TUCSON ARTISAN BONNIE GIBSON began producing gourd art around
1993, particularly inspired by her love of Southwestern Native American pottery
and art. She says she became one of the first people “to really incorporate
carving as a technique that worked well for hard-shelled gourds.
“I was immediately attracted to the versatility of gourds as an art medium,”
says Gibson, who starts by scraping off the waxy outer skin and scooping out
the pulp and seeds She then uses techniques such as painting, weaving, wax
resist, clay or beaded embellishment, and carving to create her works of art.
Gibson, who gets pre-dried gourds from a local farm, typically completes one
gourd in two to three days.
She initially focused on creating fine-art pieces, selling them for $100
to $2,000 through local art galleries. To further attract attention to her work,
she created a website,
www.arizonagourds.com. Because the website
included free tutorials and photos of her gourd art, “people started
asking where I obtained my supplies,” she tells The Connection.
“I decided to sell a few hard-to-find items to help offset the web-
site hosting fees.” She also hosts a social networking website,
gourdartenthusiasts.ning.com, for 3,000 members and pro-
duces a free monthly online newsletter.
Her personal website led to a book deal, resulting in
Gourds: Southwestern Projects & Techniques from Simple
to Sophisticated (Sterling, 2007).
Today Gibson teaches gourd-art workshops across the
country as well as in her home. “I’ve
always been a service-oriented
person, so sharing ideas and
tips freely was my way of
giving back to the gourd
community,” she says.
Craft in America
dedicated to the exploration,
preservation and celebration
of craft and its impact on
the nation’s cultural heritage.
Located in Los Angeles, it
hosts exhibitions and events
and has a research library.
Here are a few resources for
information on crafts’ role in
our culture and how to succeed as a crafter.
American Craft Council
dedicated to championing
contemporary American craft.
Craft and Hobby Association
International nonprofit trade
organization for member companies engaged in the design,
manufacture, distribution and
retail sales of products in the
craft and hobby industry.
NANC Y K. VARGA
The Crafts Report
Monthly magazine for crafts
professionals. Articles and regular columns cover everything
from how to photograph handmade goods to industry trends.
Arts Business Institute
This nonprofit provides education about product design,
booth display, event marketing
and more for art- and craft-making communities.
A better sweater JIM FAGIOLO
A NOSE-TO-NOSE encounter with an alpaca in 2007 led Mary Ellen Perry down the proverbial rabbit hole. First
she fell in love with alpaca yarn, which is, she says, “warmer than wool and softer than cashmere.” Then she visited
an alpaca farm, where she fell in love with the gentle animals. She spent the next two years learning everything she
could about alpacas and asked herself, “If you had the opportunity to [have alpacas], what would you do with it?”
At that point she’d learned enough to know that the money lies in breeding. So when her husband inherited a
farm in Indiana in 2009, they left their North Carolina home and the self-described city girl fenced off two acres and
bought a herd of 11 alpacas—a female for breeding and 10 “fiber boys.” Perry, a registered nurse, learned to knit
before she turned 10, so it didn’t take long for her to learn that her passion lay in the fiber. “I have to knit,” she says,
citing the calming nature of her hobby. “I can almost feel my blood pressure drop when I sit down.”
GOOSE CREEK PHOTOGRAPH Y
To educate herself on producing the fiber she loves, Perry immersed herself in classes and joined several local
and national alpaca associations. After learning that the U.S. has only three facilities for cleaning natural fibers, she
set out to help create American-based machinery that cleans alpaca wool. Produced by Elegant Fibers, a company
owned by three alpaca farmers, the machinery will be made in Indiana with 100 percent U.S. parts and labor. With
her strong connections throughout the alpaca industry, Perry is serving as a sales representative for the Elegant Fibers
Scour Machine. The prototype is nearly ready, with the finished machinery scheduled for completion by late spring.
“The more steps you can control, the better quality control you’ll have,” says Perry. “From the farm to the end
product—both for the cottage industry and the commercial world—I am working to promote this wonderful fiber.”—SEP
MARCH 2013 ;e Costco Connection 33