Mary Alice Schaefer of Farragut has found a challenge in making art out of gourds.
“It’s not all about me or what I do,” Schaefer said. “I just like to play and [gourds] are a challenge.”
Farragut Arts Council presents Schaefer as its Featured Artist for April and May. Her gourd works currently are on exhibit on the second floor of Farragut Town Hall as part of its Featured Artist series.
Schafer, a charter member of Farragut Arts Council, described a gourd, a member of the cucurbitaceae family, as a hard-shelled durable fruit grown for ornaments, utensils and general interest items. She and her husband, Bob Schaefer, a master gardener, became interested in gourds while on a trip to Gatlinburg in 1998.
“Bob plants the seeds, oversees their growth, harvests them, helps clean them, stores them and later cuts them,” she said. Guided by each gourd’s shape, Schaefer then turns them into dolls, baskets, bowls, birdhouses and boxes.
“The challenge is making something beautiful out of something homely,” she said. “[Gourds are] nature’s homeliest vessels.”
Still, Schaefer said she can see the different shapes in the gourds.
“And, you can use your imagination,” Schaefer said. “That’s what I like to do — use my imagination.”
In the exhibit at Town Hall, she displays a “Farragut” gourd and the “Opera Singer,” among many others. At home, she said her favorite design is a “gourdesan,” a play on words for a Japanese courtesan. Her favorite medium to paint the gourds is acrylic paint.
“I have a toxic-free studio,” Schaefer said. “I don’t use oils or turpentine.”
She estimated she has probably made about 250 gourd designs.
Besides gourd designs, Schaefer also makes wooden quilt blocks painted on wooden panels and her “Fabric Friends,” which are preadolescent “paper” dolls actually made of fabric.
“Each doll has its own personality,” Schaefer said. She calls them “art outside the box.
“They are the most fun, but they are the most work,” Schaefer said.
“You name it, I do it,” she said about her interest in arts and crafts.
Schaefer’s interest started when she was a child and copied Christmas cards on paper.
“When my father saw me copy the cards, he took me to a book stare and bought an easel,” Schaefer said.
“I still use the easel,” she added.
Farragut Town Hall, 11408 Municipal Center Drive, is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.
Along with the exhibit at Town Hall, her Schaefer’s works also are on exhibit at Annabell’s Emporium Café in Loudon, Olde Concord Gallery in Concord and in her home.