Wednesday, April 15, 2009

So You Think You Might Like: Glass Artistry

Interested in glass? Listen up. Julia Wolf is a glass artist residing in Chicago. She received her BFA as a glass major from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 2007. In college Julia kept a torch in the basement of our house after discovering a niche market for lampworking* among students. Happily she now has access to a more sophisticated clientele, and can make/sell whatever artful thing she desires. She can also do just about anything with ceramics and metals. Just don’t ask her to make you any trippy lampwork.* Julia's pieces may be seen at
(*I am of course using “lampwork” to mean “bongs.”)

F***ART: Was there a particular experience that made you want to work with glass?
JW: Well, I suppose I was always just drawn to glass. I started in Ceramics, and although I loved making the objects with my hands, I found the standard colors to be more subdued and muted. I saw how bright, shiny and even translucent glass was in comparison and was hooked. Usually when I am asked this question (about why I love glass) I always tell this story: My Grandmother has a set of Mexican made handblown glasses with bubbles and a blue rim at the top. When I was little I was drinking out of those glasses and told my Mom “ Some day I will make these!” My mom remembered that, and she thinks it’s really funny that I really do make those now…

F***ART: Do your pieces tend to be more decorative, or functional?
JW: I like to mix the two. First and foremost it has to be interesting to look at. If that passes the test then I like to make it functional. I think that’s why I like making jewelry. You can go with any crazy idea but when you throw a hook on there it becomes functional!

F***ART: Only in a glass studio will you hear professional talk such as, “She’s got serious skills when it comes to necking and blowing, but she’s clumsy with the glory hole.” What goes on in the hot shop, and is it sexy?
JW: I suppose you could call it sexy. It’s not like I’m turned on by my ‘blow partner’ telling me to blow harder. But it is a really hot and exotic material. I suppose that can make it sexy. People new to glass always say watching people in the hot shop is like watching a ballet, only instead of tutus and tights you see hot steel poles holding molten glass at the end. It really is like a dance. Everyone has to work together to make one object, moving throughout the room making sure not to bump into and subsequently burn the other people.

F***ART: How would you rate the glass department at UIUC, as compared with other programs?
JW:What UIUC glass program? *

F***ART: What kind of facilities and tools must an urban glass artist have at her disposal?
JW: Well I would recommend access to a studio where you can assist for your own blow time. Otherwise it gets really, really expensive. I personally like working on the torch because once you purchase that and the excess tools, and glass, and find a space in which to work, it’s much cheaper.

F***ART: What other kinds of jobs can be had by a glass-trained artist?
JW: I’m not sure. If you find any out please let me know!

F***ART: Anything else to add?
JW:Get a life Emily! Haha jk**

*Author’s note: the UIUC glass program was closed and the faculty disbanded in 2007, with Julia Wolf being the program’s omega graduate. The printmaking program was closed the previous year. Currently there is also talk of consolidating the sculpture and painting departments into one small “studio arts program” to make more funds available for the graphic and industrial design program. I’d call this a serious bullshit alert… shame on you, UIUC.
**Your mom, Jules!

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