victorian dream santa christmas holiday gourd sculpture art sheryl parsons

Christmas Cheer — The Holiday Gourd Art of Sheryl Parsons

christmas gourd paper mache santa claus sculpture sheryl parsons holiday art

Santa Claus in gourd and paper mache, celebrating the whimsical aspect of Christmas, by Joseph, OR, artist Sheryl Parsons

When we are children, life possesses a magical fantasy interspersed with reality. This juxtaposition, seamless in the mind of a child, colors our memories and affects the adults we eventually become. For this reason, adults who are wise learn from children as much as they teach them, often by getting “down” to their level.

“My mother was a fabulous artist who loved to share her talents with me,” says Sheryl Parsons, a Joseph, OR, artist who specializes in folk art holiday sculpture made from gourd, polymer, and clay.

autumn harvest christmas holiday santa sculpture sheryl parsons artist

Autumn Harvest Santa, hand-crafted Christmas holiday gourd sculpture by Joseph, OR artist Sheryl Parsons.

“She would get on the floor with me when I was little and show me how to create shape and definition in the pictures we colored in my coloring books. She taught me basic sketching techniques such as shapes and human anatomy while we sat at the kitchen table. We dabbled in pen and ink, along with pastels, and she always had a stack of Walter Foster how-to art booklets around that I loved to look at.

“I dreamed of becoming as good as what I saw in those pages.”

Christmas Gourd & Holiday Folk Art

Parsons’ dream has come true in her folk art and sculpted pieces which celebrate holidays especially enamored by children, most notably Halloween and Christmas. It is testament to the child within that her work finds (adult) collectors from around the world, through her participation in major Halloween craft festivals in Petaluma, CA, (All Hallow’s Art Fest) and Bothell, WA, (Hallowbaloo), as well as selling via her Etsy shop, website, and Reasons to Believe, a year-round Santa Claus shop located in Kirkland, WA.

While art in general has been a part of Parsons’ life  since she was a child with a particularly perspicacious mother, the focus on Santa started years ago when Parsons lived in — really — North Pole, AK.

“I was a stay-at-home mom looking for a way to make some spending money when I came across the Better Homes and Gardens Santa Claus magazines full of artists from all over who used sculpting, carving, and sewing skills to create stunning Santa  figures.

northwood stump wooden santa sculpture Christmas art Sheryl Parsons Wallowa Oregon

Northwood Stump Santa, Christmas gourd art by Joseph, OR artist Sheryl Parsons

“While chopping wood one morning, I noticed that some of the slabs that chipped off when I missed the center of the logs had a shape that would lend itself to painting Santa figures on. The flat sides only needed a little sanding, and the rounded bark backs made for unique pieces.”

Christmas at the North Pole, Utah, & Oregon

Soliciting the assistance of her three children, who earned pocket money by helping their mother paint Santa ornaments and magnets made from wood chips, Parsons sold her work through the Knotty Shop on the Alaska highway.

On moving to Utah, Parsons continued her folk art sculpture, entering, winning awards, and later judging at the Utah State Fair in Salt Lake City. Relocating northwards to Joseph, Parsons now shows her gourd and other sculpture work at the art-themed town’s various galleries, and the only bad thing about her new home, from the standpoint of art, is that the gardening season is too short for her to grow her own gourds. But, actually, that’s not a problem.

“It’s funny: gourds seem to find me through friends, yard sales, and so on.

“Two years ago, an artist was moving away from the valley and gave her stash of gourds to another local artist, who then called me — and so I scored ten large bags of gourds of all shapes and sizes for free!”

victorian dream santa christmas holiday gourd sculpture art sheryl parsons

Victorian Dream Santa, Christmas holiday gourds sculpture by Joseph, OR, artist Sheryl Parsons

In addition to working with the gourd, Parsons innovates with repurposed materials, one of her favorite projects involving burnt out light bulbs or discarded glass bottles, which she covers in clay to become Santa, a snowman, or a Halloween-themed piece.

“Candlesticks, vintage tins, salt and pepper shakers, oil, cans, wood textiles bobbins — they’re all inspiration for a new holiday piece,” she adds.

As much as Parsons enjoys Christmas and Halloween, however, neither holiday is her favorite, with that accolade going to Thanksgiving, which she describes as a time to reflect on the blessings of the year past.

Celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween

“There’s little commercialization of the day itself, so for me Thanksgiving is a time for family, and making memories, unencumbered by gift expectations.

“I take each season in turn, relishing in the delight of each, and don’t want to rush into Christmas before it’s time to — although it’s my favorite season to create for.”

The celebration of holiday seasons — Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween, Easter — inspire the child within, and with every hand-crafted sculpture, Parsons seeks to send a message of goodness and hope:

“For me, I want my art to be something that brings joy, peace, or pleasure to the owner or viewer,” Parsons says.

“I like to focus on the positive, whimsical, and good in life. People and nature are my inspiration: I see the hand of God in all.”

Wenaha GallerySheryl Parsons is the Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Monday, November 5 through Saturday, December 1, 2018. She will be at the gallery in person during the Christmas Kickoff Holiday Art Show Friday, November 23, from 2 to 6 p.m., joined by Dayton painter Steve Henderson. Also at the show will be live music, artisan treats, a drawing for 3 holiday gift baskets, and up to 25% off purchases of $250 or more made on November 23 and/or 24.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at

Colorful Spheres original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee.

Rock, Paper, Scissors — Cheri McGee’s One-of-a-Kind Cut Paper Paintings

Colorful Spheres original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee.

Colorful Spheres, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee

Most people, even if they flee at the mention of a fabric store, have met a quilter. Those unfamiliar with the craft marvel at the concept of taking yards of intact fabric, cutting it into smaller and disparate pieces, and reassembling those pieces into one planned, designed, and cohesive unit.

Blue Cat, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee

Blue Cat, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee

But a quilt seems like a simple thing when placed side by side with the cut paper art of Cheri McGee, an Enterprise, OR, artist whose palette consists of thousands of snipped, scissored, and punched out pieces of paper — some of them smaller than a tick. Practiced throughout the world, paper art can be as basic as a silhouette, those portraits in profile that we associate with the Victorian era, or insanely complicated — as  is the more intricate traditional work from China, Indonesia, Germany (Scherenschnitte), and the Philippines.

McGee does a little of everything, embracing a style that ranges from a timelessly nostalgic folk art village scene to a sinuously flowing, almost curvaceous abstract mixed with realism. And then there are the mosaic works, consisting of itsy bitsy (think back to that tick, in company with sunflower seeds and some orange pips ) squares and circles and triangles and diamonds meticulously arranged to create a paper version of something you’d expect to find in a Turkish marketplace.

African Dancers, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee.

African Dancers, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee

“Painting with oils may be easier,” the artist comments, explaining how, in the process of cutting and layering card stock into a cohesive image, weeks fly by. But it is this very detail and intricacy, in addition to the uniqueness of the medium itself, that is the attraction.

“I have been working in paper for 30 years,” McGee says. “It began as both an experiment and a need for wall art when the phrase, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ kept echoing through my head.” Faced with a new home of blank, white walls, McGee’s eyes turned to her young daughter’s supply of construction paper, her hands picked up a pair of scissors, and a passion was born.

City Scene, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee

City Scene, original cut paper art by Wenaha Gallery artist Cheri McGee

In short order, one pair of scissors grew into more than 25, and the cache of paper multiplied to, well, the equivalent of a quilter’s stash, as McGee kept an eye out, everywhere she traveled, for unique, unusual, textured, exotic, patterned, and colored stock. A spare room in her home functions as her studio, where creativity reigns and portable desk fans, even on hot days, do not.

Every finished artwork is unique, and while McGee may work on multiple projects simultaneously, there are no (no pun intended) short cuts. While in the early days she pre-cut and stored in drawers images and shapes as a means of speeding up future artworks, McGee found that she never used them, preferring, instead, to custom cut exactly what was needed precisely when the moment called for it.

It’s a build-as-you-go process, and the artwork itself makes its own demands. But when it comes to subject matter, anything goes, depending up McGee’s mood and inspiration, both of which are influenced by her interests, a childhood background in traveling as the daughter of a military family , and marriage to another artist, sculptor and flute carver Roger McGee.

“Being a self-taught artist, I find inspiration in that freedom, to create what strikes my fancy,” Cheri says. “I have recently begun a series of images and designs from the ’60s. I am also inspired by Moroccan designs, having lived there as a child when my father was serving in the Air Force.”

Lucky Charmz, original cut paper art by Cheri McGee

Lucky Charmz, original cut paper art by Cheri McGee

McGee’s works are in the homes of collectors from California to New York, as well as in Japan. She has shown and sold her work at the Kalispell Art Show and Auction in Montana, Spokane’s MONAC Western Show and Auction, and the Western Art Association Show and Auction in Ellensburg.

But the best place to find the artist herself is in that studio, scissors in one hand, paper in the other, as eyes, soul, and psyche focus on creating a work of art that has no twin of itself, anywhere, in the world.

Wenaha GalleryCheri McGee’s cut paper art is on display at Wenaha Gallery through Saturday, June 27, 2015.

Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.