Stained-glass artist. Mixed-media specialist. Collegiate instructor.
Tim Heath has worn many hats throughout his artistic career, and interchanging them is what has kept him fresh and focused. A 1992 graduate of SIU Carbondale’s mixed media program, Heath is a second-generation glass worker who began learning the trade from his father as a child in the 1970s.
His work, which includes blown glass, stained glass, sculptures, benches and more, has been featured in galleries throughout Southern Illinois. He also owns Heath’s Glass Works in Anna, has taught art at the college level and loves talking shop with younger students.
“Teaching was always fun because it kind of revived you,” he said. “You see new energy and new ideas and you kind of feed off of it.”
Heath recently showed off his studio to Life & Style and gave some insightful answers – and advice – for this issue’s Artist Q&A.
You’ve built a name for yourself in stained glass work; is that still your primary project focus?
I used to do a lot of windows for churches and now do a lot of private commissions. Here lately, I’m moving into mixed media, which was my first love. I’m working with wood, metals and natural objects like trees.
What kinds of private stained glass projects have you been working on?
I’ll get people wanting a piece to kind of memorialize a passed family member. They want something beautiful that can be installed in a church or in their homes.
I assume taking on projects like that with so much meaning, you are probably connecting pretty strongly with your clients.
Oh yeah, you connect with people a lot, especially with the private home work. You’re walking through their home and learning why certain things mean something to them. And with my past church work, you get to know the core group of the congregation pretty well, too.
So why the shift from stained glass work?
For me, it’s about change. I’ve done stained glass for so long I’ve got burnt out on it probably three or four times and went on to something else. It’s funny; even moving on to the mixed media work, there are aspects of my stained glass experience that I apply to a lot of different things.
Can you explain your creative process? How does an idea come to fruition?
I’m working on about 10 projects at once, and each one is kind of an adventure. I’ve got three or four different journals I write in. Just different ideas, materials lists and things like that. I know you’re active in the art community and used to attend a lot of the craft shows.
How else do you get the word out about your pieces when it’s time to sell them?
Word of mouth has been the best. I also worked at the Glass Barn for 11 years and taught for a long time, so I’m pretty connected with local artists. I don’t go to as many shows anymore because there’s so much setup and coordination, but when I do, I throw in a curveball for people who think I’ll only have stained glass there. I’ll bring some of my mixed-media work to display, too, and people will be surprised.
For aspiring artists out there, young and old, what is a piece of advice to get them on the right track in this field?
Learn everything you can and invest in tools. Use your imagination and just create. I collect all sorts of items for the mixed media pieces not knowing when I’ll ever use it. Then an idea pops up for something and one of those items will be the perfect piece.