Meet the Artist: Mary Hegarty, Mary Hegarty Designs

An ancient canvas brought to life.

By Kelli Comer

Gourds are one of the oldest crops to be domesticated by humans, and they serve as the unique canvas upon which local artist and designer Mary Hegarty works her ingenious, functional and resourceful magic. Mary transforms this ancient crop into unique lamps, birdhouses, purses and more.

“The use of dried, hard-shell gourds originated in ancient times by cultures in Asia, Africa and South America for as far back as 10,000 B.C.,” says Mary.

“They have served as vessels, tools, musical instruments and art pieces.”

Mary has always had an interest in art and has embraced her creative side throughout her life. She has taken drawing and painting classes, but is primarily self-taught through many years of practice.

Mary dabbles in other artistic mediums and has been a co-owner of two art cooperative galleries. For her day job, she enjoys a career as a registered nurse at the Cleveland Clinic. She has worked at Cleveland area hospitals for over 35 years.

“I am a decorative painter. All of my pieces are designed and created by me,” Mary explains.

“Dried, cured, hard-shell gourds are the canvas for my creativity. The inspiration for my designs is derived from various sources—my love of gardening, floral designs and vibrant colors. I’m inspired by the look, shape and feel of the gourds themselves. I also love to create facial expressions. Facial motif appears on many of my designs.”

Hard-shell gourds derive from the same family as pumpkin and squash, but unlike pumpkin and squash, gourds are inedible and are grown primarily for utilitarian use. Once they reach full growth in late fall, they begin to dry and cure over the winter months into a wood-like texture that can be cut, carved, painted and burned.

“Each gourd that I use for my artwork is hand selected by me, and is already dried and cured,” notes Mary.

“I clean them, then either leave them whole or cut and carve them for their intended purpose. The same tools used for wood carving and cutting are used for gourds. Just like wood, I prime them with a shellac prior to painting. I use acrylic paint, and protect each piece with a non-toxic durable acrylic varnish, then add an assortment of embellishments or hardware.”

To reach Mary, you can email her at Visit to learn more about the artist and view her upcoming show schedule. Like Mary on Facebook @MaryHegartyDesigns. Locally, you can find her work at Fra Angelica Studio in the 5th Street Arcade in downtown Cleveland.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment