Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Lessons of Juan

A friend of mine asked me to make him a Guatemalan gourd mask. We both served in Guatemala with the Peace Corps and witnessed the beautiful indigenous people so it wasn't an odd request. Immediately I got these wonderful visuals in my mind of how it was going to look: definitely female, regal looking, and with some type of woven cloth going through her hair.

I cut the gourd and started working on the nose. I wanted to make a prominent Mayan nose, but what I ended up with was a big nose and possibly that of a male. But I continued with that female image in my mind. Besides, there is nothing wrong with a handsome woman, right?
I cut out and shaped the eyebrows which turned out thick, and yes, very masculine. Lesson #1: GO WITH THE FLOW!

Once I accepted that it was male, things seemed to go more smoothly. I started working on the irises and eyelids and then the mouth. Parts were positioned and glued down and then I placed him on the wall to get a different perspective. Everything looked all right except for his left was googley.

O.k., do I rip that eye apart (don't do it) and redo the whole thing? I've pulled things off before and ended up with broken pieces or big divots and the repair work I have to do sometimes outweigh the benefit. OR, do I leave it alone (yeah, good choice) and accept that they are natural organic forms mimicking a person that is also an organic form.

Of course my artist ego stepped in and I pulled off the iris and eyelids (no major damage), repositioned and glued them on again. I put him back on the wall to view my handiwork and it looked 99 1/4 % the same! I did exactly what my kids used to do when they were learning how to write. I'd have them erase a letter and they'd rewrite it the exact same way in the old "grooves."


By the time I reached this point, this wise gourd told me his name...Juan. I realized he was helping and guiding me the whole time. He made me think about my kids and how they will be what they choose to become regardless of my "vision" of them. He made me think about areas in my life where I've been resisting instead of accepting things and "going with the flow."

I have to say I was a little sad when I left Juan at the UPS store to be shipped to the other side of the country, but I knew he was going to a good home and that one day I would see him again. Gracias Juan.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The next place I will tote my gourds will be to the Nutcracker Boutique, November 20th and 21st in Brea, California. If you can't quite read the flyer above, the address is 695 E. Madison Way in Brea. For more information please call 714-990-7771 or go to I'll be outside by the west entrance in spot usual, I'll be praying for good weather.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Check Out Bella Luna Arts

One great thing I've noticed about gourd artists is that they take what they're good at and apply those talents to a gourd. At the recent gourd festival at Welburn, for example, I saw one artist who paints cars and applies that super shiny painted finish to his gourd pieces.

My friend of Bella Luna Arts takes a jewelry gourd and uses her jewelry know-how and creativity to craft these fun and personality-plus gourd ladies. She does a bunch of other interesting things too which can be viewed on her blog

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Nice to Meet You, Leiser Farms!

As a full-fledged, card carrying member of the adult world, I take notice when I feel like an eight-year-old again. Somehow going to a gourd farm reverts me back to a child on her birthday!

I had the pleasure of visiting Greg Leiser Farms in Knight's Landing, California, just outside of Sacramento. Greg and Mary Leiser were very accommodating: Mary showed me around the gourd bins and she and Greg talked about their third-generation family farm.

There were some good bargains to be had and some different varieties I hadn't seen before so I chose a bag full and had to be on my way---I could have stayed longer, but I could feel my travel weary family's telepathic messages to hurry it up!

If you're ever in the area it's worth checking out. They host an annual Gourd Art Festival every May and from what I saw and read in my latest edition of The Golden Gourd, it was quite a success and the gourd art featured was top notch! Their website is (Sorry, my link to this site is not working, but I hope you check it out anyway.)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Murals, Part Deux

*WARNING: the following entry may be too long and bloggy for some sensitive readers.*

A recent road trip from Southern California to Portland, Oregon sparked thoughts about murals. Growing up in a suburb of Denver I remember driving through North Denver and seeing eye-catching and thought provoking murals. These images remained dormant until my last semester in college when I was completing an internship with an English/Spanish/Jazz/KPFKesque radio station. As my final project I decided to do a piece on the murals of North Denver...yes, I NOW see that murals are visual and I was at a radio station and perhaps I should have concentrated on something more auditory, but I didn't.

