Bob Heath is a native Oregonian who traces his Oregon roots back to ancestors that came west on the Oregon trail and helped settle the Oregon towns of Damascus and Chitwood. After graduating from Oregon State University, Bob spent 35 years working as an engineer at Tektronix. Bob had long been fascinated with art glass and loved collecting it, but hadnít really thought about creating his own until he took a stained glass class in 2002. It was then that Bob realized that he was living in the middle of an art glass Mecca.
Worldwide, there are only about half a dozen significant makers of raw art glass materials, and two of the largest and best known are right here in Portland, with a third just up the road in Woodinville Washington. This richness of suppliers has led many glass artists to relocate to the Pacific Northwest which in turn makes for many opportunities to study and learn from the best.
Bob was smitten with the glass bug and made the most of the wealth of resources he found around him. Of the many art glass disciplines, Bob found fusing to be the most intriguing and has studied with many noted artists in that field, including; Richard LaLonde, Peter McGrain, Raphael Schnepf, Patty Gray, Kathleen Sheard and Avery Anderson.
Bobís engineering background shows in his work. He is keenly interested in the process of how art glass items are created. Bob says, ďI love learning new techniques and discovering different ways to apply them.Ē His favorite comment is when someone looks at one of his pieces and asks ďHow did he do that?Ē Bob also loves sharing his knowledge of glass; explaining the process to non-glassies, or discussing details with other glass artists.
Bob retired from his position at Tektronix in 2008 in order to spend full time working with glass. He also believes in giving back to the glass community that has given him so much and is actively involved with the Oregon Glass Guild, currently serving as webmaster and as state president of OGG.
I enjoy the craft of glass. By saying that, Iím not trying to take sides in the endless, art versus craft debate. Itís just that it is the craft aspect of glass that most interests me. Iím not trying to make a ďstatementĒ with my glass, nor convey some deep meaning. I just strive to make high quality art glass, exhibiting fine craftsmanship. I like bright colors and sharp contrasts, which I guess is something I have in common with crows.
The engineer in me shies away from glass that is strictly decorative, preferring that which is functional as well as enjoyable to look at. I also credit my engineering background with my attention to detail and the intricate nature of many of my works; something that a less charitable person might call anal. Raw art glass materials are expensive and I spend a lot of time trying to minimize waste. It was that ambition that led to the creation of works made up of dozens, sometimes hundreds, of small pieces, many of which were fashioned from leftover scraps of previous projects.
Many people commented to me that my triangle-based pieces reminded them of quilting, which makes sense, as the craft of quilting also grew out of a desire to reuse material scraps. In my recent work, Iíve chosen to explore that idea and have been adapting traditional quilt patterns to glass. I particularly like this direction as it combines my natural tendencies with an American art form that was practiced by my pioneer ancestors.
More recently, my exploration of quilt patterns has led me to a needlepoint technique known as Bargello. Bargello often features very detailed geometric patterns and bright colors, both of which appeal to me, so Iíve begun exploring ways to translate that into glass.