Welcome to My Gourden!

Come on in and sit a while. The gourden is always changing so be sure to visit often.

Friday, April 19, 2013

My Ozark Adventure in Marketing

One of the nice things about working in Law Enforcement is the occasional reduced rate coupon or “freebee” provided for public servants. Last week my husband and I took a quick trip to Southern Missouri to take advantage of a discount offered by a well established theme park. I enjoyed the trip but there were two things that made me wonder about the decisions made by the park management. This park is known nationwide for its rustic appeal and quality craftsmen. Yet, three of the premier craft attractions were closed for the first month of the park season. Hey Mr. Businessman!! If you advertise that you have resident craftsmen and visiting artists--you may want to actually have them at the park. The other thing that I noticed was the gift shops. Yes, I know. A tourist attraction is going to be FULL of gift shops. The problem was that the gift shops at this “1880’s-themed experience” were packed with modern, cheaply made, imported, mass produced, plastic junk. There are many Missouri and Arkansas craftsmen and artists that would love to fill Branson’s gift shops with quality art and craft items. There is no need to fill all of that retail space with that stuff. I was very disappointed. My husband was very happy to return home with the money that we had taken with us for shopping. What a shame.

Monday, November 19, 2012

This morning I saw the light---or to be more precise I saw a sign.

With The CAM ETSY sale coming up on December 6th, I have been trying to make some bright holiday ornaments for my AngelsGourden table. Usually I just work in whatever direction the gourd takes me but this year I was trying to make the ornament “sets” that customers have asked for in previous years. You know—get that all important sale that covers the booth fee. When I got the 12th mini gourd in the “set” I was getting real tired at looking at the same shapes and colors and I realized that for the first time I was not enjoying my work. Making something had become boring! It was-- no. fun. Show sales this year have been few and far between and ESTY business has been worse. I fell asleep last night wondering if it was time to stop making things and take piano lessons instead. To say the least, I was bummed. This morning Monday got here all too soon and it was time to get back to my “real” job. The paper was slowly moving from the left side of my desk to the right and the file cabinet was filling up as usual. Then my boss suggested that since I am the “crafty one” in the office that I make a sign for the Toy Drive box that sits in our lobby every year. Nothing fancy-just a quick sign to let the pick-up crew know that they get the toys but need to leave our collection box behind. I grabbed my small collection of Sharpies and a couple highlighters and set to work. I enjoyed making that simple little sign. Not for money but for a good cause. Just a few block letters and a quick sketch of a holiday package. The “V” is a little crooked, but it will do the job-and it was not work…it was FUN! Like I said- “I saw the sign”. No more “sets”. No more worrying about the “sale”. I am just going to make things for fun and let fate do the rest.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What next?

My studio has been empty a lot lately. I have excuses aplenty for why I can’t seem to get anything done. “The grandkids take up too much of my time.” “My husband always seems to need me to be elsewhere.” “The new baby that Heather has brought into the family is keeping us all busy.” I could go on for hours but it would not change the fact that I am the reason that the studio is empty. I have no idea where my art is going. (or maybe where it has gone) I see wonderful glass items by Villa Design (http://www.etsy.com/shop/villadesign) or the beautiful jewelry made by Anna Ourth(http://www.etsy.com/shop/AnnaOurthJewelry) and my gourds look stale in comparison. How can something that I have always seen as such a living art form now look so lifeless? The beauty being created by Gloria’s Gourd Art (http://www.gloriasgourdart.com/) often takes my breath away yet when I try to sketch a new project all I can produce are endless spirals on the page. Is it time to take a break and hope to come back with fresh ideas? Should I try working with yet another new medium? My studio cabinets testify to the large variety of mediums I have sampled already! Just ask- I have it in there somewhere. Maybe I just need more time. To think. To plan. To get into a project so deep that I forget that time exists. Any ideas? Why didn’t I think of that!? Yep! You talked me into it! I’M TAKING TOMORROW OFF. If anyone is looking for me—I’ll be in my studio.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Autumn Leaf Gourd Bowl Tutorial