I'm glad I didn't because my search lead me to Emanuel Martinez, a Denver born and raised Chicano artist. He was the creator of the murals that stayed implanted in my brain. I had the opportunity to interview him at his studio way back in 1987. He now has a website,, where I found a picture of one of the murals from my childhood called La Alma painted in 1978.

He briefly studied with David Alfaro Siquieros, one of Mexico's three influential muralists (Jose Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera are the others). I've always admired them because they brought art right to the people with their murals and let them (the people) see themselves in the present and past and made them feel proud of their heritage.

O.k., now back to the road trip where I saw many a fun and quirky mural. Here are just a few that added a little extra eye candy to my already picturesque trip.

The first one I was able to take a picture of was in Eureka, California. We stopped to eat lunch at a neat little restaurant called The Golden Harvest Cafe and there it was right across the street on the Bucksport Sporting Goods Building. The mural was created in 1996 by Duane Flatmo, I love the movement and the colors (if you go to his website you can see a better and more colorful picture), but that black and white figure off to the side adds so much more interest for me. I love when there's a bit of mystery!

The next mural was found at an old elementary school converted into a Portland-layed-back-cool-community-fun-place called McMenamins Kennedy School. (There's lots more info. on their website, My niece took us there for dinner and as we waited for a table we checked out the artwork that somehow relates to an event, memory, or teacher from the 82 year old history of Kennedy School.

This mural entitled "Passing On the Torch of Knowledge" at first glance was a little eerie. The children look like those Renaissance paintings where babies have adult faces and they don't look too excited about the "knowledge" they are passing. As I read more about it, I like how the artist, Lyle Hehn, put as many symbols as possible without making it look like a Highlight's "Hidden Picture" page. The cherry trees, for example, were donated to the school in 1939 by a Japanese family and those "adult" kid faces are actually somewhere on the building itself. I ended up liking the mural and appreciated the artist's ability to incorporate different elements into one cohesive composition.

My husband pointed out this mural as we were walking to the Farmer's Market held at Portland State University. It adorns the Sovereign Hotel (1923) which is now the Oregon Historical Society. Richard Haas,, was commissioned to design this mural in 1989 (along with another one that I didn't see, but it can be viewed on his website). This is a shining example of trompe l' oeil or French for "fooling the eye." Yes, the imposing figures of Lewis, Clark, Sacagawea, her son Baptiste, a slave named York, and a Newfoundland dog are impressive, however, the painted architecture was dumbfounding! As I look at my photo now there are some areas where I can't tell what is real and what is paint.

Murals, Part Un

I received an inquiry about some murals I had created. I've painted around a dozen, some are gone now, and some are really not worth showing, but this past year I painted two and look forward to doing more. It's nice to go from gourds, which can be very tedious work, to a large scale mural.

This first mural was created in a boy's bedroom. He wanted Angel's Stadium and the mom wanted to brighten up some plain closet doors.

It turned out to be more difficult that what I expected but I learned a great deal, did things I'd never done before, and I sharpened my math and taping skills!

The fun part was personalizing it as much as possible: the family, including the dog, is placed in the "dot" crowd and I was able to put myself in there as well which you can see as the icon for ABOUT ME.

The second mural is of a potted lime tree with birds. She wanted something pretty to look at while sitting at the kitchen table and after some thought she decided on a lime tree. I was somewhat nervous because I would be painting on a wooden fence. If it's an interior wall I always have the option of painting over it, but in this case once I started there was no going back!

This type of subject matter is a little more comfortable for me because I've painted leaves before and there's more "looseness" to the brushstroke which leads to more spontaneity... which for me equals fun...which hopefully translates to a good painting.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

I Feel the Love at the Festival!

The remaining gourds have been placed back on the shelf, tables and chairs are back in the garage, and the dirt has been scrubbed off of my ankles. The 13th Annual Gourd Festival held at the Welburn Gourd Farm last weekend (June 27th and 28th) was exciting, interesting, warm, inspirational, thought provoking, warm, fun, tiring, and did I mention that it was warm?

