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ABOUT THE ARTIST
Many have attempted to make pretty things from nature’s materials but few have excelled as Arizona artist Bill Colligen has. Gourds are Colligen’s canvas and patience is as important a tool for him as the mediums he uses to transform simple gourds into exquisite works of art.
For the artist gourds provide a unique canvas on which to perfectly express his creative vision. After studying for a career in art at the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University, Bill Colligen chose instead to work in landscape design, specializing in small Zen gardens, while studying to be a Master Gardener. But he still “felt the need to express something deep within on a more personal level.” That is when his seemingly disparate callings came together: Discovering the gourd’s potential as a canvas became for Bill Colligen a perfect union of art and nature.
Bill Colligen begins with a hard-shell gourd, engraving designs into the shell with a pyrographic pen before applying a variety of metallic and verdigris patinas on its surface. “I use many different metal leaf applications including composition, copper, chemically enhanced, hand-colored and 22 ct. gold,” he says. Gem stones are often inlaid and areas the artist calls 'faux burlwood' are actually a dye application made directly onto the gourd’s surface. Reed, bamboo and a variety of metal and stone handles embellish the lids.
Bill Colligen calls his pieces “Zen Vessels” and for anyone who has inspected the hundreds of meticulously applied dots of paint that make up an element of each gourd’s design, it is easy to understand the focused intensity this gifted artist brings to each of his distinctive works of art. A newer style of gourd Colligen is creating replicate, with stunning accuracy, the look of ancient ritual vessels from China. These elaborately hand-carved pieces appear heavy with the weight of old bronze vessels, well marked with the patina of age – and yet are nearly as light as air.
Numerous awards have been bestowed on works by Bill Colligen including 1st Place at the Santa Fe Plaza Arts Festival ‘04, ’05 and ’06; Best of Show at the Sedona Arts Festival ’06; and, Best in Category at the Indian Wells (CA) Arts Festival ’06 and ’07. Colligen’s work can be seen in the 2014 book Contemporary Art of the Southwest by E. Ashley Rooney and Julie Sasse.
“My intent is to create an experience which impacts the collector with a sense of tranquility, beauty and balance,” Bill Colligen says.