Gerry Flewharty’s home in Lake Highlands has the makings of an old-fashioned horror flick. Sure, the house looks normal enough from the outside. But step a little closer, and you’ll hear some mighty strange sounds coming from inside. Construction noises – pounding, sawing, drilling and more – go on throughout the day, though there’s no visible sign of a home improvement project.
Peek through a back window, and things just become even more weird. Bodiless faces on the wall stare back at you through unblinking eyes. And all around are strange little creatures atop animals covered in flowers and dots.
The creatures inside are named “Little Gerrys” after their maker. But rest easy: Flewharty isn’t a modern-day Frankenstein.
She’s an artist. A gourd artist.
She spends countless hours in the small workshop in her home, staining, painting and shaping gourds into sometimes beautiful, sometimes whimsical works of art. She’s so good, she was named this year’s Featured Gourd Artist by the Texas Gourd Society.
“I feel extremely honored to have been selected,” she says. “We have so many artists just in Dallas, and you can imagine in the state. It’s just an extremely high honor for me.”
Flewharty took up her craft about seven years ago, after seeing gourd art in a gallery in Santa Fe, N. M. Having grown up around gourds and painting them for Christmas decorations as a child, she was determined to try it again as an adult.
With no formal instruction to art or working with gourds, Flewharty became proficient in both through trial and error.
“I had to learn a lot,” she says, “and I learned totally from experience. I had no classes or training, and I’m not really talented in art. I’m more of a crafty person.”
That craftiness led her to do more than just paint gourds. She had husband Louis teach her how to use a drill, a jigsaw, a wood-burning knife and other woodworking tools so her creations could move, spin, open up and rise and fall. She’s always mentioning how some cordless jigsaws have great reviews and that she wants to get her hands on them. Tools don’t make the craft but they sure help.
“I’m not mechanically minded, so I usually get my husband to help me,” she says. “When I tell him what I want to do, he asks me: Can’t you ever do anything simple?”
But doing things the simple way just isn’t as much fun for Flewharty, who calls working with gourds the most challenging craft she’s tried. So she paints them, burns them, cuts them, drills holes in them and sands them down, shaping them into highly original creations.
That originality went a long way in her being named the state gourd society’s featured artist.
“Gerry is both creative and accomplished,” says Betty Kent, president of the Texas Gourd Society. “Her art has a quality that’s recognized by the art community, people who really know about art, which I think is rare with people who do their art on gourds.”
Though she loves to work with gourds, Flewharty says she spends at least as much of her time talking about them, sharing her knowledge on growing, preparing and painting them. She frequently speaks at museums, schools, garden clubs and libraries on the subject. And she has been a popular demonstrator at the Dallas Arboretum for several years, working with gourds and offering tips on raising and decorating her favorite fruit.
“She’s a joy to work with,” says Joy Ijams, education horticulturist at the Arboretum. “She brings all different kinds of gourds so people can see what types of things are out there and works on them so people can see the process. She has a wonderful spirit and really gets the visitors involved in what she’s doing.”
While she says she has done very well selling her gourds at the Arboretum, Flewharty’s main goal has never been to make money off them.
“I’m not so much into selling them now,” she says. “It’s hard to part with them, to be honest. I get attached.”
And no matter how much she works with gourds, talks about gourds and fills her home with gourds, she never tires of them. Inspiration for new creations is everywhere.
“When I see things, I always see them in gourds,” she says. “I never run out of ideas. Just time.”
That’s why she says she’ll continue her work as long as she’s able.
“I’ve found something I enjoy doing,” she says. “It’s therapeutic and challenging, and the possibilities are endless. When I go into the nursing home, instead of weaving baskets, I’ll be painting gourds.”