Arizona Gourds
Updates from the desert southwest...
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*Please visit the book page links shown at right to view collections of related  titles. Each topic includes a variety of suggested books about each subject.
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Gourds with Southwestern Motifs by Bonnie Gibson

Out of Print - some copies still available through Amazon and they are at a reduced price. 
What's new on the Arizona Gourds website? 
(Click on book cover for ordering information.)
Featured Gourd of the Month:

Closeup - Scrub Jay
This gourd is in the collection of the National Park Service.
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Printable PDF File
Newsletter Index - article and tip index from all the past newsletters
Newsletter Index
The Gourd Art Enthusiasts site has about 4775 members, with gourd enthusiasts from all over the world!  Membership is free and easy.  The site also has state groups, event listings, a Q&A forum and a chat feature.
Check out our GAE T-Shirt designs ! 
*Want to see my listing of top gourd books?  Here is my  "Listmania" listing on Amazon
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*NEW GROUP on Facebook - "Gourding Destash".  This is the place to sell your used gourd tools and excess supplies.  No fees to sell your surplus supplies and raw gourds.* 
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Pine Needle Basketry - from Forest Floor to Finished Project is one of the first books I purchased for weaving on gourds.  It is out of print now, but you can pick up used copies for very little.  This is one that remains on my bookshelf for reference.

Creating Wall Pockets is a new release by Sammie Crawford.  It is available for preorder and will be released in March of 2016.

Pine Needle Raffia Basket has some teneriffe stitching info along with basic info on creating pine needle baskets.  The book doesn't go into weaving on gourds. but the stich info is basic to both.

Basket Weaving Essentials by Nadine Spier is probably one of the best DVDs I have seen for learning a technique.  It is clear, easy to folllow, and paced well.  The basic stitching info on the DVD will help you create a neat, clean, well made basket because it can show you in live action how to do something the right way.  I own this one myself!
Arizona Gourds Newsletter Index
See all our old newlsetters from the past 9 years!  Articles and Tips are indexed.
Newsletter Index
I often get questions about shipping costs that are added to shopping cart sales.  To clarify things, I've added a new page to the website,
Shipping Policies.
I am using a no-frills shopping cart program that has limitations and little flexibility.  By not paying for expensive software, I can offer you lower prices on the website merchandise.  I'm not looking to make a profit on shipping;  if you order lightweight items you will likely get a refund or some freebies to make up for it. Please take a minute to look at the shipping policies page for clarification and explanation of how things work.  If you ever have any questions, please feel free to email me directly.  I value your business!
Welcome to the January issue of the Arizona Gourds newsletter! 
Enter your email address and hit the submit button to join the class updates notification list.
Another new year is upon us - and there are lots more fun gourds to create! 

This year, I offer you a challenge - to try something new. You have never tried weaving?  Pick up some pine needles!  Never tried carving?  Bring out that old Dremel tool and see what you can do.  Do something experimental!  Try a different pallette of colors in your work, use paints instead of dyes (or vice versa) or try a sculpture if all you have ever done is bowls.  I know that I'm always looking for new things to try, and new ideas.  That is how we can grow as artists.  See the featured article for some ideas on becoming creative without copying.

Tip of the Month:  Tips for Pine Needle Weaving

Carol Busto has kindly allowed me to share some of her pine needle weaving tips.  She has a lovely website with additional tips and photos of her weavings.  You can visit it at

Photos and design copyright © 2013 by Bonnie Gibson and the National Park Service, may not be used without express written permission.
Thank you!  Your purchases made from Arizona Gourds and from our Amazon links enable us to keep these free newsletters and the Gourd Art Enthusiasts site available.  We sincerely appreciate your business.
Reader's Mailbox
Hi Bonnie,   Thank you so much for including the beautiful earrings with my order. Also, I know the brass cleaning brush will come in handy.  I have to confess I have "borrowed" ideas and patterns from your book for several of my gourds.  I have sent photos to show how some of your ideas transplanted into my work.  I want to thank you for being a mentor to me, even though you didn't realize I was so impressed and influenced by your work.   Jeanne Larsen - Arkansas
Feature - Creative Inspiration VS Copying

2015 Artistry Award Update
The entries are in, the judging has been completed!  Watch for your American Gourd Society Spring 2016 issue of the Gourd Magazine to see the results and photos of all of the entries!
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Some long time readers may think that this topic has already been addressed far too often, but there are always new people joining the gourd hobby and there are a lot of misunderstandings about what is acceptable when it comes to using designs and techniques.  The Internet has made for a small world, and the public is exposed to many more photos and ideas that they would have ever seen in the past.  (Pinterest has become the favorite place for borrowing ideas and perhaps stealing them outright?)

