We had the good fortune of connecting with glass artist & lighting designer Julie Conway and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Julie, what role has risk played in your life or career?

Risk — it is fundamental in a glass artist’s career. Risk is craved, essential, and why we (as an industry) are thrill-seekers. 
 The material: alchemical results of boiling sand, adding minerals for color, and creating a chemical balance of expanding and contracting material that is all a gas, liquid and solid in its various stages. Glass can break at anytime. It also brings incredible awe and wonder to the human experience.

The practice: Finished glass requires years of practice, literally blood, lots of sweat and many tears. The molten liquid is formed by my breath and shaped by hand. It is so exciting, dangerous, outrageous and primordial. Burns, cuts, broken pieces, broken hearts, loss in shipping, getting a final product delivered can be a roller coaster ride. The finished results are so satisfactory that we want to go back on the ride again!

The installation: Not only is making glass beyond challenging, but I take it to the next level by engineering and designing pieces to illuminate and suspend in residential locations or large public spaces. The install can be more intense or risky than the glassmaking.

The design: What will the market want? What do I want to make? All of my years of training, working my way through studios, keeping original, learning my own voice as an artist. Sustaining a studio, team and my career on original content and products can seem daunting and yet I would do nothing else.

The expense: meting silica with elements to create glass is a process few understand and can undertake. Running a glass furnace takes expertise, risk, cost, loss, massive infrastructure, and knowledge of the medium. A summer storm can wipe out a kiln load of finished work or a power outage can ruin 1000 lbs of fresh molten glass in the crucible.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
First off— nothing is easy. Especially in the world of glass. I think that’s what sets us apart from others. If we wanted it easy, we would not work in this medium. My steps to build my career were based on my financial situation. I worked several other jobs as an assistant for other artists, all the while building up my studio reputation and gaining my own clients. One thing that has set me apart is my pure addiction and fascination to light and how it refracts and reflects through glass. For years, galleries did not want to carry my work because it was not “art  it was “lighting”. That ended being ok with me because I needed to get paid for my work, and I set up a business creating custom lighting commissions working with designers and direct clients. In recent years galleries & museums embraced illuminated glass and I have had several exciting art light exhibitions.

I had the privilege of working for years with several glass maestri in Murano, the Venetian Glass Island in Italy. There I learned so much from their hundreds of years of tradition, and was invited back to keep learning, while forging my way as one of the few women that actually worked hot glass in Venice over the past 1000 years. It was some of the hardest work I ever did, and it took a lot to stand my ground as a woman in a man’s world. I am quite proud of this and still keep in touch with all of my Venetian teachers and friends. What’s the hype with wanting things easy?

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Seattle is a beautiful city gem known as the Emerald City. Sparkling Puget Sound, and lakes surround the city with mountain views including the majestic Mount Rainier…. (that is when it is NOT raining!) I love taking people on ferries to one of our surrounding islands in the sound and try to perhaps catch a glimpse of a whale, or enjoy the many local amazing foods including salmon, oysters, wine, cherries etc. Hikes are my favorite and we have so many options. Waterside, or on the mountains? We also have great music shows so hitting a show in a small venue is my favorite.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel des
Glassmaking is a 4000+ year lineage of heritage and invention. The mysterious history of glass has all been built on discovery of what someone else tried. My personal teachers and maestri come from the US, Italy, France, Spain, Turkey, Czech, Australia, and have all given me tricks of the trade for me to build my own career and express my voice through illuminated glass.  Blowing glass is a very limited and special industry and I have met my most favorite people through this challenging medium. Many thanks to so many others.  

Website: illuminataglass.com

Instagram: illuminataglass

Facebook: facebook.com/illuminataglass

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgOAPXhwtNA&t=3s

Other: Julie has launched another brand of her ready-made series called LUMi Collection Insta lumidesigncollection FB lumidesigncollection Web: www.lumidesigncollection.com https://www.seattletimes.com/pacific-nw-magazine/artist-glassmaker-lighting-designer-julie-conway-crafts-award-winning-works-of-architectural-illumination/

Image Credits
Photo 1 “FracTur(ed)” shown at Bellevue Arts Museum, photo: Alec Miller Photo 2 “Cascade” Madison, Wi photo: CJ Wessel Photo 3 “Gabbietta” photo: the artist Photo 4 “Raven” photo: Duncan Smith Photo 5 “Carrrefour” photo: the artist Photo 6 “Bubble” Din Tai Fung install photo: Martin Knowles Photo 7 “School” Sound Credit Union photo: the artist Photo 8 “Pioggia” Vancouver Convention Centre photo: the artist

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutMiami is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.