Of A Kind Green section. Here artists and craftspeople feature goods that are

Carolyn and Linda will have only finished gourds at this show. See you there!

For more information click here:

      Jean Henderson

 "I initially became interested in gourds after reading an article about a woman that made museum quality animals out of gourds. At that point, I knew nothing about gourds
but the thought of making
dolls out of these strange objects intrigued me."

"Prior to using gourds, I made mostly cloth dolls. I have always liked creating dolls
 that were very different and
 at the time, to make a gourd doll was very different for me."

"I began to do a lot of research on gourds and also attended gourd festivals. I gained knowledge in carving, woodburning and other techniques too."


"Whenever I am asked about my creative process I
always respond by saying
 'I let the gourd tell me how
 it is suppose to look and
 the design it should have.' Next I will coordinate any
fabric or groups of fabric to affect that design."

"As far as the face design, again I go with what I see in the gourd. Lately, however,
 I have begun to not use a
lot of face designs. I want
the beauty of the gourd
design itself to be the
star of the piece."

Advice For New Artists

Do read all that you can about the type of doll that you want to create and how to go about making it.
- Once you have read about it, study all the necessary techniques until you are comfortable in doing them.

Look for experts in the field that can help you to perfect those techniques.
- L
et your imagination guide you to create your doll in the way that you want it.

"All of my ideas come from
the gourds that I use and the fabrics that I find. The gourds and the fabrics - each grab
my attention and I make
 the marriage happen."

Pure Elegance

 Gourd Sighting
Mad Max - Beyond Thunderdome is an action-packed movie. In it children were spotted carrying gourd water bottles. 

 It's A Dogs Life

A small dog with a big personality won Best of Show at the Westminister Dog
 Show this year. This is not
the first win for Banana Joe,
an Affenpinscher, but it 
 was definitely the most prestigious.

He can now add the silver cup to his award shelf, which already boosts 85 Best of
Show wins. 


Affenpinschers originated in Germany and date back to the 17th century. They are a
loyal dog, very active and playful, curious and stubborn. Their coat is usually black
and if not groomed can be rough. When groomed the
 coat is soft and fluffy.

Banana Joe won over the judges and the crowd with
 his bouncy step and
 adorable monkey-like face.
To see Banana Joe in action click here:

 Music Pick of the Month
  Who Doesn't Love Bollywood!
The Songs:
 To learn more about Bollywood click here:

 Other Stuff
  Research is showing that a diet rich in DHA may help prevent cartilage loss in people with osteoarthritis. DHA is one of the two main Omega-3 fats found in fish oil.

U.S. researchers studied 472 people who had, or were at high risk, of arthritis in their knees. Those who had the highest level of DHA in their blood had less cartilage loss.

Osteoarthritis is painful and debilitating condition so
serve up a couple portions
of a fatty fish, such as
 salmon, per week.
If you don't like salmon buy fish oils in either liquid or capsule form. Keep in mind too, that high DHA is not only good for the joints, it is also excellent for the brain.

To learn more about the benefits of fish oils click here:

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


Northern Dipper
PO Box 1145
5376 County Road 56
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