"Fungi by Fun Gals" is the name of a special art show and educational exhibit planned by Janice Lymburner and Priscilla Wilson, owners of The Gourd Place in Sautee, for their annual spring reopening celebration on Saturday, April 6 from 10-5. "The only thing gourds and mushrooms have in common is, well, their funkiness," laughs Janice, "but we go with the flow of Priscilla's creative energy. And we like to offer opportunities for our visitors to learn about all kinds of natural things."
Last summer after a rainy period that caused mushrooms to pop up everywhere, Priscilla, an artist with clay as well as gourds, became fascinated with figuring out how to reproduce them in clay. "I was obsessed with learning about mushrooms and making plaster impressions of them so that I could cast and fire them in clay," she explained. "And I discovered during this craze that a couple of artist friends shared my newfound interest in mycology [the study of mushrooms]." Soon Priscilla, porcelain artist Antonia Reed, and graphic artist Patty Workman were kidding around about having a mushroom show. Later when they became serious about the idea, they invited artist Sarah Samsel to join in.
Sarah makes nature collages using all kinds of materials which she collects and presses. For the April 6 show, she is making pictures with various kinds of fungi as her predominant material. "I’ve been pressing fungi for years, but being part of this show has really opened my eyes to how many ways fungi can help me improve my artwork," said Sarah. "I continue discovering new ways to incorporate them into my pressed-flower pictures."
Antonia Reed makes porcelain jewelry, tiles, and other decorative items. Nature has always been a predominant theme in her work, but for the "Fungi by Fun Gals" event she is using mushrooms as her primary motif. "I've been interested in mushrooms since childhood, when I learned to make spore prints," she says. "I was happy to find out that a few of my artist friends are into mushrooms, too." She will exhibit some spore prints along with her porcelain work. Spore prints are made by placing the mushroom head on paper before it drops its spores, which can make beautiful patterns.
Patty Workman, who works primarily with pen and ink, will also exhibit spore prints along with notecards and original drawings of mushrooms. "The 'non-blooming wildflowers' of our area as I call them, such as mushrooms and ferns, are often overlooked but are so wonderful and interesting," said Patty. "I draw inspiration for my art from the abundance of native wild species in our area."
There will be an educational component to the event as well. Tradd and Olga Cotter, owners of Mushroom Mountain farm and laboratory near Liberty, South Carolina, will be on hand to talk about their business, classes, research projects, and mushroom cultivation for everyone. Visitors on April 6 are invited to bring fungi for identification by the Cotters. Although it's a bit early for mushrooms, there are interesting fungi of other types to be found in the woods year-round.
Priscilla will exhibit her stoneware mushroom reproductions, many of which she has identified. She explained that she tries to glaze them so that they look "as much like the real thing as possible. I've really enjoyed learning about mushrooms; I just don't like to eat them!"
The Gourd Place is located on Duncan Bridge Rd. in Sautee. For more information about Fungi by Fun Gals, go to www.gourdplace.com and click on Happenings or call 706-865-4048.