Heidi Uotila

Written by Dolores Tropiano Category: Arts Issue: January 2013

“They are beautiful creatures and so challenging to sculpt,” says Uotila, 57, whose client list includes former President George W. Bush.   

Eschewing the use of molds, Uotila employs stainless steel dental tools to craft the animals’ delicate facial features. The clay is fired to 2,261 degrees Fahrenheit and painted with oils.

Uotila honed her ability to capture animal likenesses during a series of safaris, from Alaska to Africa. In Canada, she once coaxed a white rhino to model as she sculpted her first bronze from life. That rhino got her accepted into the prestigious Society of Animal Artists. The Glendale resident, who also teaches art at Liberty High School in Peoria, remembers her odd-toed ungulate model well. “I would call him by name,” Uotila says. “He would come to the fence and I would sculpt.”