Like most young women, Christa Gupta has a cell phone; carries her music on an iPod and is computer savvy. Unlike many of her peers, however, Christa is equally comfortable with weaving, spinning yarn and quilting.
A 1993 Findlay High School graduate and mother of two young girls, Gupta graduated from Bowling Green State University with a degree in art therapy.
“I wanted to major in fine arts, but gave in to suggestions to major in something where I could be more employable,” she recalls. “By the time I graduated, though, art therapists weren’t in much demand.”
Luckily, some fine arts courses were required in her major and she took classes in pottery, watercolor, weaving, jewelry making and even welding. She developed a special love for weaving and wondered how she could turn her passion into an occupation.
“One of my professors said I could do one of three things with weaving,” she adds, “either teach, demonstrate or start a business.”
Art as her profession
She did all three, but her weaving business took precedence and soon she was weaving more than 1,000 scarves a year for sale all over the world. As the sole supplier of her inventory, Christa called herself a “production weaver,” and kept the business running for nine years until her young family needed more of her attention.
“I also worked at The Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Detroit,” she continues. “My title was period coordinator and I specialized in the era from 1760-1860. I demonstrated weaving, hearth cooking, spinning and participated in wool production. It was the perfect job for someone like me.”
A new passion
It was while working at Henry Ford Christa became familiar with raised-bed gardening and a new passion was born. Today, her Findlay home features an extensive garden of raised beds designed by Christa in 2009. She grows flowers, fruits and vegetables. True to her “old” soul, she keeps a garden journal in the style of Thomas Jefferson. Each entry is hand printed in perfect, tiny letters.
This summer, she and her daughters (Mei Li, 6 and Mina, 5) are looking forward to attracting butterflies with their butterfly garden and Christa has also planted salvia to draw hummingbirds.
“The girls like to watch things grow and they love butterflies,” adds Gupta. “They’re still in that stage where they don’t want to get dirty, but they enjoy the garden.” Although she doesn’t raise all of her family’s food, Christa does admit that they are pretty self-sustaining.
“My husband is Indian and I use our tomatoes in Indian dishes. I also dry and cure onions and we use them up until February or later. I grow a lot of crops for fall decorating and cooking. Mei Li loves my winter squash soup.”
Her only lament is that she’s running out of space in her suburban backyard. She dreams of living on a “few acres” and growing raspberries, blueberries and sunflowers. She might even add a few chickens and a pygmy goat or two. This dream may be postponed for a few years, though, as she and her husband, Vijay, realize the importance of living near other children while their girls are young.
Christa’s love of gardening led her to complete the Hancock County Master Gardeners course in late 2010. She’s busily working on compiling 50 hours of volunteer time needed as a course requirement. Recently, she dressed as the “Butterfly Lady” and read her own illustrated book to students at Whittier School in Findlay. She also plays the role of Mrs. McKinnis in historic portrayals at the McKinnis Homestead at Litzenberg Memorial Woods, part of the Hancock Park District.
At home with the arts
When touring their home, the Gupta’s talent is evident in every room. Walls are covered with Christa’s paintings and framed photographs from the family’s travels. Her studio is in the finished basement, sharing space with the girls’ play area. Currently, it features two weaving looms and an antique treadle sewing machine Christa uses for most of her sewing projects. A half-finished project of delicate, hand-painted flower pictures lay on a table, end-of-year gifts for her daughters’ teachers. Beautiful wood furniture, built by Vijay, adds yet another original touch to the home.
“I love the old arts,” Christa sighs. “It’s sort of ironic since I’m often the youngest member of a local arts group or class. I’d love to get an old-fashioned quilting circle together where we could socialize and do hand-sewn quilts. That’s something I’ll have to work on.”