another 2020 commission titled Curious Bunnies.
This tall body gourd made the perfect shaped vase for this garden rabbit design. The entire gourd is extensively burned with lots of flowers and rabbits on both sides. The pyrography was left natural, with only the addition on blue color on the butterflies.
I wanted to show the inquisitive nature of the rabbits, along with the diversity of a wildflower garden. Included are poppy, black eyed susan, zinnia, iris, and wild strawberry.
Below: detail of the flowers and butterfly.
You may not remember, but you can look back at my January post for 2020. Here I talked about the classes I was planning and I prefaced the post with "Do you have 2020 vision?". Wow did we all have such ideas for the year only to have them change so dramatically.
In these next few posts I would like to share with you some of the projects I was honored to work on. Had my 2020 gone as planned, there just would not have been time for them and I would have to turn these projects down. In these I met and worked with some wonderful people and was able to make their ideas come to life in these works of art now in their collections.
The first piece I'll discuss is called "Safe Place"; it is a fully pyroengraved (burned) cannonball gourd and depicts a baby fawn hiding among the ivy under a pine tree, while a little squirrel curiously checks him out. I called it such, because on the opposite of the gourd there roams.......
...a wolf through the woods. Did the fawn find a good hiding place? I think so, the wolf seems pretty unaware of the fawn's presence. As the gourd is turned there are some other little fellas keeping an eye on things.
This is a scene that I imagined must happen so often in real life. Fawns are born without a scent, and they rely on their camouflage coats and the ability to lay perfectly still for long periods of time to keep them safe while mom is away. While the wolf is a superior hunter, they are most successful when in a pack. Although a lone wolf is capable of surviving and hunting away from the pack, having one set of eyes set this one at a disadvantage. All the advantage this time lies with the baby fawn!
My latest gourd venture, a forest scene in pyrography and carved bottom. I am posting the views as the gourd is turned. Let's go for a little walk...
This scene is of a doe and her fawn under the canopy of leaves, I wanted to show the affection and care of a mother with her baby. I call this side "The Lighted Path".
This next scene (which I had to take in two photos) is the mother doe looking over her back at her fawns, who, not unlike many children, have gotten a little distracted.
This little section features the characters we might encounter, squirrels chattering in the trees and raccoons having a little wash in the creek.
Lastly, we have a doe and her buck, keeping an eye on all the goings on. They symbolize the start of a new life of love, of family to come.
The view of the bottom of the gourd, carved leaves with some added color.
I hope you enjoyed this little "walk" with me!
May you enjoy the beauty around you today.
This has been on the back-burner for a few years, to record video for gourd crafting demonstrations and tutorials. I wanted to have some video content for students are aren't able to take a class with me in person, as well as try to reach some potential new gourders that are just looking to get into the craft.
All of us have been affected by virus lockdowns, and as an artist and instructor I have found my only lifeline is the internet, since so many events are canceled. I am sure you have also had many disappointments in this crazy year. So that was my impetus to plow ahead and begin to make some content for you!
No longer waiting until I have the right camera equipment, or the perfect lighting, or any other excuse that kept holding me back!
The first of these are in two parts. Part one is the burning of the butterfly above, and part two is burning the Celtic border and background. I am making these available for you to view in full on YouTube.
I hope you will enjoy these videos, and if you do please let me know! I sure would appreciate a "like" and a "subscribe" and a "comment"! That will give me encouragement to make more, and if you would like to see me cover other content in the future, please let me know!
Here are the links to the videos:
Celtic Butterfly Gourd Pyrography Part 1: youtu.be/GYOC6ZEQuqk
Celtic Butterfly Gourd Pyrography Part 2: youtu.be/JQA0b6nAlAo
I have been "gourding" for 20 years- I cannot even believe it has been that long but it has!
Over the years I have made some gourd "oncers" which is my word for I just want to make it once, just so that I have the experience. Like the gourd lamp, the flute, the kalimba and the kaleidoscope.
A mask was something that I had not yet tried. Lots of people have made masks, they even have a history of being used by Native Americans, and they are a popular art form today.
That all being said, I started working on this in February and my original intention was to use real feathers to decorate it, much like other mask artists use. However as I started burning in the small feathers on the surface, I decided instead to use actual gourd pieces to turn into more feathers.
Since I wanted to have a Celtic flair to it, I added knot work to the top feathers and created more feathers inside each knot. Gold leaf was applied to the Celtic knots, and the feathers, beak and eye rings were painted with transparent gold acrylic.
