artists, growtips, info & more

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    Marilyn Sunderland's 'Running With The Wind'

In This Issue: 
Many years ago, when we first began to work with gourds, the style that most resonated with us was the carved gourd. These works of art somehow felt as though the gourd had a story to tell, and through the carver's knife and drill, the story emerged.

This month we will be delving into the world of gourd carving with the delightful Marilyn Sunderland. Marilyn is an artist who brings the textures and shapes of gourd leaves and horses alive. Her sense of design excels and her work can be found in galleries and art shows throughout the year.

         Leaves - Carved by Marilyn Sunderland

Ken Carlson is here discussing a question that all have at this time of year when planning our gourd gardens. Just how many gourds should one plant and how many gourds can we expect per plant? Ken has some sound advice on the subject in a style that is all his own.
The Gourd Jungle, our home gardener series, is full of tips on planting. There is also lots of trivia to savor. (Do you know what brain-to-brain interface is?) Lots to read and learn this month - this lovely month of May!

Marilyn Sunderland: Art Lifts The Human Spirit

Marilyn was born and raised in Columbia, Mo on a small farm of 135 acres. Her family enjoyed the country life. They rode horses and had lots of animals to care for and play with. There were always things to do and life was filled with daily adventures and fun.

Drawing began at a very young age and once in high school, Marilyn entered every art competition there was. At one point she entered a contest at the Art Instruction, Inc of Minneapolis, Minnesota and ended up taking a 2 year home instructional course with them. She then attended the University of Missouri where she received her Bachelor's degree in Art Education. Both of these schools had a great influence in her art training. 

After she married, Marilyn moved to Utah and has lived there ever since. She lives in Riverton, a town about 20 miles south of Salt Lake City. It is set in a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains and 20 minutes away are the canyons where you can hike, camp, walk or take a leisurely Sunday drive. It is her childhood memories and the canyons that have given Marilyn Sunderland the inspiration for her art work.

About nine years ago Marilyn went to a Home and Garden Show where the company Profitable Hobbies was demonstrating their high speed carving tool. She fell in love with it and bought it. She went home and practiced on wood and glass and then moved on to the most exciting medium; a gourd. Next, she took a class from Mary Hogue, a fellow gourd artist who has been carving for years. They quickly became good friends.

The different burrs you purchase for the high speed carving tool allows you to produce many techniques in carving the leaves (or any subject matter) you choose Marilyn states. She expands by saying that it allows you to pull out the smallest of details. Marilyn always tests and practices her carving techniques on a gourd that is not shaped nicely  before she render it to her final gourd project.

Marilyn has many strengths, one being her sense of design. The design she states is what gives the drawing it's utility. It becomes a skillful artistic way of expression that is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. For example Marilyn doesn't want to just draw a leaf, she wants to draw a creative leaf. She can take one leaf and draw hundreds of designs.

Over the years her designs have become more detailed as her expertise in the art of carving has grown. Besides the leaf, other passions are old barns and horses. She is currently learning all about the anatomy of horses so she can carve them well. 


Marilyn exhibits at art shows when she can and also enters her work into local carving shows and state fairs in the valley. She has participated in many gallery showings and currently has two scheduled for this fall in Provo, Utah. (at the Anderson Gallery at the Provo City Library - September and October and at the Covey Center Eccles and Secured Gallery - December 6 to February 2)

Like all creative people Marilyn has many interests besides carving gourds. Taking photographs during travelling often results in inspiration when looking  for subject matter to carve. Walking and biking keep her active as do her two children and six grandchildren. She has a husband that loves HO model railroading and she travels to shows with him throughout the year. 

Marilyn is also working on a book of Inspirational Art of Gourds which she hopes will be available by year end. As well The Decorative Painter Magazine will be featuring an article on one of her gourds in the May Issue 2013. 

In the meantime check out Marilyn Sunderland's website to view more of her wonderful gourd art. Keep in mind that she does have classes on occasion and also has a set of educational DVD's that are available upon request. Here are some websites for you to check out:

Ken Carlson: Gourds Are Like Friends 
Each spring there comes a time when you finally have to decide what type, and how many gourds to plant. As a rule of thumb, gourds are like friends, you can never have too many. 

Sure, some have funny shapes, long necks and grow too large. Some need more time to develop, while others you can ignore for an entire season and still see that growth has taken place. Some need lots of space while large groups help others thrive...but enough about our friends; let's talk about how many gourds we're going to plant this spring.

It's taken me a few years to get to this point, but I can now pull a gourd plant out of the ground if it isn't doing well. One reason I can do this is that the other gourds around that spot will do better. (I always plant too close) Another reason is that since my first year I always plant too many.

For example, my first year with apple gourds I planted about 6 plants and expected to get 36 perfectly shaped apples in the fall. I over-watered, over-fed, over-pollinated and over-worked the patch. I ended up with about about 25 tall, large things that looked like 10 pound tomatoes grown in an 8 pound box. About as many small ones that didn't have enough time left in the growing season to mature, and you guessed it, about a dozen nicely shaped apple gourds to paint.

