Any of you readers have your own gourd garden? If you did, would it even cross your mind that a gourd could become a piece of art? If you answered NO to both questions, then you are not alone. That is why I was blown away by Lisa Meehan and her darling gourds that are as detailed and intriguing as a piece of fine art.
I ran into Lisa at a recent Hometown Fair. I had all three of my boys with me, complaining that I was making them shop before heading over to win $50 bucks worth of junk at the kids booths. I came upon the Mama Gourd booth and was drawn in…like a moth to a flame (wait isn’t that a janet jackson song?). The minute I laid my eyes on all of these gourds, I wanted to own every one of them. It is difficult to explain how special these gourds are: each one with their own personality, carefully hand-crafted, and competing with one another to be the most whimsical.
As I stood there contemplating which gourd to buy, I got to talking to Lisa for a minute. As my kids touched and tipped every gourd in her booth, I panicked at the thought of one of them becoming dismembered (the gourds that is, not my kids). Lisa, was not phased by kids knocking her art around…she told me that she had kids about the same age and the gourds were accustomed to being roughed up. But, before something bad could happen with these delicate beauties, I snatched up a gourd disguised as a witch and headed off with the kids to win a fish.
After I spent a couple of weeks with my little witch admiring all the little things that had gone unseen initially: including her hat cut with ric-rac sissors, her trick-o-treat bag shaped as a candy corn and her striped costume with tiny “stitches” painted on it, I had to get on the phone and call Lisa (thank goodness I had her business card). Not only did I want to share how happy I was with my with my gourd, but I also wanted to hear her story. How on earth did she hatch this idea of painting gourds…
Lisa, started her career with a degree in illustration. She worked free lance out of her home and had always thought that hers would be an ideal situation when she decided to have kids. Shortly thereagter, she was pregnant and gave birth to her first daughter in 2001. But, working from home with a newborn proved difficult. She found herself not being able to get work done with the constant demands of a newborn baby in the home. Her decision to turn down new free-lance jobs was a difficult decision. When she said that she found herself feeling stretched so that she wasn’t doing her best job as a mother, artist or wife…her words sounded so familiar that I could have spoken them myself. By the time she got her bearings with her first bundle of joy, she was expecting her second baby and free-lance work was impossible to accept.
But it wasn’t long before Lisa felt that itch. That twinge to do something creative again. One day she found a nice round gourd that she had grown in her garden and decided to paint it as a pumpkin. It turned out so cute, she painted a few more and took them to her local Farmer’s Market (she lives in Fallbrook, CA- I had to google it myself). This doesn’t surprise me in the least, but her pumpkins sold in an instant- and Lisa was happy to contribute her profits to the family’s bottom line. This got her creative juices flowing and she began to expand her creations. Eventually, she got to talking to another friend/artist who created pottery to sell throughout the state by attending local fairs and farmer’s markets. Lisa heard about the Manhattan Beach Farmer’s market and decided to apply for a booth. This year was her first year and she sold almost every gourd she showed.
The average gourd takes weeks to transform into their final character; and, that excludes the time that it takes to grow them and dry them out! Lisa has several characters in the works at any given time, she uses small stretches of time to work on some little details such as accessories and uses longer stretches of time for painting and paper maiche.
Of course there are always sacrifices. Lisa hates to admit that she has given up distance running- but her joints are probably grateful. She has moments that she feels guilty for not spending more time with her girls- but I like to point out, that her girls are actually learning the value of hard work and how to explore creativity. The upside, Lisa explains, is since this is her own business, she makes the utitmate decision of how many hours to dedicate each week. There was a time that she had to set aside gourd production so that she could dedicate herself to a family need. Even with her short break, she was still able to create art, just without the pressure of “quotas”.
I wanted to share Lisa’s story because she took a unique concept and turned it into a fulfilling business. I had to tell her over the phone that she should go on Etsy or build a website or do something to spread her art. That is the beauty of Lisa Meehan- she so enjoys her craft, that some overzealous customer like me probably confirms that she is already doing everything right. She has decided to list her art on Etsy- the link will be forthcoming . The details in each piece are so important, it might be able to fully appreciate them online. Lisa loves her creations- which is obvious once you get to see them- and she loves what she is doing. A great lesson for me and all of you reading.
Happy Fall. Positive thoughts!