Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Good Way to Start the Day.., and the Gourd Project

I love bacon and eggs for breakfast but I try to have a protein smoothie once a day, either at breakfast or lunch. I use orange juice (I like OJ better than milk with fruit), plain (Nancy's nonfat is the best) yogurt, half a banana, blueberries, strawberries and a scoop of protein powder. The fruit varies depending on what I have on the sink counter or in the freezer. I don't' use ice if I'm using frozen fruit. If I have this drink for breakfast it fills me up so well that I don't think about eating anything else until lunch (sometimes longer)
and it's sooo good for me.After breakfast I decided to have a talk with THE GOURD...

Well, look what we have here. The gourd with potential...
It's got such interesting markings on it but it's not saying anything to me. One side is too light and the other side is too dark. I don't see a face, or a pattern. I like the dark section but I'm not sure I want that side to be the focal point. Should I open this gourd up and make it a bowl?.., a basket?,.., or keep it the way it is and add a clay face.., and mosses, leaves or dried things from my hikes in the woods. I just don't know yet.
So I decided that because this gourd was not telling me what to do, I would try to even out the light and dark places by rubbing some leather dye into it. I used brown, green and rose( yes, rose) colored dye and rubbed each in with a clean cloth. First, the brown dye (as a good base) but it brought out the markings too much. I tried to apply more in the light spots and less over the dark areas.Then I rubbed in the green dye and this added a beautiful affect; almost like it hadn't completely dried yet. After I wiped it dry I knew it needed something else. I have this rose colored dye that I never use for anything. I'm not sure why I bought the rose color. It's too "fufu" for serious gourds. They don't like blues and pinks. I have never used a blue or pink color on a gourd that I didn't have to cover with a different color afterwards, so unless I'm painting one with acrylics for an ornament or jewelry, I tend to stay clear of pastel dyes or paints.But, I decided to rub a small amount of this rose dye into the gourd and guess what? It added a warmer, more natural look to the finish. Very interesting. Sometimes you just have to experiment with finishes. If you're not sure and don't want to really mess up a piece you can try the dyes on a broken fragments of gourd..., but remember that each gourd is different and the same finish might come out differently on different gourd skins. Also, these dyes come with an applicator which I never use unless I want to cover the gourd completely and hide the texture. These dyes are very opaque if applied with an applicator and, once dry, they will not rubbed off. The important thing to remember is that dyes are messy, strong smelling and permanent. You need to work with them in a well- ventilated place, wear plastic gloves, old clothes, OLD SHOES and a mask.

I learned my lesson a few years ago. I wanted to cover a small gourd with red dye. It was going to be a Christmas ornament. I went out into the garage with my good clothes on and my black Berkenstocks. Yea... and said to myself. "This will only take a minute. Why should I change into my old stuff. I will be careful." FAMOUS LAST WORDS.I opened the dye bottle, grabbed a rag. and the corner of the rag caught the bottle , tipped it over and off the workbench. It hit the floor and splattered all over my good work clothes and my beautiful black Berkie's.Folks.., there is no redemption for this. Everything within a good five feet was splattered with RED DYE and my wonderful, expensive investment for my, then, aching feet were ruined. I rubbed the dye off of those shoes as fast as I could but they are now my around the farm "gardening shoes" ( and pants) and I learned a valuable lesson about working with leather dyes. By the way.., the concrete floor ,from then on, looked like I had murdered something in front of my workbench . The stain never came out. Now, I have an old rug covering up most of the stain so you can't see the evidence of my stupidity. That was a hard lesson to learn.

So, the gourd looks really nice. I love the finish. It matches a Fall candle I have on the buffet. I sanded it just a bit with a very fine, dry sanding sponge to give it a rustic, softer look. I don't know what's next. I'm pouring over some good Gourd books for ideas and waiting for the gourd to tell me something. Sometimes this takes a while, but I want to have it finished by the 11th of February for our next gourd meeting, so I hope it starts talking soon.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Time to Create Some Gourd Art

