Not out of her gourd

HARLINGEN – Crystal Zieman always tries to stay true to herself.

The Weslaco resident is quick to point out exactly why she enjoys gourd art and it’s all about doing what she loves and not focusing too much on what anybody else does.

“I can put a lot of my skills together in one piece,” she said while sitting just feet away from her works at the Harlingen Art Forum building. “When you are a painter, you just paint on canvas. But with gourds, I use paint, dyes, carving, wood burning, mixed media, fiber and assembly.”

Her works could be described as amazing. If you weren’t told they are made with gourds, you likely wouldn’t guess it – the end product doesn’t look much like a gourd.

Tomorrow, everyone else will be able to see how talented and varied she is as her gourd show opens with a reception starting at 7 p.m. at the Harlingen Arts Forum.

The retired school orchestra director has been creating gourd art for several years. She retired at the end of 2011, but has a long history in art and music.

Growing up in Minnesota, her grandmother weaved and her mother was a seamstress for a dance studio.

Although her grandmother didn’t teach her much about weaving, her mother led her into knitting, which is where she started her passion for art.

Zieman is a graduate of Mankato State with a major in music and minor in art.

But, most of what she’s learned has been done with texture and how things feel.

She admits she is a three dimensional artist.

There is little skill in her hands when it comes to two-dimensions for Zieman.

She said she is known for her figures. You may have seen her works at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival.

She sells much of her artwork and also has won numerous awards, including at the International Art Show in Brownsville.

For Zieman, it’s about the creating process that excites her.

Sometimes she starts with a gourd and comes up with an idea.

Other times, she has an idea and tries to find a gourd that will fit that plan.

She purchases the gourds from farms in Arizona and California.

But gourds can be unique themselves, specifically when it comes to thickness.

“You just don’t always know what is inside,” she said. “The gourd is hard when you get it. You don’t want to get one that is spoiled. It takes almost a year for a gourd to dry.”

She admits, right now, she is into making lamps and using light.

Although her inventory is a little low right now, she is ready to build it back up again.

“I just can’t do one thing,” she said.

She has always had that same problem. Zieman doesn’t have any desire to be a master at one form of art. She would rather do it all.

“In one piece, I can put all this together,” she said. “Painting, beadwork, weaving and all this stuff is in there.”

Some of her works will not be on display as they are too fragile and others will be first seen at upcoming arts shows.

However, Zieman said there is plenty to go around.

There will be some fine gourd art to see at the Arts Forum, Zieman said.