It actually wasn't that bad under the arched oaks. My spot (booth #7) was in mottled shade and with just a bit of breeze, it was very tolerable. Around two o'clock is when I wanted to string up the hammock, leave a tin can in my booth with a sign saying "Leave Money Here--Thank You!".

The best part about the festival was, of course, the people. Pretty much all gourd fans or spouses, significant others, or friends of gourd fans. Could I be in a more supportive environment? I really appreciated peoples' comments, questions, or maybe it was just a "thumbs up." I soaked it all in like a sponge!

One thing that surprised me was all of the paparazzi, or should I say "Gourdarazzi," because no one wanted my photo (except my mother)! The gourds were center stage and that's perfectly fine with me!

I enjoyed chatting with A.C. Contreras, my neighbor in booth #8 who drove from Socorro, New Mexico with his Native American art. I could hear how passionate he was about his craft and his people. His calm and humorous manner reminded me of my grandfather who was also from New Mexico.

I met Dean, a free spirit walking around with his didgeridoo who gave me and my family a fun demonstration. He was friends with Michelle (booth #43) who made rain sticks. I could hear the sticks being tested throughout the day. Maybe that soothing rain sound kept me from overheating???
Carrie Dearing (booth #1) stopped by with her family. Every time I made my trek to the port-o-potties her booth always had admirers. I spoke with Norma Prickett (or Diane Calderwood?) from booth #15. I'm sorry if I have the incorrect name it's just that it's difficult to break eye contact to look at someones chest (i.e. their name tag). I like the direction her gourd jewelry is going.

I briefly spoke with Gloria Crane (booth #21) and learned this was her 11th festival---I admire her carving technique. I met Dianne Connelly and stopped by her booth shared with Pat Shallbrack---beautiful animal painting and weaving.

I met Bill from Worcester Glass Works who came all the way from Maui, Hawaii with glass gourds---great organic shapes and layers of visual texture and color. In desperation I found Marilyn in Betsy Robert's Galaxy Gourds booth. She glued an ear back on for me using the Gluesmith's glue (booth #26)---best glue demonstration ever!
I could blog on and on about the gourds and people I met. If I didn't mention an artist or booth it certainly doesn't mean I didn't appreciate them!

One last shout out to the Welburn Gourd Farm for hosting such a great event, the California Gourd Society whose volunteers do a bang up job with the competition, and to my family, whose help and PATIENCE deserve a Wayne and Garth "I'm not worthy!!!" bow!

*The gourds pictured in this entry have gone on to new homes.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Welcome to my little spot in cyberspace. This is my very first entry so if you're reading this you probably saw me at the 13th Annual Gourd Art Festival and grabbed one of my new business cards. I hope I said "Hi" to you or we chatted and swapped gourd stories. If I wasn't there you probably saw my husband, kids, or my mom, who flew out from Colorado to witness the event, although we all know it was a good excuse to see the grand kids.

This was my first time exhibiting at the Festival although I have entered the California Gourd Society's Art Competition twice. Pictured are two entries that did well in 2007. The mask below is called Frida Picasso, entered in the category of "Inspired by the Masters," and Giraffe, was placed in the "Mask" division.

I'll talk about the Gourd Festival later (like when it actually happens!). I do want to tackle two questions I frequently get asked: Why do you work with gourds? and How did you get started?

Somewhere in the mid-1990's I was an art student by day and taught English as a second language by night. The school I worked for required that I attend an inservice to enrich my teaching skills. I looked at the list of lectures and workshops and was surprised to find an art class.

I can't remember the teacher's name but I do remember her tattoos and the gourd she placed in front of me. I held it in my hand and thought how cool it looked, felt, and how the seeds sounded inside, and yes, even the smell! I was hooked and thus began my slow but steady journey into the world of gourds. Above is the first gourd I worked on at that inservice entitled, Peruvian Guy.