Hivo Van Teal: Living the American Dream

After fleeing Havana as a young man, Hivo Van Teal was able to unleash his artistic sensibilities and launch an award-winning lighting and accessories company.

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As a young boy in Cuba, Hivo G. Van Teal grew up yearning to be an architect. “Unfortunately, the Cuban Communist revolution in 1959 took over and destroyed my dreams,” he explains. Months later he emigrated to the U.S. with his father. Broke, but feeling a great spirit of liberty and opportunity, Hivo started working in Coral Gables, Fla., first as a taxi driver and then as a house painter. Filled with ambition, he went to school and became a licensed general contractor. In 1967, Hivo built his first spec house and his business quickly took off.

“I met Hivo in 1972 when I was recommended to him by a banker friend to look at a home I was considering buying,” recalls Estela Van Teal. “I immediately decided that I was more interested in him than the home. We went out a few times and he must have felt the same way because he proposed soon after! He was the most romantic man I had ever met.”

Both Hivo and Estela had been previously married with children. “I could tell by the way he was with his children that he was the type of father that I would want for my son,” she explains. In 1973, Hivo and Estela married and became a family. “Together, we commenced a new life and career,” Hivo adds.

 

A New Chapter

“My artistic spirit began to grow and I started creating – as a hobby – clear acrylic sculptures,” Hivo states. “Acrylic was a medium familiar to me. When I was 13 years old in Cuba, I helped a Havana sculptor who had been experimenting with acrylic, which had been a secret military product that had just arrived in Havana.”

Creating sculpture shapes in acrylic soon became a passion. “In 1974, I opened a 600-sq.-ft. studio close to my house in Miami Beach. Together with Estela, I made my first sculptures named Family, Atlanta, and Prism. A friend of mine who was a furniture representative saw them and exhibited them at a show in Miami Beach. “Euster Furniture was one of the most exclusive high-end showrooms in Miami, and Mr. Euster was very impressed with my sculptures and gave us a $10,000 order,” Hivo recalls. “And that was the beginning of Van Teal, Inc.” Soon, art galleries in Florida and tony retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue in Bal Harbour and I. Magnin in Washington D.C. began selling Van Teal sculptures.

In 1976, Van Teal Inc. opened its first showroom at the High Point Market in North Carolina. “Always wanting to expand, I created a line of acrylic flowers with harmonic colors. I didn’t want green – this was a “fantasy garden,” Hivo remarks. The company sold a lot of acrylic florals to retailers ranging from high-end decorative showrooms to mass merchandisers like Levitz, Wicks, and Sears.

“My passion for form, proportions, and color led me to create something innovative – and that was Van Teal Lamps,” Hivo states. Soon, he began making chandeliers, torchieres, sconces, and table lamps in addition to decorative accessories and wall fixtures. The line is now shown at High Point Market, the Dallas Market Center, and at other residential and hospitality venues. Van Teal is a member of the Hospitality Sustainable Purchasing Index Consortium and the hand-workmanship and capabilities of its Miami factory has given the company an edge in creating custom designs for high-end residences as well as hotels, restaurants, and public areas. Van Teal has been singled out for excellence by winning First Prize for Contemporary Sculptures from ACCA (1986, ’87, ’89, ’90, and ’92) plus received two ARTS Awards (1995 and 1996).

 

Pride & Joy

What makes Hivo most proud, however, is his family. “Estela – my beautiful wife, companion, and my love – has been my support and inspiration,” he recounts. “I am blessed to have a wonderful family of five children, 12 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Van Teal is a family business. Hivo, Jr., my oldest son runs the residential division. Ed manages the operations and hospitality division with a wonderful group of associates supervised by Erik and Eddy, two of my grandsons,” he says. “Today we manufacture here in Miami as well as import from other countries. My design team is made up of Estela, Hivo, Jr. and a talented designer Cristian, who has been with me for more than 20 years and has become like a son to me. All of our employees are committed and dedicated men and women producing high quality lamps. Mr. Darious has been with Van Teal for 28 years, and Mrs. Aguilar has been with us for 20 years. Marty Berardi and Yoanny have been with us for over 12 years. They all are a great team that shares a true family spirit with us.”

Please see our article: GROWING UP VAN TEAL





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