The Gourd Barn - commissioned art work for Rick and Clarlyn Ledy
We belong to a program called Harvest Hosts which we highly recommend. You are allowed to camp at breweries, wineries, museums or farms for free, they just ask that you support the business by purchasing something from them during your stay. It’s been wonderful for us so far and we haven’t been anyplace we haven’t liked and the hosts have always been fabulous. However, we do have a favorite…. The Gourd Barn.
The Gourd Barn is just across the Mackinaw Bridge in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP) and a short drive from three of the Great Lakes; Huron, Michigan and Superior. Rick and Clarlyn Ledy are the owners and hosts and made our stay there back in August one to remember.
We arrived later in the evening and arranged for a tour of the barn in the morning. We had a beautiful, quiet spot in the back of their property and woke refreshed the next morning. Clarlyn gives the best tour and is so creative with her amazing gourd art including gnome homes, birdhouses, vases and much more. She makes beautiful suncatchers and also wind chimes using empty bottles. For a reasonable price and advance notice, she will teach you, with great patience, how to make your own. Her flowers are well tended and colorful; the chickens gentle and sweetly chatty. The fences are also colorfully adorned with everything from hats to metal art. Windchimes play songs with each gentle breeze and the windpump makes a soft clicking noise as if it was pumping water from the ground.
The barn originally housed pigs, horses and cows; now it is home to beautiful gourd art, interesting collectibles (some for sale) and a tastefully decorated barn filled with stories. Neon beer signs adorn the bar area, vintage quilts hang from the rafters and treasures collected throughout the years cover the walls, but not so much that the sunlight can’t peek in through the cracks. Every year (except this year due to COVID) they have a barn dance which will be on our schedule next year. I can imagine the barn full of friends and family, dancing, singing karaoke, tossing back a few drinks under the sparkling lights and the clear September Michigan sky.
Steve used to do architectural photography years ago and the barn piqued his interest. After our barn tour, we asked if we could take pictures of it for Clarlyn and she enthusiastically said yes! Our stay at the Gourd Barn was extended another night so we could get some twilight shots.
The next day we were reorganizing things and our artwork came up in conversation. We pulled out our three pieces of our joint artwork; photographs transferred onto wood that have been torch and fractal burned. Clarlyn asked if we would do a custom piece of a photograph of their barn for their new bedroom addition. We happily agreed and found some tongue-and-groove pine upstairs in the barn to use and started gluing it together.
Our stay at the Gourd Barn continued as we worked on the wood for the custom piece. We were generously given fresh eggs from the sweet chicken girls and produce from their amazing gardens each day. Clarlyn and I spent some time chatting throughout our days there and she happened to mention they wanted to take a trip for the month of October but needed someone to stay at the house. “Would you and Steve be interested?”, she asked me. After a brief discussion between Steve and I we decided it would be a great opportunity to work on some art and take a break from bus life so we happily agreed.
October at The Gourd Barn.
We arrived close to the end of September and got instructions from Clarlyn on how everything worked in the house, the shop, for Harvest Hosts and how to take care of the chickens. They left a couple of days after we arrived on an extended road trip to visit friends and family. Rick also had some time for pheasant hunting trip in SD during their trip.
I felt like I was a little girl playing house for a while. We had a real oven, a dishwasher, washer and dryer and heat!! We do have an oven (we rarely use it as it gobbles our precious electricity) and heat in the bus, but we had room to move around and not always be within 3 feet of each other.
We started working on our artwork, first selecting images, then tweaking them in Photoshop so the photo was only of the subject, finally working on the wood to which they would be transferred. Gluing the planks together turned out to be a bit of a challenge at times, the wood slabs we had brought from CO were big and still needed sanding. We had Rick’s shop for sanding and gluing and Clarlyn’s studio for transferring and varnishing. The space was perfect.
Originally, we had looked forward to this time but challenges seemed to hit us daily. We started testing different transfer mediums (water vs. alcohol based), painting on transfer film, and making skins out of a medium that can have a photograph transferred onto it. The water-based transfers were inconsistent, sometimes they worked, most of the time they didn’t. Painting on transfers didn’t work and we tried many variations of ways. The skins were made but we had them on the wrong kind of plastic so they could not be peeled off. We learned from each experience but the frustration was taking its toll. It became less fun and more work.
Realizing the water-based transfers just weren’t working consistently for us we decided to try going back to alcohol-based transfers. We had bought thirty 10”x 10” cradled panels and transfers onto those was going well. Flowers and butterflies were successfully transferred onto various wood pieces and we felt inspired and that we were making progress.
We had not yet transferred Rick and Clarlyn’s barn photograph. We finally decided we needed to do it so we could get it varnished in time for their arrival back home. As Steve was pulling the transfer film off the wood it shifted just slightly, enough to make the barn have an interesting angle to it. It was subtle but he could see from my face that it wasn’t going to work. We quickly ran the piece into the house and grabbed our big laundry basket to hold the water (so the residue would not go into their septic tank), and started scrubbing off the transfer. It worked and we set the wood by the fireplace to dry.
The next time we transferred the image it was perfect. I was almost in tears of relief that it worked and how it looked on the wood we had so carefully burned and sanded. It soaked up about 5 coats of varnish and turned out beautifully.
We learned much from our time at The Gourd Barn. We worked our way through frustrations and learned new ways are not always the best. We were able to take time to spread out a bit, okay, a lot compared to what we are used to. We had the time to experiment with new methods and learn what could work for us. Steve was able to get reacquainted with Photoshop and even show me, step by step, how he was editing.
We have two new friends in Rick and Clarlyn. For this, and so many things we continue to express gratitude. The new artwork will be displayed on our website soon.
Echinacea - six 10" x 10" cradled panels from Clarlyn Ledy's garden
Sunflower - nine 10" x 10" cradled panels from Clarlyn Ledy's garden