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Otto Heino Ojai 2009


8th Finglish trip June 2009 #29

”I like to drive really fast, 130 miles an hour in my Bentley,” says Otto Heino, over 90 years of age, next to his cars, a Bentley and a Ford Mustang Shelby. “That’s why I go driving at night on the straight roads in Santa Barbara.” With his unassuming manner and peaked cap, Otto is often mistaken for the chauffeur of a rich person when he stops at a filling station.

Otto Heino has lived in Ojai, California for the past 38 years, because ”this place has the best climate for clay – it dries with the right speed.” Heino is a ceramist, whose one of a kind works are collected because of their rare delicate yellow-colored glaze, a technique Heino developed. The color resembles the hues of old Chinese porcelain. Otto Heino says that the Chinese have offered him a “billion” for the recipe. But Otto has not sold it. He threatens to take the skill with him to the grave.

Otto Heino was born in 1915 in East Hampton, Connecticut into a large migrant family from the Helsinki region. There were 12 children in the family. His first name was originally Aho, but he changed it during his military service. Otto served in WWII on the German front as a machine gunner in a bomber.

After the war, he started a transport business, but gave it up when union regulations became too strict for him as an entrepreneur. He went on to study ceramics in New Hampshire, where he met his future wife Vivika, who was his teacher. His later work included the design of heat-resistant ceramic tiles for the nose cone of space shuttle. Heino gradually became a ceramist to make his renowned one of a kind works. In his own words, he worked 15 years and 2 months to develop their glaze and color.



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