Despite this, Heller works rigorously, sometimes building up to five bikes in one day. His speed and deftness in the craft is a testament to years of manipulating pliers and cutting siding.
Heller’s artistic renaissance led him to other projects, too. After reading about a man in Missouri who creates one-of-a-kind birdhouses, Heller knew he could do the same, and realized he had hit upon quite a market. “If you don’t like birds, there’s something wrong with you,” he joked. “The ladies just go nuts over ‘em.”
True to form, Heller seeks abandoned material for his birdhouses. For a small fee, he willingly tears down old barns, saving the red-tinged cedar. “It’s hard work, but what a way to get material!” he says. Whenever possible, he takes advantage of natural holes in the wood, which saves him the trouble of drilling. Sometimes he adorns the houses with wire motorcycles, merging the two crafts.
All this creating has led to a few shows across the state, including Warren’s Cranberry Festival and a current exhibition at Old Elbow School Shop. Soon he will have some bikes for sale at a new shop called “Junk and Treasures” in Rock Falls.
Heller, the father of a 22 year-old daughter and a 16 year-old son, is excited about the exposure and is already looking beyond artistic success. “I’m going to travel the country and give lectures to auditoriums, talking to kids about art and encouraging them to make it,” he says.
Figures, Bikes and Mud, featuring the works of Bob Heller, runs through April 2 at Harmony Corner Café, 2855 Mall Dr., Eau Claire.