Words of condolence flooded in from around the world with the news that Penticton encaustic artist and teacher Thea Haubrich had died.
“She was personally inspirational to a lot of people,” said Haubrich’s good friend Carol Munro. “I developed a sisterhood with her while attending a encaustic conference years ago. She was the type of person that took you in, wrapped you up and would introduce you so proudly to senior members of the art world.”
Interested in finding out what encaustic art was about, also known as hot wax painting, Munro first met Haubrich during a workshop the artist was holding in Okanagan Falls.
“It was where I needed to be. It was a whole new medium I never worked in before. I moved on from there to become a full-time artist, a member of the Federation of Canadian Artists, I won awards for my paintings nationally and it is all because of meeting Thea,” said Munro. “She had an amazing capacity to ignite people to do what they did not know they could do.”
Haubrich, who was known for her giving spirit, died on Sept. 25 at the age of 60 after a long, courageous battle following a diagnosis of breast cancer in 2011 and several strokes in 2012. Haubrich is survived by her husband Peter, son Maarten and brother Theo in Holland. A celebration of life for Thea is being held at the Shatford Centre on Sunday.
Haubrich was born in Rotterdam, Holland, on Oct. 12, 1952, and left around 1980 for Vienna where her son was born. From there the family moved to Germany, Japan and finally to British Columbia where they settled in Penticton.
Though a generation apart, Penticton artist Bethany Handfield felt an instant connection with Thea. They also first met in 2006 when Handfield attended a class Thea was holding in Kaleden and was “hooked right away.”
The pair held an exhibition at the Leir House in 2011 called Untangled and featured a selection of their encaustic works highlighting their shared love of colour and texture. Handfield said Thea was instrumental in spreading the word about encaustic art across Canada, and well respected internationally.
“She was a mentor and friend. She has a warm generosity of spirit. Thea was more about building up others than about herself,” said Handfield, who now runs the business that Thea started of supplies for encaustic art. “I often think to myself what would Thea do? Whether that be in business or in certain situations and wanting to follow in her footsteps and share the good spirit community sense and dream she was trying to build.”
Thea held a degree in biochemistry and did not follow a very artistic path until her late 40s. She recognized a huge potential in sharing the ancient art form and the opportunity to interact with new people.
“Encaustic is the medium of my choice because its endless versatility allows me to layer, carve, burrow and excavate the beeswax. I love the luscious translucent surface of an encaustic painting and the exciting feel of its texture, which invites touching,” Thea wrote on her website.
A 2014 calendar has been created showing highlights of Thea’s artwork. These will be available to purchase ($25) on Sunday with proceeds going to support the Thea Haubrich Legacy Fund. Also, sets of art cards are available. The fund is set up under the umbrella of the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan and will be used for scholarships to students of encaustic art who are not able to pay for education.
“Since she was so instrumental to bringing encaustic to the Okanagan, B.C. and all over Canada it is something that came up during the last days of her life,” said Peter, of the decision to set up the fund.
Thea was a member of several art councils, a past board member of the International Encaustic Artists based in the U.S. and a proud member of the South Okanagan group, the Rip Off Artists. In 2008 she was awarded active status with the Federation of Canadian Artists. Along with art, Thea loved to read, volunteer, hike and travel. Peter said they quite often found themselves out on adventures, including the one that brought them to Penticton. Peter said he saw a classified ad in a German newspaper for a piece of land in Penticton.
“From curiosity, we were on holiday here and came to find the land. We didn’t end up finding the plot but we were so attracted to this place that we said the next holiday let’s look for some houses and we ended up buying a cottage in Twin Lakes. We both thought it was so beautiful here and the people are so nice. It was our holiday house and we would come once a year, sometimes twice. We fell in love with Canada and found out what a beautiful country it is,” said Peter.
Although the pair moved to Canada without anything concrete, Thea had her art and Peter had a wealth of experience in high-tech and began working with startups.
“She died much too young. She had so much she wanted to do … We had so many plans. She will live on through the legacy fund and Bethany and her artist friends have been so great continuing what Thea started.”
A Celebration of life for Thea is taking place at the Shatford Centre this Sunday from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.