I thought it would be interesting, in a messy sort of way, to show all of you how a gourd becomes a piece of art. I have quite a few gourds that are dry, beautiful and ready to work with. I did not create anything with these gourds last year. My efforts were not focused in this direction.
I didn't grow these beautiful gourds. A friend grows them. She lives down in the valley and has a farm where she grows and nurtures gourds.., among other things. They grow much better down there. I would guess it's the soil, maybe the special care she gives them and the longer summer. I'm not sure. I only know that she grows the best thick, hard shelled gourds in the Central Valley.
So, with this gourd above, I wanted to show you how it was cleaned and dried last year. I soaked it in warm soapy water with a little bleach in the water. I don't have a picture of it before I started washing it but it was a mess.., lots of mildew and dirt. After I let it soak for an hour with a wet soapy towel over it, I use a copper scrubber on it and cleaned all the white skin, mildew and dirt off. Sometimes this is very physical. You have to remove it all without scratching the gourd or damaging the stem. Frequently you need a wire brush to get around the stem and some of the rough spots. There will be blemishes and imperfections that will not wash off. These are caused by bugs, mold and sitting on the ground while growing. These are part of the "character" of this gourd. I will work with these "flaws" and include them in the design.
Now, after sitting for a year on my porch, it's ready for creating" something beautiful.

I could use any of these gourds. They are cleaned and completely dry. They all have possibilities. Some are so beautiful, like the large one above, that I may never do anything with it. It's a work of art just the way it is. I love the stem and the "scars" on the bottom of it. I have had this gourd for two years and I never feel the urge to decorate it. I think this one is beautiful just the way it is.

These three little gourds are the ones that my grandson planted last summer. They are still drying in the living room window. I find it interesting that they are drying so differently. The one in front, on the left, is dry and ready to decorate. The one on the right doesn't rattle yet, so it's not completely dry, even though it looks like it is. The green one (in back) is still heavy and has a small place that's starting to turn brown. Interesting! They were all picked at the same time and yet look how different the drying process is. I will wait until next Fall to let the Bean paint these. There are his and he will be able to say that he planted them, grew them and decorated them himself. I hope he lets Baby Bean have one. What fun that will be.
So I must go and start working on this first gourd of the New Year. If you come up with any ideas about my new "work in progress", I would love to hear from you. Ultimately, "the gourd will tell me what it wants to be" and I will move forward with it. I love the starting. I guess it's what every artist means when they talk about the "creative process". Here we go....
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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sunshine on Our Shoulders.., for a while.

For about three or four hours today we had SUNSHINE. It was dazzling, intense.., almost eccentric. We woke up to sun reaching through our bedroom window and flooding into the living room. I quickly ate breakfast and then took the camera, and the dogs, outside.
The sky was so blue. Everything stood out against this beautiful color. The rain has darkened all the trees, rocks and plants, saturating them with dampness until they couldn't hold, it would seem, one drop more.
....and then today..., a reprieve, a morning of "brightness blinding sight from seeing"..., a day when I really wished that I could fly up into this beautiful blue firmament above.
The birds crowded the feeders knowing somehow that the Prospector had filled them this morning for the first time in a week. The Finches, Sparrows, Grosbeaks, Bluebirds, Hummers and Doves.., all waiting for something wonderful to happen. All vying for the seed that magically appear in their feeders.
.... the goat boys were crusing the pasture. I think I saw a slight upturn of Brownie's mouth, as he passed me on the way to the front pasture. I couldn't be sure.
.... the chickens were clucking happily.
.... the cat was chasing something across the road. Carl ran around "hurding" the goats and Maggie, sweet old thing, sat down on the porch and absorbed the warmth.

..... the Helleborus, that had turned it's face downward in the wind and rain for weeks started to rise and look toward the sun. As if it now had good reason to make a commitment to the coming of Spring.

And as the day progressed, off in the distance, the clouds slowly moved up the river valley.
Now, as I write this, they have, again, wrapped us in the quiet eclipse of Winter.
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Wordless Wednesday: Hiking in the Rain

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Monday, January 25, 2010

What to do on a rainy day.

Play with the Pupster....
Bake a Impossible Coconut Pie.
..., and this morning.., watch the dogs do the thing they do best.
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Sunday, January 24, 2010


Brownie is waiting.., and no matter what Murphy says to him,
he's not going to be OK until this wet, gloomy weather goes away.
He will not look at me. He walks around like he has lost a good friend.
"Come on Brownie. The sun will shine again."
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