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What: Art in the Orchard
Who: El Dorado Arts Council and Apple Hill Growers Association
Where: 12 venues
When: Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 7 and 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost: No admission
Information: eldoradoartscouncil.org (click on Art in the Orchard) or call 530-295-3496
Only the eyes of an artist could gaze upon a wheelbarrow full of dirty, dusty gourds plucked from the garden and envision ducks in driftwood, or a covey of quail sheltering from a storm — or even a lithe, crouched panther taking a wary sip from a watering hole.
All this, and more, are depicted in imaginative, striking and surprising works of art inside the Lotus studio of Joyce Campbell. She has turned gourds into home decorating accents, functional items such as bowls and jewelry catch-alls and outright artistic masterpieces.
Campbell’s work will be featured at Rainbow Orchards during Art in the Orchard, a two-day festival at Apple Hill Growers Association members. The festival draws artists, musicians, storytellers, dancers and other entertainment.
This year’s event will be Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 7 and 8 and will offer merriment at a dozen venues, all promising an eclectic mix sure to produce good times.
In addition to Campbell’s clever interpretations with gourds, Art in the Orchard will include whimsical children’s art by Tauni Fessler of El Dorado Hills, whose work can be seen at Marshall Hospital in a rendering of a stork carrying a baby; jewelry by Victoria Mott of Placerville with her magical metal pieces; and photography by Jack Nissen of Placerville, whose works take wing as he captures birds, butterflies, dragonflies and any other creature that flits before his lens.
That’s just a hint about the artistic lineup ready to liven up the Apple Hill members participating in these special event connecting art and agriculture.
Musicians will delight the late summertime crowds, with such offerings as those of 10-year-old virtuoso harpist Alaina Rose who will be playing at the Fudge Factory at High Hill Ranch; Coloma Celtic, which will perform its special tunes; and Lauren Murphy, versatile guitarist and vocalist, who will rock out, sing bluegrass and perform country favorites.
Other musical acts abound during the two-day festival, with a full schedule available at eldoradoartscouncil.org.
Art in the Orchard is free of charge and full of family fun. Be sure to bring a cooler so you can purchase some of the bounty of Apple Hill growers to take home — everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to blackberry cheesecake and creamy pumpkin pie.
While pumpkins are not among the gourds used by Joyce Campbell in creating her captivating art, she opens her mind to all sorts of natural gifts to render what seems an ordinary, even ugly, fruit of the earth into a thing of beauty.
“My gourds come from around the world and they are very durable, with a hard shell that will last a lifetime,” said Campbell, 62, as she swung open the door to her airy, softly lit Sierra studio behind her house on Lotus Road where she teaches gourd art to a half-dozen students at a time.
“Many of them come from farms as near as Knights Landing and Sloughouse, but I get them from all over the country and literally around the globe.”
Noticed immediately as one walks into the studio is the fact that the dusty pile of gourds just outside the door bear little resemblance to the eye-catching collection inside, where gourds of all shapes and sizes line the walls in various stages of life.
Awaiting a wave of creativity from Campbell, for example, is a grouping of gourds that will become a family of whales.
Another gourd, finished, shows intricate drill work and filigree accenting a dark finish created with leather dyes. The piece also pleasantly startles the viewer with its splashes of bright blue acrylic paint.
Agates, seeds and other natural items are used in processes that can include weaving, painting, “coiling” and burning, with tools that include drills, sanders and palm-fitting jig saws to accomplish the delicate artistry. The possibilities are endless, according to Campbell.
“There’s any number of techniques that can be used in gourd art,” said Campbell, who has been working with gourds for 25 years. “The gourd itself decides what it will become, how it will evolve, as you work with it. If you try to fight it, you’ll lose.”
For Art in the Orchard, Campbell has been working with translucent dyes, chamois leather and wires to create a spirit figure with a mouse under its hat. (Now you know you have to go to the event.)
The amount of time it takes to create a piece with which she is satisfied varies, depending on its size, intricacy, and so forth, but generally a month or two will suffice, Campbell said.
“It depends on what the gourd tells you,” she said.
The artist’s intelligent hazel-green eyes lit up as she showed a gourd that she turned into a rounded collection of leaves, all connected one to the other, with the edges painted black to create “negative space” to bring attention to the oranges and browns of the piece.
She then drew attention to a ceramic frog atop another leaf-designed gourd and to a gourd lizard on a dark-red bowl.
A work of art she named “The Garden” features a large gourd that has been transformed into a treasure of bunnies, butterflies, birds and dragonflies. “The Garden” won a People’s Choice award and first place in a gourd art competition in Missouri, and first place in California, said Campbell.
Campbell and her husband, Paul, lived 25 years in the Ozarks of Arkansas, and she said her love of nature’s own artistic offerings was honed in those years as well as when they returned to California. “We have family in the Bay Area, as well as Tahoe.”
Campbell said those interested in learning more about gourd art may reach her at 530-334-0964.
And although she said she’s heard nearly every play on words regarding her unique art form, perhaps she’ll indulge one more: Don’t miss Joyce Campbell’s work at Art in the Orchard. It’s simply gourd-geous.
For more information call 530-295-3496.