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From Tattoos to Stained Glass: Finding Purpose Through Art

November 23, 2020

Vic Castillo is a man of many talents – with a big heart to match.

The truck driver, biker, and tattoo artist from Wichita is a self-described “social butterfly” who was always organizing benefits for friends in the biking community. He spent his free time creating art and helping his friends with their projects.

“I was very active in the community,” he says. “I was always the first one anyone called when they needed anything.”

In November 2018, Vic became the one who needed that help. Complications from a bike accident left him with a C4 spinal cord injury. He has partial use of his arms, but no function in his hands.

“He’s still Vic, but it was so hard to see him going from the person he was before to seeing what his body is like now,” says Samantha Oshel, Vic’s girlfriend.

Samantha was with him day and night during his rehabilitation at Craig. The early days were hard. He had to heal from pressure sores he sustained at the hospital in Kansas. He needed more surgery. He had to spend a lot of his inpatient stay lying down.

“I had gone from being an outgoing person who helps everyone to being at everyone else’s mercy,” he says.

But Vic’s outlook began to change when he started visiting the PEAK Center and got involved with Therapeutic Recreation. Amber Flores, Vic’s therapeutic recreation therapist, talked with Vic about what he loved and wanted to do. “Amber and I had a lot of plans,” he says. They went on outings to Staunton State Park, Golden, and a candy factory.

Knowing that Vic had a strong artistic bent, Amber encouraged him to get back into his favorite pastimes. Together they explored airbrushing, block-printing, tie-dyeing, and drawing. Vic’s favorite medium? Stained glasswork.

Vic Castillo Making Pumpkin Stained Glass

Vic draws or downloads designs and Samantha assists by cutting and taping the pieces. Vic puts it all together.

“Soldering is like welding with finesse,” he says. “It makes me feel better that I can still do something artistic.”

While Vic has considered selling his work, he finds that he enjoys gifting his pieces to friends and family. He hopes to do bigger, more detailed works in the future. For now, Vic is thankful that Craig showed him that he can still do something. He says this new hobby keeps him busy and keeps his brain occupied.

“It keeps me from being down, and it’s given me a purpose again,” he says. “I’m so grateful.”

Vic Castillo stained glass productions