Valley artist’s work recognized overseas |

Valley artist’s work recognized overseas

by Caryn Haller
Shannon LitzJan Rollenhagen at Lone Tree Gallery in Minden on Friday.

Pieces of Nothern Nevada art are now sitting on desks and shelves in the Far East.

Johnson Lane resident Jan Rollenhagen’s hand-decorated gourds were chosen as gifts for Chinese trade officials by the Nevada Commission on Tourism during their trip Nov. 13-20.

“I’m so proud they took my work to China,” Rollenhagen said. “We import so much stuff from China it was nice to be taking something made in Nevada to China. The gourds represent the spirit of Nevada.”

When Claudia Vecchio, director of tourism, discovered Rollenhagen’s gourds she knew they were the gift she needed to take with her to the Chinese International Travel Mart in Shanghai.

The gourds were given to high-level government officials, the media, tour operators and travel agents.

“I think they are quintessentially Nevadan. They are a beautiful representation of arts in Nevada,” Vecchio said. “It’s different from anything they are going to get anywhere else. They saw them as being very special, and they loved the fact they were made from an artist, and there was thought being put behind them.”

A gourd is a member of the squash family. When left to dry for six months it turns into a hard wood.

Rollenhagen transforms the dried gourds into bowls and ornaments, and either paints them or does a woodburn design on them.

“It’s a beautiful hard-grained wood. It’s a fun, nice, natural thing. I’ve sold them as muffin or bread baskets to people,” Rollenhagen said. “Animals fit nicely on the gourd, and I can embellish them with pine needles and jewels.”

Rollenhagen also said each gourd has individual characteristics.

“There’s something about them when you hold them in your hands. They get smooth and warm,” she said. “I’ll start laying out the design on paper, but it’s not going to work if it’s not the right design for that gourd.”

Rollenhagen began her art career in fashion earning a degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

In 1985 she turned her attention to creating cast paper sculpture, pastels and oil paintings, receiving Signature status from the Pastel Society of the West Coast two years later.

She now solely designs gourds.

“When I finish a gourd I don’t have to frame it, and I love it. People like the gourds because they don’t have to hang them on a wall,” she said. “It’s a little different than a two-dimensional piece of art. People sitting all around the room can see them and enjoy them.”

Rollenhagen teaches workshops every first Wednesday of the month in gourd art demonstrating the initial selection and cleaning, to the exterior decoration and trim.

Her gourds are sold at The Lone Tree Gallery in Minden.

For more information, visit Rollenhagen’s website at