Dehesa artist creates finds artistic calling in gourd art

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With their interesting shapes and forms, gourds intrigue nearly everyone who comes across them. For Mary Moreau, each vine-growing fruit is a work of art in progress. She embellishes and carves the gourds she grows in her own garden until they become what she has imagined them to be.

“In my earlier years, I was too busy to stop and appreciate the beauty that is all around us. Working with gourds encourages various mediums and there is an outlet for whatever mood I'm in,” Moreau said.

With their interesting shapes and forms, gourds intrigue nearly everyone who comes across them. For Mary Moreau, each vine-growing fruit is a work of art in progress. She embellishes and carves the gourds she grows in her own garden until they become what she has imagined them to be.

“In my earlier years, I was too busy to stop and appreciate the beauty that is all around us. Working with gourds encourages various mediums and there is an outlet for whatever mood I'm in,” Moreau said.

Using everything from beautiful stones, fused glass, pine needles and palm stems, Moreau creates patterns on the gourds. She has drilled through the outer layer, creating art with a 3-D effect and she has experimented with various dyes and inlayed colored glass.

“Almost anything you can think of, you can create on a gourd using the correct technique and tools for the art piece you are creating,” she said. 

Native American dolls and gourds that make the sound of thunder are some of her most popular creations.

At the current Midsummer’s Night Dream exhibit at Fusionglass Company in La Mesa, Moreau’s gourds are little fairy houses. The little pixies adorning the make-believe abodes draw the viewer into a magical world. Some people got their first look at Moreau’s art on the night of the reception at Fusion Glass.  

“Everybody just loved the fairy houses. Very imaginative,” said Paul Fernandes, co-owner of Fusionglass Company. 

Moreau first came across gourds when she was a young girl. Born and raised in East County, she rode her horse almost anywhere out in the backcountry.

“I lived on what is now called Park Street, originally Wright Street, near the courthouse parking area, two streets down from Main St. El Cajon was a very small town at that time and kids were allowed to go out and explore nature.

“This gave me a real appreciation of stones, trees, plants and nature in general,” she said.

When Moreau was recovering from an accident while riding her horse, a friend asked her to take a class on gourd art with her. “I was immediately hooked,” she said.“ Discovering gourds was such a pleasure.”

After creating a few gourd art pieces, friends wanted to buy them. One of the teachers suggested that she get a business license and put them in a shop. They were selling well, so Moreau displayed them at festivals and art shows. At the time, Moreau was a computer teacher at Foothills Adult School. She enjoyed teaching and began gourd art instruction as well.

“Eventually, I only taught gourd classes because I loved seeing the excitement when someone created a beautiful piece of art for themselves,” she said.

For four years now, Moreau has taught gourd art. Currently, she is teaching at her own home studio.

One of Moreau’s students, Norm Castle, first took gourd art at Moreau’s Foothills Adult class. “I really enjoyed working with gourds, for each was unique and posed a different design challenge,” Castle said.

Each gourd is unique in its shape, size, and coloring because they grow on vines, Moreau explained. This creates a different "art canvas” for each project.

When Moreau holds a gourd for the first time, she feels the curves and the skin and looks at the variations in the color.

 “After enjoying the uniqueness of that particular gourd, a pattern begins to form in my mind and then I enhance its natural beauty using stones, plant matter and various dyes,” she said. 

These days, Moreau does not have to ride far in the back country to find gourds. She simply walks out to her garden, thanks to her husband who plants high-quality gourds for her. High-quality gourds for art come in many shapes and sizes and are planted and nourished to be a specific shape.

Those shapes include bottle, pear, apple, canteen, and round. Each comes in sizes from just one inch to 24 inches tall.

Call or contact Moreau through her website www.blackhorsegourds.com for an appointment to visit her studio in Dehesa. Her work may also be seen at Fusionglass Company in La Mesa and Alpine Garden and Gifts.

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