Autumn Leaf Gourd Bowl 1. Raw Gourd
We try to grow as many of our own gourds as possible. 2. Cleaned
After a year of drying I wet them and wrap them in plastic wrap to soften the outer layer of dirt and skin so that it will scrub of easily. 3. Cut, inside cleaned and outside sanded
I have never had much luck with sandpaper for smoothing the inside of gourd bowls. I have gone back to the Native American method of sanding with fist sized sandstone rocks. They are easy to hold and fit the contour of the bowl. 4. Inside Sealed I seal the inside of the bowl to cut down on the gourd dust and the sealer soaks into the shell making it stronger. On this project I used a commercial stain and sealer. Be careful not to use too much as the stain will seep through to the outside of a thin shelled gourd. 5. Wood Burned
At this point in the process I burn on the leaves, and some shading and start to carve away the excess shell around the rim with my gourd saw. I then use a sander and diamond burs in my Dremel to refine the detail along the rim. 6. Background Color
A solid coat of gourd dye (in this case Olive colored) is put on the entire bowl and allowed to dry over night. The edge of the rim was painted black with acrylic paint. 7. Color and Shading
Now the color is added to the leaves. Greens can be used for spring and bright colors for fall. The same process can be used for Holly and Poinsettia for the winter Holidays. 8. Sealed The bowl can be sealed with more Stain and Varnish or a clear water based sealer. I like the way that the stain pulls all of the colors together and gives the bowl a mellow glow.

Friday, October 5, 2012

To Post or not to Post…THAT is the question

Once again I am trying something new. This week I started posting (almost) step by step pictures of a gourd bowl on my AngelsGourden page on Facebook. The pictures have been received very well. Quite a few people are sharing them which is fantastic! I have a few friends and family members who are quick to “Like” any art that I post but most of the time the photos do not get “Shared” with the Facebook world. I even got some feedback when I asked a question about the amount of color on the piece. Now my question is…Should I start the picture series with a “raw” gourd or should I do as I did this week and start with a gourd that has already been cleaned, cut, and sanded? The first few steps of the process are not very photogenic but they are a very necessary part of the creative process. The last few steps are usually where all of the interesting details and colors appear. I also want to take into account the number of pictures that I post. I do not want to overwhelm the Facebook Wall with a million “look at me” pictures and alienate my few followers. So readers I ask this question of you… Do I post the whole creative process or just the “pretty” parts? Thank you. Ag

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Today I did something that a lot of artist/crafters would not do. I met with a customer and showed her how to make two of the pieces that I sold in my ETSY shop. I know… I can hear you saying “If you show her how to make it herself, you will not be able to sell her anymore of your items. Even worse, she can sell them herself and steal your customers. That is a good way to put yourself out of business.” As a business woman I can see your point, but as an artist and member of the artistic community I see this from a very different angle. Artists march to a different and somewhat eccentric drummer. We feel the need to create, to share our creations, and to share in the creative process. Ask a group of artists/crafters ( yes we tend to travel in packs!) and you will find that most of them are willing to share the details of their creations. They will share everything from the beginning of the creative process and where they find idea -to the details of how they achieve a certain look or where they buy a much need supply. Sharing is a large part of the creative process- as is teaching. You will find that a large number of arts and craft supply businesses also offer classes. Most classes are taught by employees that are artists themselves. So back to where I started telling you about what I did today. One of my customers wanted to know how I made the copper Viking Weave necklace and bracelet that she purchased from my AngelsGourden ETSY shop last week. We e-mailed back and forth a few times and arranged to meet this afternoon at “Wired Coffee” on Lindbergh Boulevard in Sunset Hills. We introduced ourselves, grabbed a iced coffee drink and sat down to talk copper. I got my weave supplies out of my tote bag (that goes everywhere with me) and as I started showing her the basic weave technique she started firing off questions like a four year old on a long car trip. We covered the Viking Weave, beads, clasps, where to get supplies, tools and metal smith techniques. Let me tell you it was great! The feeling I got not only from the creating process but from sharing my craft with someone who was smitten with the process and wanted to learn. We talked for an hour and a half and it seemed like five minutes. We exchanged phone numbers (in case she thought of another question) and I took her order. Yes- she wants me to make her a half dozen more items for Christmas gifts. (Not such a bad business decision after all.) I wonder if I should offer to teach a class. I know where I could book a room. The manager at Wired Coffee showed me around while I was there. They have a small meeting room (they don’t mind if you over flow into the main room), they have art exhibition space, and they have a great selection of coffees! Did you know that they also serve FOOD? They have a well rounded menu and the prices are reasonable. They have a facebook page where they list upcoming events-like speed dating in September! I left the manager with my business card so keep and eye on their facebook page - some day I may be listed as an upcoming artistic event .

