A different kind of art

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce Director Sheyrl Vickery displays a piece of Freddie Miller’s gourd art in her office. Milller will return to Williams Station Day this year after several years of absence.

After an extended absence, Freddie Miller returns this year to Williams Station Day. She received a positive reaction the last time here, but that was back in 2001.

This year her return is sure to be felt, as she will be offering demonstrations before live audiences for those who wish to catch a glimpse of a specialty art form.

“Sheryl just asked me to come and I had wanted to come,” Miller said. “I’m 88 years old, so it might be my last opportunity.”

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Miller offers something relatively unique: gourd art made through a burning tool. While a number of craft artists have taken to the idea of placing their paintings on a gourd, Miller’s craft involves burning a design on to the gourd.

“There are quite a few gourd artists, but most of them are painted,” Miller said. “I like burning.”

Burning designs on to a gourd is simply one method of what is known as pyrography, or the art of burning pictorial images or designs onto a surface. Either wood or leather are more often used as the surface material. In fact, Miller compared the process to burning designs on to leather as both involve a similar feel and technique. But the two surfaces differ, too.

“One thing that’s different is you’re not dealing with a flat surface,” she said. “Your concept is different.”

Miller estimates she’s been doing gourd art for a good 15 years now. When she first started out, she painted designs on to gourds, but eventually decided she liked the feel of burning the designs on to the gourd better.

“The pressure you put on the tool makes a difference in the design,” Miller said.

As for what her favorite subjects are, Miller said she likes outdoor elements best.

“You know, gourds are all different shapes,” she said. “I pretty much stick with nature because I like butterflies and hummingbirds.”