02 Nov New Exhibitor Spotlight: Charlotte Masi / Graphic Productions
Charlotte Masi found her artistic spirit in the most unusual of natural canvases – gourds. Growing up on Vashon Island, Charlotte loved to grow gourds and paint them for Christmas decorations; she had always been drawn to their unique shapes. That was the earliest beginning of what would someday become Graphic Productions.
After a long career as a commercial artist, Charlotte was ready to make her move and open her own studio. She had been steadily thinking about the process for many years, and three years ago she had some changes in her life that allowed her to start working with gourds full time.
It was the organic shapes and textures of gourds that most drew Charlotte to use them as her medium. No two are alike, and after a career as a commercial artist being driven by client parameters, Charlotte was ready to embrace the randomness of the designs in each gourd. Their unpredictable quality made them the perfect subjects for her unusual vases, bowls, pots and other artworks.
Gourds are members of the Cucurbitaceae family, and Charlotte gets most of her raw gourds from Georgia and Southern California. They grow in a wide variety of shapes, and the Lagenaria, or hard-shell variety, are the most suitable for crafting. They are differentiated by names, such as canteen, birdhouse, kettle, cannon ball, and dipper.
Charlotte’s commercial background influences her use of color, imagery and style. She uses wood burning techniques to incise the illustrations and then adds color with dyes, pastes and acrylics. Because each gourd is unique, they get different treatments. Wood burning adds depth, texture, and shadow to the illustrations. Then some pieces are further embellished with wood, beads, leather or buttons. Through research and experimentation, Charlotte has created bender board rims for lidded pots and stabilizing bottoms for vases. In some cases she uses a gloss varnish on the image as a way to visually ‘lift’ the art off the matte background, adding depth and perspective. It all depends on the shape of the gourd and what Charlotte sees in it.
Years ago I won a hollowed-out gourd birdhouse at my garden club auction. It is the one birdhouse in my garden that the birds consistently use every spring. I will definitely be visiting Charlotte’s exhibit booth, Graphic Productions (#1009) at the garden show next February to look at a gourd birdhouse that will not only the beautiful to hang in a tree, but the birds will love it too. Website: http://nwf.gs/cHU8EC – Janet