Gourd artist Sheri Harris paints a Russian nesting doll.

Sheri L. Harris of Vail, Arizona is used to painting on three-dimensional surfaces, in-particularly, gourds. Yes, gourds! She collects them from a family-owned farm in Casa Grande, Arizona. Once they are dried, she carves them and then embellishes them with paint and sometimes other materials. Sheri states, "These gourds are as hard as wood and will withstand the same gentle treatment you would give any fine wood carving." So when it came time for her to paint her first blank wooden nesting doll, I'm pretty sure she was prepared.

Gourd Art Entitled Mamie's Magnolias
Gourd art by Sheri Harris, entitled Mamie's Magnolias

In fact, gourd art and nesting doll art have quite a bit in common. Nesting dolls are carved from a single piece of wood and then sanded down to be smooth and and fit perfectly together. Gourds require the same process of carving and sanding. Sheri explains, "My gourd art takes considerable time--between 32-50 hours of carving, wood-burning, painting, and sanding spread across several weeks for a bowl, vase or sculpture."

Beyond your "typical" gourd vase, Sheri also makes gourd jewelry, gourd Christmas ornaments, gourd pins & barrettes, and gourd animal figurines.

Sheri likes to focus on floral nature and animals in her art, which are not all gourds. She also does watercolor & mixed media paintings, note cards, and embossed artworks.

For her first ever nesting doll art piece, Sheri decided on painting a common Southwest animal - The quail. I think her stacking doll turned out great!

Sheri Harris's Nesting Doll Art
Sheri Harris's Nesting Doll Art


I asked Sheri the following:

Did you have fun painting the nesting doll; what was the most fun part of this project?

"I enjoyed painting the nesting doll. The most fun for me was actually painting detail once I'd figured out what I wanted to feature. I love wildlife and knew I wanted an animal doll. Quail are one of my favorite birds--so indicative of the desert Southwest, a place that has enchanted me and calls to my spirit."

Could you elaborate on your title, Growing Up?

"It is about a Gambel's quail growing from an egg to male adult. I LOVE what I call quail season when the little fluffballs on toothpick legs coming running through my backyard. They are endearing and I enjoy watching them mature to toddlers, then teens, and finally adults."

What advice would you give someone who wants to try painting on a gourd for the first time?

"If anyone wants to get into carving and painting gourds, my best advice is to start with a solid design, marked first in pencil and then in permanent marker on the gourd. Dremel tools can be used for beginners, but a Foredom rotary shaft tool is essential for power carving. And use high quality paints and inks."

Do you have any one piece of artwork that is your absolute favorite?

"I love all my gourds, but my favorites are two watercolors I did: one of Little Boy, a Costa's hummingbird who lives at our house year-round and the other is of Beene (Bee-NAY), a crippled bat that is living her life out at Bat World Sanctuary in Texas. She is a lovely pallid bat and I chose to paint her among magnolia blossoms and leaves. I won't sell these two originals."

Sheri Harris Artwork
Sheri Harris's Artwork, Little Boy
Sheri Harris Artwork
Sheri Harris's Artwork, Beene


Do you have any Russian ties?

"The closest tie I have to Russia is a neighbor across the street who has a crush on Vlad Putin. My favorite restaurant in Denver is the Little Russian Café--WONDERFUL food and flavored vodka. I also appreciate Russian silver enamel work."

For more artwork from the artist:

Visit her Etsy shop, HappyHummerArt.

Gourd Art Entitled Elf Owls and Flowering Saguaro
Gourd art by Sheri Harris, entitled Elf Owls and Flowering Saguaro


About the author

Lindsey Mae is freelance artist who enjoys writing fun blog posts for and The Russian Store.