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Work of Glass Artist Heather Hietala to be Featured in Solo Show

Flow. Heather Hietala, artist. Photo by Steve Mann

By Sue Wasserman

Heather Hietala will never forget the day she learned that her childhood home in New Hampshire had burned to the ground. Not only was the family’s weathered and wonderful old farmhouse gone, so was the bulk of the textile and multi-media artist’s work.

“I sifted through the ashes with my sister, looking for items that might have withstood the flames,” Hietala recalls. She was delighted to find her mom’s prized recipe box. “I opened the lid and saw all of the recipes for just an instant before they crumbled into ash.”

Although flames destroyed the home, they ignited her desire to build a new body of work that could withstand fire. Despite feeling like she had lost her anchor, Hietala began again, taking classes at Asheville’s Odyssey Clayworks, applying her passion for texture to salt- and wood-fired ceramics. “I see myself as a textile artist who came to clay,” she says.

Venture Forth. Heather Hietala, artist. Photo by Steve Mann

Hietala will be sharing her most recent work during a solo exhibition at Momentum Gallery starting Thursday, May 9, and running through June 22. The opening reception will be May 9, from 5–8 p.m. Hietala will offer an artist talk on Sunday, May 19, at 2 p.m.

Much of her inspiration stems from a lifelong fascination with boats and the human journey. “I grew up in a three-canoe family,” she notes. “My father crafted paddles for each of us according to our size. In second grade, we drove from New Hampshire to Alaska in a VW bus with a canoe on top.”

In her travels around the globe, Hietala continued paying close attention to boats, from ferries in Thailand to cormorant fishing boats in Japan. These days, you can find her on Sunday mornings, contentedly and meditatively paddling a canoe with a friend on Beaver Lake.

Hietala’s deft textile touch is easily spotted in her work, from the fabric-conditioned clay to the “stitching” that adorns the surface. By design, some of Hietala’s boats bear a striking resemblance to the weaving shuttles that played such an important role in her early art. Others evoke thoughts of seedpods, paying homage to her passion for gardening.

For Hietala, life doesn’t imitate art; it inspires it. “When my father was in the throes of Alzheimer’s, he didn’t know me, but I was certain he was still in there,” she says. “I wanted to figure out how to capture his light and spirit, his magic. That’s when I began using glass.” Pickle jars, Casal Garcia Vinho Verde wine bottles and Reyka Vodka bottles are her favorites.

The words that adorn her vessels have been carefully curated. “Words allude to the human experience,” she says. “They can anchor us or set us free. Our lives are determined by what we say.”

Every wood firing is different. “I feel like this work represents the uncontrollability of life itself. I’m meticulous about making the form, but then the fire decides what will happen next.”

To learn more about Heather Hietala’s work, visit HeatherHietala.com.

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