We talked to artist Jem Glass about her career as a glassblower and the unique aesthetic style that comes out in her work. When she was growing up Jem Glass always liked art, and as she reached adulthood she sought to harness her artistic ability and make a career out of it. She attended a local community college to study art, and it was around this time that Jem Glass' then-boyfriend noticed that Hobby Lobby was selling a beadmaking kit with a small torch and the basic supplies needed to get started in beadmaking. Jem Glass purchased the kit and used it to learn the fundamental soft glass techniques that are utilized in beadmaking.
As Jem Glass' interest in glass grew, she bought bigger torch and began to learn techniques for making glass pipes as she was a regular cannabis user. During this time she was getting a lot of her instruction from tutorial videos online, and eventually she purchased Bandhu Dunham's instructional book series "Contemporary Lampworking." These resources gave Jem Glass the knowledge to make her first glass cannabis pipes, and as her skills continued to grow Jem Glass got serious about her work and began attending courses through Iowa State University where she learned more challenging techniques from figures like John Miller and John Moran.
At Iowa State University, Jem Glass learned the artistic techniques that would be crucial to her career as a glass artist. Much of the work that she did at ISU was "hot shop" glassblowing, a term used to describe the traditional lampworking method that utilizes large furnaces instead of the small table top torches familiar to most cannabis glass artists. The raw materials that were available to Jem Glass at the college were typically scraps of thin-walled scientific glass. After graduating from her ISU courses, Jem Glass continued to refine her talents and expand her knowledge by taking classes outside of school. She took classes from Eric Ross and Eusheen at Everest Tubes in Elizabeth, Illinois, and she even got a one week scholarship to attend classes at the prestigious Corning Glass Museum where Jem Glass received instruction from Suellen Fowler.
Now Jem Glass is blossoming as a glass artist with a unique sense of color and aesthetic style. She describes much of her work as "scenery", often finding certain themes that she likes and running with them throughout a piece or through multiple pieces. The pipe pictured above is a perfect example of one of Jem Glass' scene pieces, with layers of imagery that create a setting which captures a mood or emotion. Jem Glass often starts creating a scene by arranging the colors that she intends to use first, carefully orienting them in specific ways when she pulls her initial vac-stack tubing.
Jem Glass' scenes and color choices stand out among the industry, with a level of detail and artistic direction rarely seen among any but the best glass artists. Jem Glass has even done gallery installation pieces that utilized hundreds if not thousands of individual glass pieces, and she is always pushing the limits of her own abilities in her production work and artistic work. In the future Jem Glass is planning to do a series of collaborations with some old shop mates in October of this year, and she intends to focus less on production work and more on her artistic creations, but first she needs to learn and refine new techniques to achieve her vision. You can see more of her amazing work over at the Jem Glass Instagram page.