Toby Heller is an internationally known sculptor and jewelry designer, whose large sculptures can be seen in the vineyard of Heller Estate Winery, which she and her husband Gilbert own in the Carmel Valley of Monterey, CA.
Nestled in the back garden of their tasting room, and throughout the property, are her original sculptures—including the evocative dancing couple that graces the Heller wine labels, which is based on a 15-foot piece that overlooks the vines.
Her sculptures also dot the Grove Isle Hotel & Spa property in Coconut Grove, FL, which is where we were introduced to the award-winning artist.
Her vividly imaginative work can be seen throughout the United States and Europe in public spaces, community centers, seaports, galleries, and private collections. Her line of sculpture-inspired jewelry was featured at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City for a decade (1975-1985).
So it was a pleasure to interview Heller about her art, her life, and what inspires her. Scroll down for our Q&A.
Michael Gibbs: Tell us about how you got into the art business. Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?
Toby Heller: No. I thought I would be an actress. I had performed in 25 leading roles before I took a painting class for students who had never painted before! I enjoyed painting for many years and exhibited in many parts of the world. Studying sculpture and metals developed into jewelry design.
Michael Gibbs: What is the inspiration for your style?
Toby Heller: Abstract expressionists were my inspiration, as well as the Pre-Columbian art of South America.
Michael Gibbs: How do you create the sculptures, and how long does each piece take?
Toby Heller: Usually, the piece develops as I work. Each piece is individual—it depends on the size, the material, and the technique used. Some pieces are constructed—meaning each piece is part of the whole sculpture. There is no time-frame; the work continues to evolve in the foundry and into the finishing process.
Michael Gibbs: How has your style evolved over the years?
Toby Heller: It is part of my life, my feelings, and my thoughts. Obviously, it changes with time, and my creative inspirations.
Michael Gibbs: You also create jewelry, which you are wearing in the photo (right). They are actually mini sculptures. How did you get into the jewelry business, and how did you come to display your work at Bergdorf Goodman’s Nena Gallery in New York City?
Toby Heller: I was invited to show small sculptures in Nena Goodman’s gallery, and I included the sculpture and jewelry. Everything sold the first night, and Mrs Goodman invited me to be “Artist in Residence” for Bergdorf Goodman. That moment was an important beginning.
Michael Gibbs: What do you think is the most important lesson you learned about being a professional artist?
Toby Heller: There is no room for error and it is very challenging. It is exciting to be unique in the field of jewelry.
Michael Gibbs: What advice do you have for other artists hoping to make it as sculptors?
Toby Heller: It takes devotion, honesty, and constant growth. There needs to be an urgency to produce the expression that is within the artist.
Michael Gibbs: What was the most exciting moments of your career?
Toby Heller: I was commissioned to do a 20-foot sculpture for a seaport in France. Many people attended the unveiling ceremony, where the mayor of the town spoke. I gave a short speech in French (very challenging—but unforgettable for me).
Michael Gibbs: What do you hope your legacy will be?
Toby Heller: My legacy is to have as many people as possible enjoy my sculptures and jewelry throughout the world.
Michael Gibbs: What haven’t you yet done that you still want to do?
Toby Heller: I hope I can be in many sculpture gardens everywhere … and continue to produce new sculptures. It gives me great joy when others are a part of the experience.
See Toby Heller sculpture at Grove Isle Hotel & Spa. Click here for our review of that great weekend getaway.