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April updates from the desert southwest...
Welcome to the April issue of the Arizona Gourds newsletter!
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Featured Books of the Month:
Readers Mailbox: Thanks to Terry Noxel of PA for sending me a video from the recent Wuertz Festival. Terry filmed the gourd car races at the festival. Many of you have not had the opportunity to see this event - here is the link: Gourd Car Races
All photos and designs copyright © 2010 Bonnie Gibson and may not be used without express written permission.
Featured Gourd of the Month:
Special March Feature - A Brazilian Adventure
My husband Ev has wanted to visit the Amazon River and Rio de Janiero for years - and we finally got a chance to go! We went with a tour group, and visited 4 places in this large and diverse country. I was surprised to realize that Brazil is geographically about the same size as the continental US. Somehow just looking at a map doesn't give you an immediate appreciation for the vast size of the country.
Tip of the Month: Zentangling/Zendoodling
A new doodling style known as either Zentangling or Zendoodling has hit the gourd world in recent months. This style of doodling uses combinations of repetitive patterns to create an interesting overall design. The drawing is supposed to be easy and free flowing, and relaxing to do - and after trying it myself I have to admit it does have a Zen-like relaxtion quality! I was introduced to this concept by Barb Wolters of New Mexico, who completed a beautiful gourd using this technique and posted it on the Gourd Enthusiasts website. (see photo below) She also sent photos of her gourd to the owners of the official Zentagle site, and they featured her work in their newsletter. Shortly after that, I got a note from Sue Walters, the fabulous Australian pyrographer - and she shared her new YouTube video which has a very similar concept using woodburning on a gourd. I have added the video below. There are several interest sites about Zentangle doodling online - this site is similar to the Gourd Enthusiasts site, and has videos and tips. Zentangle Art *Do you have a tip or tutorial we can feature here? Please contact me.
I've been busy restocking some of the popular items that were sold out last month, and most items are now available. *If you have bookmarked any of the supply pages, please be sure to refresh or reload the page prior to ordering. This will show you the most up to date version of the page so you'll know if an item is in stock at the time. Older bookmarked pages may not reflect the current availablity of certain items.
Apoxie Sculpt is in stock - please contact me if you wish to special order a particular color or the larger 4 lb size. 10" Turntables are back in stock! Also, we have a great new supply of nice large ammonite fossils , and plenty of premium African quills , (including special deals on bundles of quills) back in stock. The new "Mud Beads" sold out quickly last month, but now have plenty of each type back in stock. These retail elsewhere for $4 per strand - because I buy in large quantities you'll pay half of that! Large Sea Beans and new Dark Coffee Buffalo Teeth are in stock. Carbide Mushroom cleaners are back in stock. These won't ever wear out or break if you drop them!
Above: Coatimundis were plentiful at the Brazilian side. This fellow nudged me, wanting to share my ice cream cone.
Right: This area of Brazil is a subtropical rainforest. We saw lots of beautiful plants and trees, and enjoyed plenty of unusual and delicious fruit. I thought the tree with clusters of seedpods or fruit growing all over the trunk and branches was really interesting.
An older piece - but appropriate for this issue! This gourd has a variety of tropical foliage, toucans, toucanets, parrots and macaws. Heavily carved, cutouts, and acrylic paints. You can see another view of this gourd on the home page - or visit the Before and After page.
During our trip, we visited 4 different areas. The first was Iguassu Falls, which is located on the border of Argentina and Paraguay. Next, we flew to Rio de Janiero and spent several days. Our next stop was to visit the capital of Brazil, Brasilia. And finally, we spent our last 8 days near Manaus, where we embarked on a river cruise and explored the Rio Negro and Solimoes (Amazon) rivers. This was an extremely educational trip - I learned a lot about this beautiful country and its people in a short amount of time.
An Argentine artist at the Foz de Iguazu national park. He did these in about 3 minutes using only his fingers.
Rio de Janeiro
We were very fortunate to arrive in Rio during good weather. Rio is the most spectacularly beautiful harbor I've ever seen - and on a clear day the views are incredible. We rode a cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain, and took a tram ride to the top of the Corcavado to see the famous "Christ the Redeemer" statue. We arrived in Rio after Carnaval, but did get the chance to see a Samba show including some fabulous dancers and costumes, and even had a demo of Capoeira fighters/dancers - a sport that is rumored to be Brazil's additional event for their upcoming 2016 Olympic games. We also toured a couple of "Favelas". These aren't exactly slums, but poorer communities of squatters living on the hillsides above Rio. They was educational and very interesting to see. We also enjoyed walking along the famous Ipanema and Copacabana beaches.
This satellite map shows the different color of the waters where they meet at Manaus. The Rio Negro is slow moving and is blackened by tannins from decomposing vegetation. The waters meet but stay separated for many kilometers before mixing.
Hillside Favela & conspicuous power theft.
Thanks to everyone for your patience in waiting on your orders while I was traveling last month. This issue, I'm adding a bit a of a twist with a special report on my travels and adventures in Brazil.
Of course, I had my eyes on constant lookout for gourds - and I did see some along the way. Traveling is such an enriching and educational experience - I feel very fortunate to have had these opportunites and would like to share them with you. Look for photos and a mini travelogue below. (There are even some gourd photos!) This newsletter is very graphic heavy, please be patient while all of the photos load.
Although these are a bit off-topic from the usual gourd books, if the photos from Brazil have intrigued you, you might also enjoy these books and videos.
Brazil and Carnival in Rio are good pictorial books and as a bonus, the Carnival book includes a music CD of traditional Samba. Margaret Mee's Amazon is an artists delight - it includes a travel diary and gorgeous botanical watercolors of the plants of the Amazon. The Lost City of Z is a non-fiction book that reads like fiction. It tells the story of a 1925 British explorer that was lost in the rainforest while searching for a mysterious Amazonian city. The River of Doubt is another great non-fiction read; this one is about Teddy Roosevelt's dangerous and almost deadly trip on the Amazon River.
