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Art From the Garden

Sculptor Susan Begin turns produce into art.

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There aren't too many professional gourd carvers in Ohio. That's one of the reasons Olmsted Township artist Susan Begin spends as much time enlightening folks as she does making veggie sculptures.

"There's not a lot of us in this part of the country," she says. "Out west it's more prevalent, because Native Americans have been doing it for a lot longer than we've known about."

She's part of Turning Points Autumn 2006, an exhibit opening today at the Log Cabin Gallery. The show features watercolors, photographs, and ceramics by 25 local artists.

One of Begin's specialties is a gourd mask. With a miniature jigsaw, she carves out eyes and a mouth on the pumpkinlike plant, then paints the face with acrylic paint in vibrant hues and adorns it with beads and straw. Finally, Begin varnishes the surface to keep it from rotting. Each finished gourd mask sells for between $50 and $150, depending on its size.

Last year, Begin's masks attracted the notice of producers for HGTV's Crafters Coast to Coast, who spotlighted her skills on an episode. "I find myself explaining how to do it an awful lot," she says. "At first, people don't understand what the material is — if it's pottery, clay, or papier-mâché. It's just a dried plant."

Begin's gourds are displayed alongside handmade jewelry, purses, and clay jugs at the monthlong exhibit. Artists include Michelle Cochran, Roseanne Klimo, and Bob Yost, many of whom lead discussions and demonstrations at the gallery throughout the show's run. Look for watercolorist Hilary Sheeter (on October 7), blacksmith Joe Spencer-Trueman (on October 8), and woodworker David Zeager (on October 15).
Fridays-Sundays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Starts: Oct. 1. Continues through Oct. 29

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