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wine Country Calls

I must start by saying that I am not a wine drinker. I just never liked the taste of the stuff. I am one of those evil people that you see at parties- you know the ones- ruining your favorite wine by mixing it with soda. Oh –the friends that I have offended and the time that I have wasted. A visit to my sister in Hermann, Missouri has shown me the error of my ways. I took a tour of the beautiful Stone Hill Winery. I usually go on these trips to look at the gift shops to see what other artists and crafters are making. This trip was different because Stone Hill is the home of the only wine that I have ever liked-Stone Hill Pink Catawba. Their Pink Catawba is light, with a slight fruity taste. YUM! No soda required here. While at the Winery I inquired about entering my Gourd art in their “Kristkindl Markt” in November. I wait to hear from the organizers of the event. So with my fingers crossed and a few bottles of wine tucked in the truck we headed for home. The two weeks later we returned to Hermann with the intention of visiting the Deutschheim State Historic Site and the Old German School Museum. We never got there. We met my brother in nearby Rhineland, Missouri for breakfast at the Trailside Bar & Grill, a great stopping place along the Katy Trail. We were served a delicious farmhand sized meal and the service was great. After breakfast my sister called and said that since I was interested in wine ( I guess she got that idea from my plentiful purchases in the Stone Hill Wine Shop a few weeks before) her husband wanted to take is to a little winery “just down the road” that was owned by a friend of his. We met up by our camper in Hermann City Park and headed off to Bland, Missouri to visit Wenwood Farm Winery outside of Mt Sterling, Missouri. The winery is just a few minutes from HWY 50 on a beautiful country lane. However –to get there from Hermann we had to take every twisty, no shoulder, curvy, two lane road in the county. I am a back roads country girl but you should have seen the look on by husband’s face an hour later when we arrived “just down the road.” Oh man! It was worth the trip! We swooped down into the valley and turned a slight corner and there it was. The green grass (yes even in this summer of drought it was green), the small stream, the white farm buildings with green trim. The perfect picture of rural America! I was already impressed with Wenwood Farm Winery and I wasn’t even out of the truck yet! We parked by the big barn and walked across the lane to the small barn that is converted into a gift shop and tasting room. I am all about checking out the items on display in the gift shop but when in Rome….. So it was time to shuffle to the counter and taste some wine. The owner, Tom, (how is that for service) poured for us samples of three of their sweet wines (still not fond of dry) and a special limited edition sherry. They were all wonderful! What a pleasant surprise! I liked them ALL. As he wrapped our purchases (of course) we sat and visited. He also let us sample some of their on-tap root beer. If it was available in bottles we would have had to leave someone behind to make more room in the truck. We took a short walk around the grounds and enjoyed their lovely streamside pavilion where they sometimes offer live music. Before returning to the truck we stopped in the tasting room to say our goodbyes and I dropped off my AngelsGourden business card and was invited to enter an application for their "Art on the Farm" event in late September. See you at Wenwood in September!