Merril McHenry – Gourd Art

mouldI grew up on a farm in Cloud Count, Kansas, and from early childhood have had an intense interest in birds, butterflies and drawing. In college I majored in biology and art. My graduate studies were in waterfowl biology at the Cheyenne Bottoms Waterfowl Refuge and doctoral research at the Delta Waterfowl Research Station, Manitoba, Canada. I taught college biology for 40 years in Illinois, Colorado, Kansas and Swaziland in southern Africa. After retirement in 2005, I taught for a year at ISSU in Papua New Guinea in the south Pacific.

The skillfully decorated gourds used in Africa and the beautiful pottery of the American Southwest were the impetus to try my hand at “gourd art”. Unaware that there was an American Gourd Society that promoted gourd crafting and gourd art, I began using gourds as my “canvas” for drawing, painting and wood-burning about 20 years ago.

More recently I have completed an AGS gourd art shows in IN, AZ and MO and am now a Certified Gourd Judge and Instructor. Gourd art is now a “retirement hobby”, as well as gardening, “birding” and photography.


The innate beauty of gourds (their shapes, sizes, colors and textures) is fascinating to me. The inspiration for my designs comes from the natural world around me, (fauna and flora) all gifts from God, “the Master Artist” and “Author of my life”. Although I continue to experiment and enjoy all types of techniques, my favorites are wood-burning (pyro-engraving), “gourd sculpture” (using gourds and gourd pieces) and gourd carving.