Gavin Heath was a competition surfer making his way from his native South Africa to Hawaii — and planning to end up in Australia — when he landed in Laguna Beach and found work in the surf clothing industry.
It was the mid-1980s. Heath had always concentrated on sports and never thought of himself as an artist, but when he was exposed to the art of glassblowing, something clicked.
Glass is a liquid — a slow-moving liquid — and maybe that's what drew the surfer to the medium, which requires skill, strength and scientific knowledge to master.
Growing serious about the field, he studied at various schools, including Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle and at Cal State Fullerton's glass-blowing program. He worked for a time for noted Laguna glassblower John Barber, all the while creating his own designs and selling them. His work began appearing in prestigious shows.
By 1991, he had purchased a property on Laguna Canyon Road next to Barber's studio, making what he calls Tribal Dolls, inspired by folk art from his native land.