Last week I had a fantastic day at a local elementary school's annual "Fine Art Day". I was asked to be one of 7 creative people sharing about our art.
At first I wasn't sure if I would have the needed energy to complete a presentation for each grade level- turned out to be 7 in one day! But the kids in each grade brought their enthusiasm and many questions and I had a blast!
Here (above) I am letting the kids "knock" on a hardshell gourd.
Answering some questions while demonstrating weaving a rim. They had great questions! They wanted to know what my favorite gourd was, what I liked to do most on a gourd, what I planned to do next, how many gourds did I make.... they were really engaged and that was encouraging!
Here I am demonstrating some pyrography (burning). They were impressed that the pens can get to 1,000 degrees, and some commented on the smell right away.
It was always funny to me that some gourds have an odor when they are burned while others not so much. And some even smell kind of like melting chocolate....
Thanks kids for making my day so much fun!
Booth design is challenging. You would think a creative person would have no problem with it.
However, there are more obstacles to consider than just how the booth looks- which yeah is totally important.
1. Cost. (will it break my budget?)
2. Ease of transport (ie. My husband’s greatest concern- will it fit in the car/trailer?)
3. Will it allow for a good traffic flow of customers? (don’t want anyone getting trapped!)
4. How about sturdiness? (Will these shelves keep standing on unleveled ground, or fall if a customer bumps it?)
For the artist or crafter that does shows, this is an ongoing concern. I have countless aerial sketches of possibilities, only to find that what works on paper might not work in real life. There is still much to learn and much room for improvement.
Even though I did shows every year for a while, I took a bit of a hiatus and now feel ready to slowly transition back into them. That means new juried photos for me! Choosing 3-4 pieces that best represent my work was a challenge in itself, but the booth shot- that is the real kicker.
My booth was 8 years old. Collecting dust in a closet. Even though it did still look pretty good, it was definitely time for an upgrade.
Here is a picture of my very first emerging artist booth from 2003. My little fold up table top shelves were awesome (my dad made them!) and I loved how easy they were to store and fold up. But they did not leave much room for variation. The 5” tables were heavy and clunky and my table coverings were ok since they did not wrinkle at all but didn't quite fit right. And what was I thinking with the swoopy red transparent fabric???
After that my husband made me these free standing shelves. Got rid of the heavy tables (plus) but the shelves though looked nice were a bit tippy. I was always nervous of someone bumping them. Plus, they always needed these clamps on the back to keep them steady and I thought they looked unfinished. This picture was taken last year.
Recognize that drapery on the left? That was my old table covering! Recycle!
Now after not having tables, I found I wanted to go back to the tables! The greatest advantage is that there is great storage space under them. Here I changed out the 2 big metal and wood tables for 3 smaller lightweight ones. This way I have a little freedom to juxtapose them into the space in different ways. I can even still use my shelving- happens to fit perfectly around the smaller table which also gives extra stability.
And, my darling devoted husband built some beautiful wood pedestals to give a variety of heights. Plus a new little stand for my ornaments. This year I invested in table covers that are made for trade shows- fire retardant and fitting right over top and fit perfectly! I know, I know- they still need to be ironed!!
So the next thing to do was set up in the driveway and take pictures!
Still always a work in progress, but still progressing! What do you think?
This year I will be teaching more classes than ever before!
Here is a preview of all that will be available. Go to my calendar page for details on when and where each of these classes will be taught, plus links so you can sign up.
This Tuesday was my day to watch over the PA Gourd Society stand at the PA Farm Show. It is a fun event and many people stop by the ask questions about gourd growing and crafting.
A shot of part of the gourd stand with some artwork by PAGS members. Lots of variety! One thing I love about gourd art is how individual each piece is to the person who makes it.
Here is the gourd I was working on while I was there. Visitors always like to see an artist in action so I like to bring something to demonstrate the process.
This even caught the attention of Explore Harrisburg, who did a short video blog post which you can view on Facebook.
Howwwoooool hoooooowwwooooo! Can you imagine hearing packs of wolves howling, the sound seeming to come from everywhere over the hills? That is what I hear most days at various times living where I do in Lititz PA. Just over the hill, live about 18 packs of wolves at the Wolf Sanctuary of PA. Hearing them howl and visiting them was my motivation for this gourd.
If you are ever in the Lititz area, I highly recommend taking a tour of the Wolf Sanctuary. At this rescue, the wolves are fenced by pack, but they have lots of space to run. The tour guides carry buckets of frozen meat goodies so you are sure the wolves come close to the fence so everyone gets a good view! They are very knowledgeable about wolves and wolf-dog hybrids and I learned a lot there. It is wonderful all the work they do to keep the wolves healthy and happy, and to give them a chance in life where they may have faced euthanasia.
My other wolf inspiration comes from the pack at ZooAmerica at Hershey Park. I have visited both of these places several times to take photos, observe and draw. These are beautiful animals and PA was once a wild enough place to be home to wolves, but the last ones seen, or possibly killed in the early 1800s. I am not a supporter to reintroduce wolves to PA, because the land would not sustain a pack nowadays, but I was thinking back to the time before malls and paved roads, when Pennsylvania was altogether an abundant “Woods” and imaginatively what that could look like in my pyrography gourd scene.