The two videos tell great stories of the Amazon jungle. Medicine Man is about the search for medicines found in the canopy of the jungle -and Sean Connery is always entertaining. The Emerald Forest has been one of my favorite movies for many years. It's loosely based on a true story of a white child taken by natives and raised as one of their own - and his white father's search for him.
Update: Gourd Classes
Classes in the San Diego area are filling fast, but there are still spaces available. This is my only scheduled trip to California this year, so I hope to see you there if you are in the area. Classes will be held on May 14-16. For more information, check the Classes Page - and for registration, contact our host, Rosario Wilke. (firstname.lastname@example.org) It's almost time for classes at the second Gourd Retreat at the After Midnight Art Ranch in Sonoita, AZ on April 24th -26th. Register for classes on the After Midnight website. I will be teaching classes at the Pennsylvania Gourd Festival this June! Class listings are posted on the Pennsylvania Gourd Society festival page, please check there for more information and to register for classes.
I will be teaching classes at the Michigan Gourd Festival September 17-19.
Please join the class updates list if you want to hear about new classes as soon as they are posted.
Right: Yerba Mate gourds were not as common in Brazil, but this shop on the Argentine side had a giant mate gourd outside of its door.
Below: There were many colorful butterflies everywhere. These were getting moisture and salts from the mud.
My favorite site in Brasilia - The beautiful Dom Bosco chapel, which was designed by architect Oscar Neimeyer. It has 2200 square meters of glass walls in 12 shades of blue, and a Murano glass chandelier made from 7500 pieces of glass.
You can use this Amazon search box link to find all kinds of books and other products. I appreciate those of you that do so; Amazon purchases made through the links on this website help to support this site.
NEW - Newsletter Index - Article and tip index from all the past newsletters!
Iguassu Falls (Brazil - Iguacu, Argentina - Iguazu)
We visited the National Parks of both Brazil and Argentina. Both sides were different but each was spectacular. Iguassu is one of the largest falls in the world, consisting of about 275 falls and about 2 miles wide. I even enjoyed a wild (and wet!) boat ride underneath one of the falls.
Above: REAL Samba Dancer.
Right: FAKE Samba Dancers!
Christ the Redeemer was getting a facelift...
Trip up Sugar Loaf mountain. (The Christ statue is way in the distance in the bottom photo.)
Very little old architecture remains in Rio. This was in one of the last few areas.
Brasilia is the capital of Brazil, and is a planned community with the majority being totally built within 5 years, finishing in 1960. The site is at higher elevation on a savannah (not in the rainforest). The current government uses the US model of government with legislative, executive and judicial branches, but the city seemed stark and imbued with somewhat socialistic overtones. It is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. (My husband Ev enjoyed Brasilia more than I did!)
Above: Looking over the city towards the seat of government. Great views from atop their local TV tower! Below: National Congress building, and the beautiful JK Bridge.
An honor guard in old Portuguese uniforms retire the flag at the Presidential palace, while modern soldiers march by on maneuvers.
"SuperBlock" in the residential sector. Each superblock has its own schools, shopping and housing buildings. Apartments are raised on stilts to allow for an open view of the area and to provide people with a place to gather.
Manaus and the Amazon River
This was the highlight of our trip! We spent 7 days on a river boat hotel and took daily excursions to see the surrounding areas. We traveled half of the time on the Solimoes (Amazon) river and half on one of the tributaries, the Rio Negro. It was a fantastic way to see the area, and while we didn't travel that far in distance on the rivers, we saw the area in depth and really learned a lot about the river and the rainforest. Our guides were indigenous natives that were fluent in Portuguese and English as well as their native tongue.
We went Caiman spotting and I got to hold one.
Local Ferry boat passes us.
The Amazon rises as much as 40 feet every year during the rainy season. Plants have adpated to survive the flood.
Feeding the monkeys from our boat - they were really cute.
I did 3 short treks in the rainforest. It had an otherworldly greenness and the sounds were incredible.
We went Pirahna fishing - what incredible teeth! I even ate Pirahna soup.
We visited an indigenous tribe that has moved near civilization but still lives primitively. Other tribes have mixed with the locals and have adopted modern ways - including satellite TV.
This was the local school "bus" along one of the tributaries.
We saw caiman, iguanas, monkeys, sloths, toucans, macaws, parrots, and too many other birds to mention.
Left: This riverside home shows the level of last years flooding. Some homes are on stilts, others are built to float.
Gourds and Crafts of Brazil
Most of the crafts we encountered were made from local seeds and plants. All of the gourd crafts in the Amazon area were made with the fruit of the calabash tree, which produces cannonball-like hardshelled gourds.
Left: Berimbau - musical instrument with gourd resonator. It is used to accompany
Right: Brightly painted samba dolls made with calabash tree gourd bodies.
Above: Wooden Samba whistles and gourd shakers of all kinds.
Left: Dance rattles made from seed pods.
Brazilian style Yerba Mate gourd cups (I only saw these in the southern part of Brazil.)
Above: Recylced paper made into decorative trays.
Above and Right: Tourist items made from small carved calabash gourds. The blowgun has a clay face with real pirahna teeth!
Left: Calabash Tree
at a farm we visited.
Right: At the farm, this calabash was used as a bowl to hold tapioca powder- which is a byproduct of manioc (cassava) production. Manioc was imported from the West Indies but is now a staple food in Brazil.
This was the coolest mushroom!
Zentangle Art Samples by Jane Snedden Peever
Cuica Drums - they have a stick inside that is rubbed to make a squeaking sound for samba music.