Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Apr 28th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Hail the Heils

AE_studio1aA mother and three adult children prove that when it comes to art,
‘connection’ may be the best creative force of all

There are “artists,” and then there are Artists. The artists take themselves rather seriously and usually have fancy statements about their work (that sometimes are a little hard to decipher). The Artists are the ones who infuse some humor into the seriousness of being an artist.

On a fine day in September, I have the pleasure of meeting four of these Artists—a mother and her three adult children, all of whom are participating in this year’s Open Studios during the Oct. 10-11 weekend in South County. Meet the Heil family: There’s Betty, the 82-year-old mom, and Kris, her 50-something, son, then her two daughters, Judy Stabile and Wendy Aikin, also in their fifties. They’ve all shown up to their mother’s Spanish villa in the Pleasant Valley area, a stunning home, dotted with the work of many local artists. Spacious and airy, it provides great acoustics for the booming laughs of the Heil family. This is a crowd of jokesters, but underneath the comedy, they have a heart-warming story to tell about how they each became artists.

It all started with Judy, when she was in her mid-thirties. She decided to take a class at MichaelAngelo Studios in Santa Cruz. “I’d been working at a very intense job,” she says, explaining that she needed some sort of a physical or creative outlet. So she turned to a stone-making class, which then led to print-making, and a variety of artistic mediums, all of which she enjoyed. In the meantime, her sister Wendy was curious about what Judy was up to, so she took some of Judy’s scraps from art projects and started making collages, which led to her then taking assemblage and book-binding classes.

“I just felt like I was dabbling, until we hit on encaustic work,” Wendy says. Encaustic is a wax-based type of art form, where the artist typically creates paintings made out of this substance. The effect is original, almost three-dimensional looking, with a hint of transparency. “We both fell in love with the medium and set up our studio.”

AE_studio2That studio now rests in the Pleasant Valley area, just a few minutes from their mother’s residence. It’s a two-story building, with the downstairs serving as a showcase/gallery room, and the upstairs is the creative space, where the sisters often hold art classes.

Along the way, the sisters also became interested in using glass as an artistic medium. It was at this point that their mother (who at the time was in her seventies) found her own interest in art had been piqued. “I love it,” Betty says. “I like the ability to crack it up, break it, and have a good time with it.”

The big room is suddenly filled with explosive and resonating laughter. “It’s really exciting, she’s on blood thinners,” someone pipes up.

They all laugh again, and then they get serious for a minute, as clearly being on blood thinners and working with dangerous glass don’t exactly go hand in hand, but it doesn’t look like much will slow down the 82-year-old Betty. “My mom has a really young mindset,” Wendy says. “I have no mirrors,” Betty cracks. And again, the family erupts in laughter.

AE_studio1“I didn’t want to be left out,” Kris says, chiming in and joking about why he got his own start in art in his middle-age years. Kris began dropping in on the classes that his sisters were teaching and soon he learned the craft of print-making, glass and bronze work (much of his education was self-taught).

With each of these family members having morphed into artists as a sort of second life career, it seemed only right that they pursue the opportunity of getting into Open Studios. And they did—one at a time. Wendy and Judy have been participants for many years now, and this year marks Betty’s second entry in the county-wide art show, and Kris’ first time participating.

“For me, [Open Studios] gave me a sense of community,” Judy says. “And one of the huge things you get by doing Open Studios is a feel for what people like and don’t like. Many people are willing to share how your piece makes them feel and sometimes it’s completely different from what you anticipate.”

AE_studio3The last time Betty participated, her children say that her glasswork emptied out. Taking a look at her work, it’s not hard to imagine why: it’s stunning, practical, artistic, sculptural and fascinating. The common person doesn’t typically realize the flexibility that glass has, and the diversity of projects that one can create with it.

In this weekend’s Open Studios, Oct. 10 and 11, the foursome will all be showcasing their wares—Wendy and Judy will show encaustic and assemblage pieces, while Betty will unveil her popular glass work and Kris will share his glass and bronze work. The work of the sisters will be on display at their studio, just up the road from Betty’s home, where she and Kris will display their work in the garage/studio.

And while Open Studios might present a larger artistic community, the Heil family is their very own sub-community of artists. “Not all families have connections like we do,” Wendy says. “I think that being artists links us together in a way that’s different from just being a family member.”

Betty adds: “We have a common bond,” she says. “We always have something to talk about. Someone’s always got something going on.”

The family will be sharing their artistic experience during the South County weekend, and a perk for visitors is that at both studios, you can try out making your own encaustic painting or try your hand at glasswork, and take home your own project. Indeed, these are very ‘open’ studios.


To visit the Heil family during Oct. 10-11, meet Kris and Betty Heil at 1015 Pleasant Valley Road, Aptos, or visit Wendy Aikin or Judy Stabile a 133 Hames Road, Corralitos.
Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

We Can Rebuild You

A look back at how downtown Santa Cruz recovered from the 1989 earthquake

 

International Earth Day—Mother Earth Day

Every April 22, humanity celebrates International Mother Earth Day and Earth Day. As more than a billion people participate in Earth Day activities every year, Earth Day has become the world’s largest civic observance. The massive concern to build right relations between humanity and the living being we call Earth is evidence of humanity’s love of the Mother. In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed April 22 International Mother Earth Day, with a significant resolution affirming “the interdependence existing among human beings, other living species (the kingdoms—mineral, plant, animal and human) and the planet itself, the Earth which we all inhabit.” The Earth is our home. Celebrating Earth Day helps us define new emerging processes (economic, social, political) focused on the well-being of the kingdoms. Through these, humanity seeks to raise the quality of life, foster equality and begin to establish right relations with the Earth. We dedicate ourselves to bringing forth balance and a relationship of harmony with all of nature. Learn about planting a billion trees (the Canopy Project); participate in 1.5 billion acts of green. Disassociation (toward Earth) is no longer viable. We lose our connection to life itself. Participation is viable—an anchor, refuge and service for all of life on Earth. Visit earthday.org; harmonywithnatureun.org; and un.org/en/events/motherearthday for more information. From Farmers Almanac, “On Earth Day, enjoy the tonic of fresh air, contact with the soil, companionship with nature! Go barefooted. Walk through woods, find wildflowers and green moss. Remain outside, no matter the weather!” Nature, Earth’s most balanced kingdom, heals us. The New Group of World Servers is preparing for the May 3 Wesak Buddha Taurus solar festival. We prepare through asking for and offering forgiveness. Forgiveness purifies and like nature, heals.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Dark Magic

40 years on the movie beat in Santa Cruz
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Oral Fixations

Blown away by a Tuesday night dinner at Oswald

 

If you could live in Santa Cruz in any era besides now, which would you choose?

Probably the ’70s, because Santa Cruz is such a fly-your-freak-flag place. That was when free love and hippiness was in vogue. Shane Reber, Santa Cruz, Caretaker

 

Sarah’s Vineyard

Sarah’s Vineyard of Gilroy is known for crafting fine wines—and one of my all-time favorites is its Chardonnay. But this time, its Viognier has my vote.

 

Munch

East Coast meets West Coast in new meat lover’s paradise