Sparky's a movie star

When documentarian James Smith met the International Gourd Lady at a craft fair in Charlotte, he saw something special.
It was a spark -- Margaret "Sparky" Sparkman, to be exact.
"I met her, and I was really inspired," Smith said. "She really sparked that interest in me to do something unique."
Smith decided to do a documentary on the life of the woman known worldwide as the International Gourd Lady.
He soon discovered, however, that there is more to Sparkman than brightly painted gourds and a colorful outfit.
"First, I was attracted to her as the Gourd Lady," Smith said. "But then I realized what an influence she has on the community."
Smith started the documentary in March and spent about 25 days filming Sparkman during her daily activities.
From water aerobics to driving in downtown Conover, Sparkman gave Smith an inside look into her life as a 94-year-old.
"I was so thrilled when I found out (Smith) was going to do a documentary," Sparkman said. "I had no idea it would turn into all this."
And by "all this," Sparkman meant the dozens of her friends, family and supporters who watched the documentary premiere Thursday at the Shuford YMCA's Sparkman Community Center.
"I think it's wonderful," said Sparkman's long-time friend Vivian Jordan Knight at the premiere. "Icon isn't the word (for Sparkman). She's like a matriarch. What's the highest you can be?... There's not but one like her."
Sparkman started making ornamental gourds about 50 years ago with her garden club. The ornamental gourds, however, would fade and discolor as they aged. Sparkman took the older gourds, scrubbed them clean with steel wool and started making painted-gourd creations.