Art is Life with Heather Gill
Updated: Aug 10
Every now and then a person comes along that is remarkable. Mixed media artist and sculptor Heather Gill is one of those humans. She is outstanding in every way and if you ever get the chance to meet her you will quickly understand why. We are extremely fortunate to have Heather serve as a founding artist member and community art project coordinator at Courtyard on Cotton's creative collective. Heather is one of the reasons why this collective came to be. Her passion for art is visceral and her commitment to enhancing her community through art is palpable.
Below, find out what makes Heather tick, how she feeds her creative appetite and when you can "weave a wish" with Heather in our Creatives Chat.
Courtyard on Cotton: When did you start making art?
Heather Gill: My first distinct memories of making "art" are from when I was around 6 years old. My grandmother taught me how to sew when I was 5 years old, but I think I just did what she told me to do. When I didn't need her direct assistance on any given task, I started making my own creative decisions (like color or fabric choice), that's when it really seemed to click for me and I've been creative ever since. My friends knew I was "artsy" even into my mid-30's. It wasn't until 2011 that I finally embraced the Capital A – Artist title and enrolled at ULM in 2013. I graduated with a BFA with a concentration in Ceramics in 2016. It's been a wild ride! COC: Tell us what sparks your creativity. HG: Mindfulness. Does that sound hokey? My mind never shuts down. I think it's absolutely true what they say about creative people. Our brains are just wired differently and I think we're driven to show the world to others without that vision. I think my wires get crossed up sometimes and the lines get blurry. I can be looking at something, having a conversation with someone, while doing a couple of other things – all unrelated – but the brain traffic neurons are firing and cross-firing. When I get a crazy idea, I have to follow it through. I have to at least chase that rabbit down the path as far as I can. COC: What are you working on now? HG: Heh heh heh...My name was drawn along with several other local artists in an upcoming exhibit at The Biedenharn Museum: Scripture Through Many Eyes. I don't want to give away any spoilers but I think I've narrowed down my choices to concrete or ceramic. I'm testing a couple of slip recipes and paper clay recipes. There are a couple of papermaking sculpture projects in various states of progress. I'm slowly building a boat - a 16 foot long Cypress strip canoe with fiberglass and resin. I'm making leather out of fish. I'm building a giant sea turtle out of wood and who knows what else. I'm working on several quilts, too. Upcoming Community Art projects are up there in the mix too.
One of our fave works by Heather Gill: Chombo, 42 x 36 x 36 inches, birch plywood and wire. Chombo won Best of Show recently at a ULM student show.
COC: We're totally obsessed with your wood sculpture titled Chombo. Tell us about your process in creating it.
HG: I can relate! HAHA! I have this obsession with spheres. I think my first attempt at recreating a sphere was in ceramics class. I wanted to make a hollow sphere out of clay so I started with a soccer ball sized rubber ball and a slab. I first tried it out with organic oozing shapes. With my quilting background and love of jigsaw puzzles, I was able to make the shapes with clay, then after firing, I stitched them back together with yarn and left a hole big enough for a battery operated led light. But I couldn't stop there...I had to remake it BIGGER. So I did the same thing with one of those big exercise yoga balls. That was the birth of Shrubbery, Chombo's older sibling. I added hair pin legs to Shrubbery. (I think I want to make more of those actually.) Pretty sure it was ULM art professor Cliff Tresner who pointed out my obsession with spheres and suggested I try to move along to other forms. What happens when you add a neck to a sphere? Instant vessel! 'Chombo' is Swahili for 'vessel.' So I made Chombo just like Shrubbery, but out of wood and geometric shapes. Chombo's little brother Doug Bradley (yes, he's the actor that played Pinhead on the Hellraiser movies) was made with black geometric wooden shapes and attached with multicolored zip ties, with the zip ties all sticking outward. I sewed a soft denim version out of hexagons and pentagons. I'm also in the process of stitching together a plastic sphere made from triangles and diamond shapes cut out of fused plastic shopping bags. Somewhere in my head is a huge geodesic dome built out of hula hoops. I've just got to figure out where to get that many hula hoops.
