Surrounded by flowers, a bowling ball is suspended a foot off the ground in front of the house. About 60 more have been placed on the porch, on the lawn and in the flowerbeds.
Only local bowling alleys can compete with the quantity of balls owned by Meg Gibson. Gibson, however, rarely sets foot in a bowling alley. She uses her bowling balls to decorate her home near Stephens Park. Some are faded from the sun, weather beaten and cracked. The longer the balls are exposed to the elements, the more they blend in with the landscape.
“I kind of like them to sneak up on you,” said Gibson, an energetic 48-year-old with short blond hair.
She began collecting bowling balls about eight years ago after seeing a magazine feature about a pyramid of bowling balls constructed by artist Richard Marquis, a pioneer in the art-glass movement of the early 1960s. Gibson’s primary medium is glass, which she forms into beads using a process called lampworking. Her work is sold locally at Bluestem Missouri Craft on Ninth Street.
“Balls are bead-like,” Gibson said. “I see my beads as components of a pattern. Each one is tiny part of the whole. Whether that whole is a necklace, a coat rack or a rest-room sign.”
She finds bowling balls at yard sales, in thrift stores and through friends. She accepts them at her Web site, www.meggibson.com. Every once in a while, someone will leave a ball in her driveway.
“I like large numbers of things. It’s more interesting than one,” Gibson said.
Steve Williams, who has been bowling for 17 years, owns five balls. He donates his old ones to Oakland Plaza Lanes, which, like most bowling alleys, throws away balls that are too damaged. Williams appreciates Gibson’s affection for bowling balls because it’s better than sending them to the landfill.
“Doing something constructive with them is better than giving them to the city dump,” Williams said. “It shows me that someone loves bowling balls as much as I do. That touches my heart.”
Gibson is a substitute teacher for the Columbia School District. This summer she’s teaching at Lange Middle School. Gibson has only been teaching for a few years, but has been an artist her whole life. On nights and weekends, she works in her basement, which has been remodeled into a studio.
Drew Anderson, who lives across the street, said he enjoys the decorative touch that Gibson brings to the neighborhood. Standing in his doorway, looking at Gibson’s house, which has been painted teal and chartreuse, he says, “she’s chose some really nice colors for the neighborhood.”
Gibson keeps her personal favorite bowling ball — pinkish red with swirls — in her bathroom. Her goal is to make a cement form topped by bowling balls. She also has an idea that combines bowling balls with cookware.
“I love the idea of totems using Bundt cake pans,” she said.