Have you ever been to a gourd show or competition, where you thought you were seeing a work by a particular artist, because the colors, style, technique - whatever - were so identifiable with a well known artist?  Then you look, and you see that it is by someone else! You may wonder if they are copying, or have two minds just come upon the same ideas from different places?  Some well known artists (Think Picasso, Warhol, etc.) have a very identifiable style, and yes, their style does get imitated.  Go to any gourd show, and in the competition or booths, you will see pieces that are similar to well known gourd artists' work.  Are they just similar, or are they so close as to make you wonder if any of the piece on display is original at all?   You can't copyright a style or technique, but when lines become muddled because not enough changes have been made to make your work distinctive enough from someone else's, feelings are hurt and you leave yourself open to a lack of respect and even legal action.

The more ideas you expose yourself to, the less you lean on the crutch of copying or creating derivative works, the more your own "voice" will emerge.  (When your work becomes so distinctive that it is easily recognizable as being yours, that is called your artistic voice.)

Granted, not everyone has the same skill levels or abilities. Nobody says you can't ever make a similar piece for yourself. But when it comes to entering pieces in a competition or offering them for sale, ask yourself if your work is truly your own creation or have you infringed on someone else's work? 

How much change is enough?  The old saying about changing 10% of a piece is not true -  your work needs to be distinctively different.  Sure, sometimes you'll see similar pieces, but does artist one use certain colors while artist 2 uses a totally different palette?  Does artist one have a "signature" style or technique?  Has artist 2 changed it in some way so that it no longer looks just like the other person's piece?  It's a fine line sometimes, that's why we hear of legal battles over whether one musician's song is too close to the melody in someone else's piece.  Make the changes distinctive enough so that it looks like YOUR work.  When in doubt, ask for permission.

Special Feature - Gourd Artist Carol Kroll

I always perk up when I see some new and different gourds being made - and Carol Kroll of North Carolina definitely has her own style.  Her gourds have a contemporary flair and use some innovative materials and designs.  Carol was raised in a family that encouraged creativity.  An ever present abundance of art materials to experiment with and a myriad of art classes set the course to Carol’s lifelong love of art. She attended the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art in Newark New Jersey where she received a diploma in textile design.

Reader's Mailbox
Hi Bonnie,   I used an ammonite I got from you to create this custom wood mandala.  It was a commissioned piece with lots of stories behind the symbols.  Diane Frederick - WA
For projects where the pine needle cap is not desired, most people just pull the caps off with their hands, which can be tough on your fingers.  Instead, use a small clip or half of a wooden clothespin.  Place the needle bunch into the round groove and slide across.  The pine needles will hit up against the edge of the clip/clothespin and come off.

Below - these wire grid racks are great for spreading and drying wet or recently dyed needles.  Wet needles need to dry properly or they will mold.
Don't forget - we sell long Florida pine needles, dried and bundled and ready to go on the Arizona Gourds website.  Look for them on the Kits and Misc Supplies page.  Artificial sinew is available on the Special Effects page.
January Special - while they last: 
Larger sized glass cabochons with petroglyph designs at a special reduced price.  On the glass page
Class updates
Note:  My classes at the Wuertz Festival are full, but if you didn't get in, email or call the Wuertz farm and ask to be placed on the wait list.  Plans often change for people and there are usually places that open up before the festival.

Upcoming Gourd Classes:  My classes at the Gourds and Baskets conference in Visalia, CA April 23 -24 are full, but I am teaching an extra class on Monday, April 25th at the home of Toni Best in Visalia. The class is Carving with Cutouts - Desert Rabbits.  For more information or to sign up, please contact Toni at

Wednesday, April 27th, I will be teaching Fancy Filigree in Camarillo, CA.  Contact Arline Erickson for details. 