Heather's colorful prototype for the Weave a Wish Wall panel represents how we are all connected in the world. The first-ever Weave a Wish Wall community art project will be on exhibit for guests to be able to 'weave their own wish' during Courtyard on Cotton's opening reception on August 31st.
COC: What is the concept behind the community art project – Weave a Wish Wall – that Courtyard on Cotton will be unveiling at their grand opening on August 31st? What does the weave wall mean to you as an artist? Btw, we love participatory art! HG:: To me, weaving is such a fun and relaxing form of creation. Pretty sure I started out weaving little figures out of pine straw in my Papaw's yard as a kid. Weaving is versatile and you can spend as much or as little as you want on tools or materials. There are so many layers to this Weave a Wish Wall. A tapestry could be defined as a piece of fabric made up of fibers. As humans, we are the fibers of life, me and you and everybody else that ever was or ever will be. As members of the Courtyard on Cotton creative collective, we are working together to build this beautiful series of woven panels from the ground up. We are all connected. The first panel at COC is all tonalities of white because it's new like a blank canvas. Each strip of fabric represents a person. You can even write your wishes on the fabric before it's woven into the piece. These wishes aren't necessarily for anyone else to see – it's like when you blow out the candles on your cake, you're not blurting out your wish to everyone. Call it a prayer or an intention. It's personal and it's beautiful. There is an interactive component too with the projection of the time-lapse loop of a plant as a visual representation of growth. The potential for growth is there even if you can't see it. As the piece nears completion, it creates the panel on which the plant is seen growing.
On our must-have list, ceramic "Milkshakes" are available in different glaze "flavors" and for added whimsy rattle when shaken.
COC: The boobies you make are the talk of the town! What inspired you to create this series and experiment with new colorations? Btw, these are on our must-have list. HG: The first round of boobs are firing as I answer this!!! EEEEK!!! I'm always trying to grow and push myself and build my skills. On the potter's wheel, I was trying a new form. My intention was to throw a short squatty vase with a long skinny neck. Every time I'd get the neck too long or too skinny and it would break off, leaving me with what looked an awful lot like a nipple. At first I thought, "Oh no! People are going to think I'm making boobs on purpose!". Over and over and over, the necks would break off. So I decided I'd go with it. I mean, who doesn't like boobs? And just like real life, no two are alike. And they RATTLE! That's my favorite part. Rebekah, our COC gallerist, said I should call them "Milkshakes"! HAHAHA! At that suggestion I thought they could be different flavors, with different glaze combinations. Then fellow artist Leigh Buffington said I could call them "Knockers". Y'all are cracking me up.
COC: What's a fun fact about you? HG: I'm not aware of any female-hosted fishing shows. I want to have my own fishing show. I just need a camera crew and a bigger boat and sponsors. I want to have a famous guest on each episode. Bonus points if they know absolutely NOTHING about fishing. Also, my grandbabies call me Toots.
Heather Gill, a mixed-media artist and creative instructor hailing from West Monroe, Louisiana, has a passion for inspiring others through her unique blend of artistic skills. With a diverse array of techniques in her creative arsenal, ranging from boat building to creating concrete art and even crafting fish leather, Heather's work showcases the boundless limits of artistic creativity. Heather's passion extends beyond her own creation. She has an innate desire to share her love for art and craft with others. She has taught papermaking workshops, sewing classes, and kids' art camps. Her teaching extends beyond her local community; Heather traveled to Rwanda, Africa, where she taught former prostitutes how to sew, a testament to her belief in the power of art to uplift and empower. One of her latest projects is to bring pottery supplies and equipment to a village in St Cristobal Verapaz, Guatemala. Heather Gill is not just an artist, but a teacher, a boat builder, and a life-long student of creativity. She is a symbol of how diverse experiences and a love for art can lead to a life filled with expression and fulfillment.
To view Heather Gill’s works, please visit the gallery at Courtyard on Cotton (102 Cotton Street in Downtown West Monroe, Louisiana) or for an appointment to view, contact gallery coordinator Rebekah Lawrence, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or directly at 318.348.6045.Heather’s latest works will debut to the public at Courtyard on Cotton's opening artists reception on Thursday, August 31, 2023 (5pm-9pm). Gallery Hours: Thursday - Saturday from 11am-5pm or by appointment.