The next year I planted 20 apple gourd plants and only watered them if it got dry for a couple weeks. At the end of the season I had about 60 apple gourds that were too fat, or too tall or too square - but - I also had about 60 apple gourds that were really nice. It felt good when harvesting to know that I hadn't worried about every plant, every blossom and every apple - everyday.

Life is short so sow many, pull a few, enjoy the good, toss the rest, but again, enough about our friends, my advice on gourds is to plant more.

PS A few years back while shopping, my wife and I saw some colorful basketball sized Christmas bulbs for hanging outdoors during the Christmas season. She liked them and thought some of them would look good in our clump birch tree. At $20.00 each however I said our tree looked just fine.

A little over a week later as my wife came home from work she was greeted with 140 large colorful Christmas bulbs hanging from our birch tree. They were not however, just large round bulbs, strangely enough they were in the shape of  the140 extra gourds that I had left over from other years.

She loved them, so I tried to get $20.00 each for the gourds - $2800.00. She said that sounded a little high but maybe we could work something out. When I looked at her she had that coy grin on her face that I haven't seen since...well anyway...I was very glad to have an extra 140 gourds of all shapes and sizes just laying around.

PS PS The birch tree looked happy in the daylight. At night it was in full glory with flood lights on both sides. The reflected light enlarged each gourd to twice it's size against a jet black sky only to have the entire sight highlighted by the white skeleton of a clump birch holding each gourd out for you alone to enjoy. 

Out Of The Mailbag

Hi Carolyn,
In reference to the current newsletter (Issue 97 - April) highlighting purple martins and great horned owls, you should find this news article of particular interest. It come out on the same day as your newsletter.
                                                      Jim Widess 
Thanks Jim for the link. Jim is the owner of The Caning Shop in Berkley CA. It is a great place to visit and shop - here is the link. 
Hi Carolyn,
I have been receiving your newsletter for a few years now and just want to say how much I enjoy it. I use to live in Alberta but have moved back home to Whitby, Ontario. It is nice because I am closer to my family.
I would like to come up to see you and buy some gourds. Should I make an appointment and do you have a lot of gourds?
                                                     Paula Sforza
Hi Paula,
In answer to your question - yes we have lots of gourds to choose from. Pictured above is a very small sampling of what we have.
People like to come up and choose their own gourds. At the same time some like to take a workshop while they're at it. Regarding an appointment - it is a good idea.
We look forward to meeting you. Drop us a line and let us know when you would like to come and we'll make arrangements. See you soon... 

"Other Stuff"
The headline "Man Wriggles Rat's Tail Using Only His Thoughts" caught my eye the other day. Reported in the Live Science magazine this article described how, by linking a human and rat brain, the man was able to wriggle the rat's tail by thinking about it.
This was the first non-invasive brain-to-brain interface between species. In other applications it has advanced over time, enabling people with paralysis for example to control robot arms.
To learn more about Live Science click here:

Looking Ahead: June 2013

Next month's featured artist is well known in many circles. As a successful jewellery designer Sharon Patrick's art is seen by thousands every day and now, working with gourds, she is quickly building a reputation of creating extremely unique one of a kind pieces.

Whether it is her vessels with interesting textures or her sculptural figures with their wonderful faces, Sharon Patrick's art will captivate your imagination. Please welcome Sharon in the June issue of Gourd Fever.

Summertime brings big changes in the gourd garden. Your vines will be rapidly growing and cucumber beetles may be paying an unwanted visit. But not to worry - everything you will need to know will be in next month's article The Gourd Jungle.

Ken Carlson will be here as well talking about all things gourdly. We love Ken's writings. He is humorous, knowledgeable and witty.

So until we meet again, enjoy the warm springtime sunshine coming your way.
                            Carolyn Cooper and Linda Bond

PS If you have any stories, ideas or photos that you would like to share please send to


  Volume 9, Number 98 


In this issue:
Marilyn Sunderland: Art Lifts The Human Spirit

The Bulletin Board: News From Northern Dipper

Ken Carlson: Gourds Are Like Friends

The Gourd Jungle: Tips For The Home Gourd Gardener

Out Of The Mailbag, Gourd Sightings & Trivia

 The Bulletin Board
Our famous spring gourd sale is happening this month.
Take advantage of our "seconds." These gourds are
not super thick and some
 may have a flatter side or a rounder bottom but they
 are ideal for many types
of projects.
Sizes range from 5 to 7 inches so let us know how many
you would like and we will choose a variety for you.

Or come out to farm and
choose your own.

The Price:
 $3.00 each
Stock up now!

A good selection of May workshops are now
listed on our website.