Friday- Sunday, April 29th - May1st - I will be teaching a 3 day workshop at the Rancho de Vinedos in Temecula, CA.  You will have the opportunity to stay onsite at the Rancho if you wish.  This class will include multiple techniques and you will completely finish a larger piece.  More details will be following soon;  I will send information about registration out to the class updates list as soon as everything is finalized.   Send me an email if you are interested.
This video is one of the clearest and most informative things I've seen on the subject of copying and derivative work.  It is well worth your time to view it. 

On a related topic, well known artist and author Lora Irish wrote a great article on her website about the difference between USE and Distribution when it comes to using commercially available patterns and designs. 

Lora's website is filled with patterns for pyrography, and this article lets you know what you can do with these patterns and what you can't do with them.  Here is the link to her article - another must read!  As an author, I totally agree with her take.

Below is an example of two pieces using a similar theme without infringing on someone.  Example one is a ceramic vase.  Example 2 is a gourd piece with a similar theme.  Do they look like close copies?  Or are they distinctively different so that nobody would mistake the two?

Example - I made a gourd vase below right (using cut out circles from a hole saw for the flowers,) and then hunted on the internet to find a similar themed piece in a different medium.  The candle on the left is by Gerson Companies.  The ceramic piece in the middle is by Maria Thorlund of Sweden.  I don't believe anyone would think any of these are copies. While they have a similar theme, they are strikingly different.  Viewing different mediums is a good way to get inspirations for translating to gourds.
"In 2006, following a nearly three decade long career as a textile designer and the outsourcing of my work, I planted a large garden. Serendipitously, I eventually sowed the seeds that would guide my artistic voice and catapult me into becoming a full-time gourd and mixed media artist. My professional life as a 2-D artist came to an end (or maybe just a pause) opening new doors of creativity to me as a 3-D artist.

A deeply felt connection to the natural world compels me to create sculpted, carved and painted environments that draw the eye in for further study. My creative process with gourds is an intimate journey with nature that spans many seasons. It begins with planting early in the season to harvest in late fall, continuing with a year long curing process, to cleaning and preparing the gourd. Then comes the really fun part ~ conceptualizing and putting pencil to gourd, to making the first cut, to carving and painting and finally to sealing the finished piece with a protective coating.

Living close to nature, I find inspiration all around me. I am fascinated by natures' recurrent fractal patterns; the repetition of color, texture and form, from the micro to the macro. I see this as a reflection of our inherent interconnection with all of life. My work celebrates the beauty and wonder of natures' design and honors her resilience as well as her fragility." -  Carol Kroll

I recently attended a large street art fair in Tucson and had my eyes peeled for gourds.  I didn't see a single gourd artist represented there - but it could be because the booth fees are outrageously high!  I did spot a streetside table with brightly painted gourds from Mexico, and inside one of the small stores in the area, I saw these unusual gourd instruments made by Kamon Lilly.  I did a bit of research and found that he is based out of New Mexico, and while he doesn't have a website, there was a nice article written about him by Indian Country Media.  You can read it here.
New 2" sanding mandrels that fit your Dremel tool are in stock on the Rotary Tool Accessories page.  These larger sanding heads are a reasonably priced alternative to buying an expensive disc sander.  Each one comes with a velcro hook pad, for use with Abranet sanding mesh (on the tools page).  Great for fast grit changes.  Run at low speed for best results.
For dying or treating needles with glycerin, Carol uses one of these large roaster pans out in her garage.  See the youtube video below to see how she does it. Carol also has a youtube channel with more related videos.  Click on the pictures for links to these items on Amazon.  All are reasonably priced.
Thank you Julie-Anne Wallewein for the seasonal gourd photo. (She sent a second one which had at least a foot more snow and you couldn't tell there were even gourds under there!)
Wired to Create will be released on December 29th, 2015, and is available in several formats.  I am looking forward to reading this one.  Check out the title on Amazon for more information.