07 August 2008

Artists Jan and Marc Meng Live and Create Functional Beauty at Hungry Holler

Hungry Holler art center is a must see.

Jan Mohr Meng and her husband Marc garden and create art on 6-acres they bought between Grove and Pryor in 1992.

The work of both Jan and Marc are inspired by nature. Marc is known as the Zen Spoonmaster for the wooden spoons he carves and Jan is known for her gourd carving and painting.

The Mengs named their place, Hungry Holler and have put such a unique stamp on the place that Discover Oklahoma has recorded a show about them that is scheduled to run this Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

The gourds that Jan grows to paint are all hard shell gourds, Lagenaria siceraria.

Meng said that gourds are the planet's most giving natural product. They have been used in art and for utilitarian tools for thousands of years.

Jan's tips for growing bottle gourds
- Location: Plant seeds in sun near a source of water when the soil warms up to 70-degrees in spring. They like compost and a place to climb. You may want to plant them where you can enjoy their evening bloom.
- How to plant: Disturb the soil and plant the seeds, then rake them in.
- Water well and keep watering.
-Each vine has both male and female flowers. The female flowers have a tiny fruit behind the bloom.

“My best advice is don’t fuss about them. I have made rich beds for gourds and then the best ones come up as volunteers in my driveway," said Meng.

How to prepare gourds for art: When the gourds form, leave them on the vine until the vine freezes. Allow them to dry outdoors all winter. Before the vine gets too winter dessicated, cut the gourds from the main vine leaving a T where the gourd attached to the main vine. Tie a cord around the stem using the T for a stop. Using the cord hang gourds from trees or your patio, wherever you can watch the interesting process as it evolves, and let them dry. The green skin will turn black and fuzzy while the fruit dries. Around February or March when the moldy skin is hydrated from a spring rain, use an aluminum or copper pot scrubber and clean it off. It is a good idea to wear gloves and a mask to protect yourself from gourd dust. When clean, the gourd canvas is ready to paint.

Meng is featured in the 2006 book, edited by David Macfarlane, "Beyond the Basics: Gourd Art" published by Sterling (www.sterlingpublishing.com $12.95).

A gourd artist writes each chapter of this beautiful book. Meng wrote an introductory chapter, “The Gourd Story”, and a chapter on how to create a Giraffe Gourd Vessel.

Meng says, "Gourds can break your heart. In the year it takes to go from seed to canvas, a gourd is subject to many tragedies: too much water, too little water, bugs, fickle fate."

In her introduction, Meng gives detailed and illustrated directions for cleaning and preparing gourds to be used as artistic canvas.

The how-to chapter illustrates the steps to using a homegrown gourd to create a work of art. The chapter provides lists of materials and tools required.

With 20-years of experience, several awards and international acclaim, Meng remains a creative gardener and local artist. If you have an opportunity to stop by Hungry Holler on Highway 20 near Grand Lake, check out the gardens, cottage gallery and artists' studios.

Jan said, "When the gate's open, we're open. We can be hard to catch on spring and fall weekends because we're at art festivals. If someone's making a special trip from a distance, they may want to call or email us first."

You will know you are at the right place when you see the bicycles suspended from trees at the front entrance. This art is Marc's creation.

Meng said, "Gourds were the world's first Tupperware. Anything you need a container for, you can use a gourd. I never met a gourd I didn't love."

Watch the Discover Oklahoma episode or you can see Meng talking about gourds in a 3-minute video at http://www.sonarta.com/event/video/124.

To learn more about gourds and gourd art go to The American Gourd Society (americangourdsociety.org) where Susan Feller (susanfeller@msn.com) is listed as the Oklahoma Chapter contact. The organization's website has growing tips and more gourd art ideas with directions and illustrations.

At their Hungry Holler store, you can shop for Jan’s concrete leaves, carved and painted gourds, gourd night lights, Marc’s hand crafted spoons and pieces by other artists. The Mengs also co-wrote a book about Arizona history, "La Paz, County of Peace".

Jan and Marc sell their award winning art at cultural events around the country. Contact Meng at Hungry Holler, Eucha OK, 918.253.4554, hungry3@hotmail.com and hungryholler.com.

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