Hillsboro artist uses pine needles, gourds, more in her crafts
Story and photos by Sarah Allen
For Hillsboro artist Patty Hubler inspiration is often found underfoot — specifically, in fallen pine needles.
“I try to take nature and incorporate it,” she said. In addition to pine needles, Hubler has also made a variety of pieces using gourds. The end results are baskets, birdfeeders, and recently, pendants and hair barrettes that each have their own distinctive and colorful styles.
Hubler first began crafting with pine needles and gourds in 2014, during a trip to Florida.
“We were first-time RVers,” she said. While there, Hubler and her husband visited Homosassa, Florida, which she said is known as the “nature coast.” They ended up at park where, Hubler said, she came across a woman who had a bundle of dyed pine needles. After talking with her and learning about the craft, Hubler decided to try it herself. Within two days, she had made a miniature basket.
And, since then, Hubler has continued her journey of learning and creating.
“I’m more self-taught than anything,” she said. “I’m hoping to get better as I go.”
As an example, she said one of her favorite pieces was a basket that she used to practice different stitches, such as the diamond stitch, the W stitch, and many others.
“There are more that I want to learn,” Hubler added. “I’ve been doing it a little over three years, and I don’t see myself stopping because I never put it down.”
Making the centers for baskets, she said, can be a challenge, especially for beginners. However, she said, “Nobody does it the same way.”
She has used a variety of items for centers, ranging from gourd pieces, to walnuts, and, with one basket, even a poker chip.
All her crafts begin with cleaning her materials. Pine needles are washed and then set out in the sun to dry. Afterward, she places the needles in a cooker with a glycerin and dye bath.
Adding glycerin, she said, is like conditioning your hair. It makes the needles softer and more velvety.
The needles boil for a couple of hours, then are rinsed and again set in the sun to dry. After being bundled, they are ready to await Hubler’s next project.
Often, she adds beads, sinew, wax linen or decoupage to her pieces, giving each a unique look.
Gourds must also undergo a preparation process before they are ready for crafting. First, they must dry out. Once the seeds inside make a maraca-like sound, they are ready to be cleaned. Hubler uses a metal scrubby to rub off the waxy build-up on the outside of the gourd, and then she removes the seeds from the inside.
Hubler described how gourds are used in crafts, saying, “Once they are dry, you can use them like a piece of wood.”
She uses a wood burner or stains them and makes engravings to create designs on the gourds. Hubler added she uses gourds she grows herself.
Hubler also said that working with gourds requires proper ventilation, as the gourd dust can be “bad for your lungs.”
The preparation process for her materials, she said, takes place in the summer. Then, in the winter, Hubler has her “creative time.”
For those wanting to learn about the craft and try it themselves, Hubler said that research is key. Beginners can find numerous resources online to both learn the craft as well as to hone their skills. However, Hubler said, websites and other resources should be a source of inspiration, not discouragement.
“There’s no wrong way to do this,” she said. “You can’t get discouraged by someone making it look harder than it is. You can’t make a mistake. This is yours.”