StitchCast Studio LIVE! The Great Outdoors

Watch and be a part of Story Stitchers live podcast discussions, presented on the state-of-the-art stage of 3301 Washington Ave. Story Stitchers artists and guest artists will round out each presentation with live art interludes. This episode will focus on The Great Outdoors. Youth, ages 16-25 years old, discuss current topics in live podcast recordings on stage. Live art interludes are incorporated into the presentations. Learn about the community through the words of young leaders.

No Rain Delay For This Missouri Artist

Missouri artist Debi Pickler began drawing and painting as a kindergartener, and had soon amassed quite a collection of work. She decided to stage an art show in her backyard. But before a single soul saw her creations, disaster struck.

By Peg Cameron Gill

An unexpected downpour that day did nothing to dampen Debi’s passion for art, and she knows exactly who to thank for her successful career as an artist. “My Mom was a tremendously gifted artist,” she says, remembering her mother Judy. “I remember watching her paint and draw when I was a little girl, wishing I could be that good at creating art.”

Debi could’ve dissolved in a puddle of tears at the loss of all her art. “Dad came to the rescue though, and bought the whole collection for 2 dollars,” she says. “And that was the beginning of my artistic career.”

She continued to develop her skills, becoming adept in a variety of different media such as pencil, oil, acrylic, watercolor, pastel, clay, wool sculpting, airbrushing, digital art, and woodworking and steadily becoming more proficient. After earning a BFA, emphasis in illustration from University of Kansas, she ventured into the world of commercial art. 

Now, after more than 20 years as a designer, she has worked for many different organizations such as universities, retail/manufacturing companies, law firms as well as a financial firm. “Sometimes I think I’d like to focus on just one media, but I just wouldn’t be happy,” she says. “It’s just how my mind works. It seems like I’m always thinking about art, about new ways to do things. I’ll have dreams about creating art and I’ll wake up at 3 a.m. with new ideas that I just have to try. My mind just never, ever stops. I call it BOF or Brain on Fire.”

Regardless of the media, there are common threads that run through nearly all of her work. Debi is obsessive about extremely fine detail and loves incorporating it into her work. “I like for people to be able to really look at my art, to spend time with it and be rewarded by finding some new, tiny detail that maybe no one else had noticed,” she says. “That drives me.” She also loves to create places and creatures no one has ever seen before. “I like the thought of people escaping reality for a moment, being still and getting lost in my artwork.”

That inspiration seems to be a constant for Debi, whose greatest attribute may well be that she sees the world as her canvas, a place full of art and the potential for new, more intriguing works of art. “I love to let my mind wander, taking my imagination wherever it wants to go.” she says. “Of course, it’s up to me to see what’s out there, dare to live outside the box, work extremely hard developing my talent and have the ability to share it with others.”

While Debi’s path has taken many twists and turns throughout her artistic life, she still looks back to where that path began, at a backyard art show in New Jersey, where a dad and his little girl turned a rain-out into a life.

View more of Debi’s work online here. You can also find her work at the Missouri Life Mercantile in Rocheport.

Meet another Missouri artist in this article.

The Unchanging Beauty of Nature Inspires Gourd Art

Pat Berkbigler |

I am a retired elementary school teacher, after thirty-one rewarding years in public education. When I tell people I was a teacher, they immediately respond with, “So you taught art?” The answer to that is “No”. Through all my years in education, none of them involved taking or teaching art classes.  

Even though I have never taken classes, I have always enjoyed arts and crafts and have dabbled in many through the years, including sewing, cake decorating, dried wreath making, and quilting to name a few. I even made pins from paint sticks adorned with seed bugs and sold them throughout my neighborhood when I was in eighth grade, earning enough money to pay for a plane ticket to visit cousins in New Hampshire. Yes, I’m older than dirt and tickets were cheap back in the day.  

So how did I get into gourd art, you ask? Well, after playing around with cupcake decorating, I was on a kick of making embroidered cookies. In looking for ideas on the internet, I came across a YouTube video by Miriam Joy about creating Christmas ornaments from coyote gourds and melted crayon. I sent in my order for supplies and off I went. So fun! I then decided I’d like to try the technique on larger gourds, but had no idea where to find them. After a bit of research, I found that there was a gourd festival in Springfield every year and gourd vendors would be present. Woo Hoo! I also discovered that they offered workshops teaching a variety of techniques for gourds. After my first carving class in 2017 with Gloria Crane, a gourd artist from California, the state, I was hooked.

As a nature lover, I find gourd art to be relaxing, rewarding, and intriguing. There always seems to be a new technique to be learned or created, keeping this art form fun and exciting. I especially love to carve. Sand waves, stippling, filigree, oh my! Pyrography (burning) has been interesting and challenging, but the most difficult part for me is painting. Having never taken a class, a lot of trial and error takes place before a project is finished. The most important thing I have learned is that there is always a way to fix a mistake. I’m not quite in line with Bob Ross, calling my mistakes ‘Happy Accidents,’ but thus far, I have never had to discard a project. 

The question I’m asked most often about my pieces is how long before they rot. They don’t! As with any fine artwork, with proper care, they last a lifetime. I truly enjoy introducing people to this art form just about as much as I enjoy creating the pieces.

Presently, Covid 19 has forced me to see the world around us in an entirely different light. Never before have I felt so out of control in what seems to be a whole new world. The one unchanging constant amidst so much chaos and unrest has been the beauty provided to us by Mother Nature, bringing with it a sense of tranquility, familiarity, and hope for the future. As stay at home orders have kept us from traveling and vacationing in person, we need to use our memories, imaginations, and dreams to take us places beyond our own four walls. I am in hopes that the nature-themed gourd art that I have been creating during these stressful times will help take people to a place of serenity and security. Flowers will bloom, butterflies will take flight, pebbles and shells will be washed to the shore, and we will continue to thrive.