It's that time of year again! Time to make your plans for the PA Gourd Gathering! This is an exciting year because for the first time we will accommodate the American Gourd Society's annual meeting, and we will have an official competition. We have held competitions before, but not on this scale, so I am particularly looking forward to seeing the innovative gourd creations that these competitions will attract.
Again, PA will also host a phenomenal array of gourd crafting classes; taking place from Thursday to Saturday. I will be teaching 4 classes, 2 of which are brand new this year. See above: Barn Owl Pyrography, Golden Fish, Cardinal in Color, and Butterfly Pyrography Sampler, which incidentally was featured in the latest issue of Pyrography Magazine.
The PA Gourd Gathering will be held at the Lebanon Valley Expo Center from June 14th through June 16th. For more details about everything visit the official website here: www.pagourdgathering.com Click the Workshops link at the top of the page to see all the classes being held and to sign up. Registrations begin on April 2 for members and April 4 for non-members.
Hope to see you there! Please stop by and say "Hi!"
1. Sand with fine grit sandpaper
The smoother the surface you have to start with, the better. Try a fine grit, no courser than 400 to sand over your gourd and wipe clean. Feel it- you should notice a difference and your pen will too!
2. Build your values slowly
If you start on a lower temperature and burn over an area slowly, the more you burn over the same area the darker it will be. Advantages to working this way are more control over the value, and less chance of burning it too dark or scorching the gourd.
3. For natural looking burnings, do not outline your subjects
Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that outlining is always bad. There is a time and place for outlining, graphic art styles, and coloring book art for example. I outline things like borders and my Celtic styled art. But if you want your pyrography to look more true to life, forego the outlining and proceed to tip #4!
4. Think carefully about contrast
Contrast is dark against light, which in pyrography is all we have to work with, dark burning and light burning and everything in between. In areas where you want the image to pop- use a contrasting shade e.g. a light object with a very dark background. Below is an example of a value scale, the color at the extreme ends of the scale would have the most contrast.
5. What you don’t burn is as important as what you do burn!
Not unlike a watercolorist utilizing the white of the paper. Keep in mind that you are working with a limited value scale. What is missing is white, and depending on the color of your gourd, you may be starting somewhere in the middle of the value scale. Resist the urge to burn everything, those lightest areas are needed to stay that way.
Notice in the photo below of tundra swans on the water. I had to contend with a tan gourd to start, and depict white snow geese! In order to do this, I had to make use of the area around the geese, the water. The geese themselves are burned only in the shadowed areas. Burning the water around the swans darker make the swans appear lighter, even though they are not.
6. And finally, your bonus tip- Keep your nibs clean!
As you work, carbon will build up on your pen nibs, which will create drag and affect the quality of your burning. Pyrographers will share various ways that they like to clean their nibs. When I first started burning I bought a pyrography pen cleaning kit that contained a strop (piece of leather mounted on a piece of wood), in which I partially coated with honing oil compound also included in the kit. I have been using this system all the time and have found not reason to change it. It is important to turn the heat off and let the pen cool. I’ll wipe the pen in one direction over the oiled part, then finish on the clean leather. This generally will clean my pens to a nice shine, and some pens need to be cleaned more than others. If you find your pen is not working at its optimum performance, try cleaning the nib it will make a big difference!
The PA Gourd Gathering is next week (yay!!!) and I have been busy getting ready to teach 4 classes. In addition, I decided to take the 2017 Warty Gourd Challenge! The rules state that the warty gourd must be at least 50% warts, so yeah for my pyrography needs I like'em nice and smooth, and this was really a challenge to figure out what to do.
The gourd I chose has warts in column-like shapes all around it, and it reminded me of a butterfly bush. Ding! Lightbulb turns on! So the warty is more of a base, that I painted the warts to be purple butterfly bush flowers.
The butterflies were burned and cut out of a different gourd, and I burned the top and under parts of the wings so you can see the patterns any way you look at it. The butterfly bodies were done with QuikWood. Their little antennae is copper wire.
One of the butterflies is not where I initially intended for it to be. That is because when I applied the spray varnish ( on a windy day- was not being patient ) I stepped away from it and it blew right off the table onto a concrete patio! The gourd suffered one hairline crack down the side, could have been worse. Fortunately, the butterflies had not been attached yet so I was able to adhere the one over the crack and no one's the wiser. Except you, of course!
Enjoy this video for a closer look!
This year I will be teaching four classes at the PA Gourd Society Gourd Gathering in June.
If you have never been and are able to visit the PA Gourd Gathering, it is well worth it! Tons of great gourd artist instructors all in one place, teaching over 3 days, along with displays of gourd art, vendors, and more. Please visit their website for dates, times directions, and all the up to date information!
The list for all the fabulous classes will be available on the PA Gourd Gathering website on March 15, 2017, with registrations beginning on April 1 (no joke!)
Until then, you can take a peek at what I am offering this year. All of my classes feature gourd pyrography with something a little extra. The Woodpecker and Frogs use a colored pencil technique, the Celtic Spirals have gold leaf added and the Celtic Dragon uses an embossing powder. Check out the classes on March 15, and I hope to see you there! If you decide to come, please drop by and say hello to me!
I am Jenn Avery, of JRA Gourd Art. I have been an artist all my life, and my work has taken many twists and turns and many directions. Gourd pyrography is my specialty, but I love to try all kinds of art and crafts, and am excited to share and teach what I learn anyone who is interested!