Check them out at:

For advance notice on the workshops send your email address to:

Marilyn Sunderland

'Designing the gourd is just
 as important as the carving
 of the gourd. I always say
 'Draw what you love and
 design what inspires you." 

"Before I started carving gourds, I painted landscapes, portraits, wildlife and domestic animals in oils, chalks and acrylics."

"I have worked with clay in sculpturing and enjoy sketching with pen and ink. I have made many wood projects with my scroll saw. I love that tool!"

 "Gourds carve like wood.
You already have your shape
 to work just have
 to figure out a design to
carve on it."

"Purchasing thick shelled
 gourds from various gourd farms allows me to do deeper relief carving on the gourd, which is what I love  to do."

Advice For New Artists
"For new artists I say practice, practice and more practice.
 Be patient and persist. Learn from other artists. "

"Take classes and learn the different techniques being taught. Learn how to merge those into making your own
 style and designs. Don't
dwell on what you can't do,
but what you can do."


"Since I love the designing
 side of things I search
 for other projects to do.
I am happy to say I am now
an artist for the Trail of
 Painted Ponies and have
a pony that was released
 this winter called 'Freedom
Reigns.' You can purchase
 one of my ponies from me
 or from the Trail of Painted Ponies website."

Freedom Reigns

"When I first started attending art shows, very few people knew what a gourd was.
When they looked at my
work they thought it was ceramics or carving done
 with a laser."

"I have seen a change in the
last 5 years, but we still need the art world to realize that
 the gourd can become a
piece of fine art just as an
 oil painting or a bronze statue."


"The world of gourd art keeps growing and as artists, we
are here to enrich the world
 with our extraordinary art
and lift the human spirit."

"Collectors of the world
are looking for that rare
 individual piece of artwork
 that they can't live without
 that was produced by the
hand of an artist"

 The Gourd Jungle:
Gourd Growing Tips For The Home Gardener

May is an exciting month for the gourd grower but before you get your seedlings in the ground at month-end you have some decisions to make. Here are a few things to consider:

Gourds need heat, water
and rich soil to thrive. They
are rapid growers and take up
a bit of room. Plant in a spot
 that has a southern exposure and don't forget you can
always grow them up.

Trellised Gourds
- Takes up less room and is easier to prune.

- The trellis must be strong
 as a large gourd can be very heavy  when green.

- Take advantage of that chain link fence in the back - in
our opinion it was made
for gourd vines.

- At harvest time you can leave the gourds hanging for winter drying.

- If you are hoping for dippers with straight handles you will need to trellis.

Ground Grown Gourds
- Can be grown on hills or in rows or just in a garden patch.
- Grow large heavy gourds such as Bushels on the ground.

- Placing a drip hose down before the plants get big will result in even watering and a better use of your water resources.

Mini gourds, such as mini egg gourds, are easy to grow; 
lovely in a children's garden.
Soil Preparation
- Gourds prefer soils with a
pH of 6.0 - 6.5. Enrich your
soil with compost before
you plant. 

- If you live in a cold climate warm up your soil by placing cut-open black plastic garbage bags over where you are going to plant a couple of weeks
 before you plant.  

- Do not plant until the traditional May 24th weekend after all danger of frost.
- If you have laid down black plastic you can rip a small opening in it, dig a hole and plant. The plastic will help control weeds and warm the soil. A drip hose under the plastic is recommended.
- If you planted 2 seeds per peat pot, just rip the pot in half and place into the hole you have dug.
After Planting
- Your seedlings may go into shock and appear to be wilting. Do not worry; water well and
with 24 hours they will spring back, happy to be in the ground. Good luck!

 Gourd Sighting

A gourd shaker was spotted in the hand of Janis Joplin on Final 24; a show about the last 24 hours of a person's life.
Janis was only 27 when she died of a drug overdose but her music influenced an entire generation
 in the early 70's.

To hear Janis click here:

To learn more about Janis Joplin click here:

 It's A Dog's Life
 Mickey is a begging dog as
was Royal before him. They know they can't stand or sit
and stare at my dinner but
 they can lie beside my chair and politely wait for tidbits to come in their direction.
Many people do not like begging dogs. According to Caesar Millan, The Dog Whisper, this behavior can be changed by implementing the following steps:
1.) Do not give food to a begging dog. Giving food is a sign of affection and affection just reinforces the behavior.
2.) Ignore a begging dog. That means no touch, no talk,
 no eye contact.
3.) Don't feel sorry for Rover. He is not starving although when you look into his eyes at dinner you would think he was.
4.) Be consistent with your own behavior. As Caesar says "Inconsistent enforcement
of the rules leads to an inconsistently obedient dog!
5.) Be patient. Remember, behaviors don't change overnight.

 Music Pick of the Month
The Artist:
Coleman Hawkins
The Songs:
Body and Soul
To learn more about Coleman Hawkins 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
  © Northern Dipper 2013 All rights reserved. No portion of this newsletter may be used in any form without prior written permission from the author.
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