Like the Shakers, Tim and Lyn Hinz express their faith through their craftsmanship. The Shakers believed that the excellence of their work was a form of worship; their furniture and crafts came to be known as "religion in wood." Their motto, "Hands to work and hearts to God," has been adopted by the Hinzes, who operate a studio dedicated to enhancing worship environments.
Hinz Fine Art Studio was created in 1985 and has fulfilled over 375 commissioned works for churches throughout the United States. Tim's most recent commission is close to home -- at his own church, Redeemer Lutheran Church in Delta. A trio of three stained glass windows, each measuring 4 feet wide and 8 feet in height, depicts passages from the Book of Revelation. The center window, which features the Lamb of God, has already been installed in the church on Pioneer Road. The other two windows continue the story of Revelation 21-22, depicting the tree of life, the river of life, the new heaven and the new earth. Symbolism is an essential component of Tim's designs, whether he's working in an intimate or monumental scale.
Tim used a contemporary design for the stained glass windows, to complement the building's architecture and the stained glass windows already in place. The series of windows, called "The Path to Redemption," was started in 2000 and has been funded through memorial contributions. Images from the Old Testament line one side of the church, with images from the New Testament on the other side.
"Paradise from Revelations" will complete the ambitious undertaking.
Tim's background in construction serves him well -- he's not only familiar with a variety of materials, he also understands how to incorporate the design into the architect's vision, and how to install the finished product, whether it requires a hammer, a welding torch or a concrete foundation.
After working in construction for years, Tim earned a master's degree in fine arts, with an emphasis on sculpture, from the University of North Texas. He has taught sculpture, design, fine woodworking, stained glass, stone and wood carving at numerous colleges and universities in Texas and Colorado, including Red Rocks Community College. By then, he and Lyn were married and had started their business. Tim encouraged Lyn to enroll in college, telling her, "The best way for you to learn is to take my classes."
When they first moved to Colorado, Lyn had trouble finding a job so she began "peddling" Tim's artwork. "It was easy for me to take his portfolio around and brag about him, because it wasn't my work. That's how we fell into church art."
"Church art" encompasses entrance doors, bell towers, pulpits, altars, crosses, fonts/baptismal pools, art, art glass, and more recently, jewelry. Tim is comfortable working with glass, marble, bronze, wood, metals, stone and ceramic.
"You can't make a living as an artist," Tim said, "so I decided to do commission work."
While Tim has worked primarily with Lutheran, Catholic and Episcopal churches, he has also been commissioned to design custom entry doors for million-dollar homes in Dallas and Cherry Creek.
Many of his commissions come by word of mouth or through his website, where a YouTube video captures the range of projects Tim's undertaken. Daughter Morgan handles the website and occasionally lends a hand with carving and stained glass. Lyn is also "a good mechanic with stained glass," and takes care of contacts and contracts -- "the stuff I'm not good at," Tim says.
The Hinzes discovered western Colorado at the same time they were outgrowing their shop in Lakewood. Tim was doing some teaching at Mesa State and they happened to travel over Grand Mesa and through Cedaredge and Orchard City. Several years later, they found themselves in Austin, enjoying the quiet, slower pace of rural living. Between commissions, Tim and Lyn are restoring the 1893 homestead formerly owned by Dwain Stefan. They envision a pastor's retreat, where ministers can relax and renew themselves spiritually. Tim also taught some classes at Delta-Montrose Technical College and did a year-long stint in Bill Koch's pioneer town, restoring antiques and creating replicas when the appropriate piece couldn't be located.
Commission artwork can be "feast or famine," but the Hinzes' line of jewelry has provided a more steady source of income.
"This wasn't our idea," Lyn explains. "Tim put in a 6- or 7-foot bronze cross and the church ladies liked the design so much they wanted to sell it in some fashion as a fundraiser to support a battered women's group. We brainstormed and that's how we started doing jewelry work."
Now many of the pieces Tim's designed are reproduced in necklaces, earrings, plaques and pectoral crosses -- the distinctive crosses worn by clergy members.
One of the most recognizable pieces in the Hinzes' "Proclaim Jewelry Collection" is the Lutheran Hour cross. Lutheran Hour is an outreach of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. The ministry airs a weekly radio broadcast, which leads Tim to joke that you can see the cross on the radio every Sunday morning. In reality, the cross adorns plaques given in recognition of benefactors, and is also reproduced on jewelry for both clergy and parishioners.
Silver, gold, small, large ... the Hinzes sometimes find the jewelry variations a bit overwhelming, but they try to accommodate all requests. Tim estimates 99 percent of the jewelry sales come via the website, www.hinzfineart.com.
Whether he's working on a small cross or a monumental piece of stone, Tim never loses sight of the message that's central to all of his art. "This is not just pretty art," he said. "Everything we've done is based on a Bible verse or has some message to get the Gospel of Christ out there."