The winter months provide a time for some experimentation since that is the season when I feel like I don't need to be as productive. I am still productive, mind you, but I feel a little freer to just "play". Two new projects are in the "play" category, one I am not finished with and will share later. This one however, is ready to be shared!
A carousel theme is not one that I would typically be attracted to. But Pinterest, ah Pinterest, the place where inspiration lurks to be found. Somehow in my feed came a photo of an antique carousel, but not a horse, it was a cat. I thought it was pretty neat so I started searching for other such things.
Lo and behold there are many antique carousel animals, tigers, giraffes, bear, deer, etc. Who knew? There are some very cool modern ones as well, like the Calgary Zoo that features a bat, an otter and a poison dart frog. Or the Bug Carousel at the Bronx Zoo. After just a little bit of digging I found more and more incredibly cool carousels- I mean who wouldn't want to ride a giant barn owl or a snow leopard?
So I started a meager little gourd with a few of my favorite animals, a cat, rabbit, wolf and bear. I used a bit of mixed media to accentuate the pyrography. Some gold leaf, inks and metallic pigment powder, and my new set of colored pencils. I intend on doing some more experimentation with the pencils so stay tuned with that!
This project was. a lot of fun and I may do a few more. After all, I only featured four animals!
What do you think? Do you like carousels? Have you ever taken the time to really look at the details that go into these? Here are some links for you to enjoy, and if you know of one to add to the list, please let me know in the comments!
The Greenway Carousel- what I first loved about this is how incredibly gorgeous the sculpted animals are on this, but what I love even more is that it was developed to be ADA accessible for people with physical, sensory and cognitive disabilities to enjoy.
The Bug Carousel- at the Bronx Zoo. I mean, yeah, you are riding bugs. Too cool!
Fort Wayne Children's Zoo- An endangered species carousel! Have you ever seen a tapir or a dugong on a carousel ride? Very unique.
Calgary Zoo- This one boasts endangered species from all seven continents, includes a swift fox and a bat!
Do you have 2020 vision? haha, couldn't resist that one! This year, I am only teaching at the PA Gourd Gathering, but I may teach a few private classes intermittently throughout the year.
This year I have 2 brand new classes, and 2 updated classes. Check them out below, and be sure to scroll all the way down for more info and a link to register.
Gourding for Newbies______________
This class is one of the "updated" versions. Last year my good gourd friend Crystal Lemmon and I teamed up to teach a couple of all day "Newbie" gourd classes. This was to run through all the basics of gourd craft and give students an opportunity to learn how to choose a quality gourd for crafting, how to cut, clean (safely!) carve, burn, coil the rim, and finish the gourd with color. It also was a great time to ask us questions about any other technique we may not have covered in the class, the students all loved the class so much that we decided to offer it again this year.
This year's project is slightly different, but the concept is the same. We will cover most of the same techniques but will be doing seagrass coiling, and powdered pigments along with chip carving, cutting and finishing. We will also have some tools available to borrow if you do not have any. If getting started gourds interests you, this is a perfect time to get all your questions answered by two seasoned gourders with combined 40 years experience!
This class we will be using our pyrography tools (you must bring your own tool) to burn a little hummingbird and bee balm flowers on a small uncut gourd. Then we will be using a technique with colored pencils to overlay some subtle color in a way that does not cover all that hard work you did with the burner!
In this class, we will be burning in cute little sandpipers wading in the water- you can use the same pattern to add as many birds as you like. This gourd actually has 3 around it but the photo can also show one side. All the detail and shading on the birds are done with the pyrography tool. The water is done with paints and I will show you how to layer and play with the colors to give dimension and sparkle to the water ripples at their feet.
Hawk Feathers Bowl____________
Here is another "updated" class. I taught this one last year at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. It is a great class for people brand new to burning on gourds. The changes I made to this class was adding more shading in the feather and adding a metallic border at the center line. This class is another that you can customize, if you want to add and overlap more feather you can do so to make it really "your own"!
To be honest, I think the PA Gourd Gathering has the BEST variety of classes for all levels of gourders, but maybe I am just biased! But I truly do believe that we are a group blessed by having many talented teachers in our midst. Class registration begins April 1, but you can go to the website to get a sneak peek of the classes being offered now. Click here for a link for all you need to know to visit and register!
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.
I am Jenn Avery, gourd artist of 20+ years. I have been a multi-disciplinary artist all my life, and my work has taken many twists and turns and many directions. Gourd pyrography has become my passion, but I love to experiment with all kinds of art and crafts. It gives me joy to pass on my enthusiasm for making art that makes people happy!