Life as we know it would not exist without light, yet in our day-to-day routines we hardly give it a thought. What we consider to be concrete material objects surrounding us, are only collective molecules at certain vibrations. And if that was not enough to wrap your brain around, those vibrations only reveal their unique colors to us because of the frequency at which these molecules occupy, and therefore absorb and reflect light. Then, if you thought your whole world was solid, as the basis of which you build your life foundation, it is known that we actually don’t see solid objects, but our brain interprets the light frequencies sent to it from the reflected objects! And you thought you just got up with the sun to start your busy day!
I work with light on a daily basis through my extraordinary career, as a glassblower. Only a selected few of us have opted to shape molten liquid with fire and our breath. Manipulating with glass in its molten form is liquid light. At its working temperature, 1130°C (2100°F) the light is a tool to measure temperature, viscosity, and density of the glass molecules. As the glass cools to become solid, light is then refracted and reflected through the form. Glass needs light. Its inherent quality bends and magnifies light. Its effects can bewilder the viewer, but they can also help us to understand the reflection and refraction that is going on around us all the time in our daily lives.
Glass, formed by accident in the deserts of North Africa several millennia ago, has been an alchemical fascination of our world for centuries. The mystery of how glass is made, and how it can be so fragile, yet so simultaneously strong, reminds me of humanity’s resilience and fragility. The human soul endures so much in a lifetime, and it is not a solid entity. We believe our world to be substantial, and formidable, yet below the surface, we find nothing but vibrations of molecules and frequencies of light.
The refraction of light rays is the bending of light as it changes from a lighter to denser medium. Glass both reflects light on its surface and refracts light through its material. I use these properties to design effects of lighting and create artistic effects with bent light rays.
My fascination with light, and how it affects the human experience drove me to the creation of art glass lighting installations. I want to use light to improve or alter the enviromental viewer’s experience. Creating tension with light and shadow, patterns of light and color, effect on mood and self reflection. My mission: to bring more light and beauty to the world.
The most primordial instinct of humans is to be drawn to light; it’s a symbol of safety security, well being in the heart and soul. Now think, the next time you awaken with the sun, how will you see the world?
Julie Conway is the owner and designer of ILLUMINATA ART GLASS DESIGN LLC. Her studio offers custom art glass lighting, and site-specific architectural installations. Julie’s first molten blob of glass was formed in 1997, and from there, she never looked back. Taking every opportunity to work as a studio assistant to learn glassmaking from American and European glass masters, she has dedicated her practice to refine traditional techniques with a contemporary design aesthetic. Julie incorporates hot glass, recycled glass, flameworking, reclaimed steel and energy-efficient lighting LEDs in her finished lighting installations. She is an environmental leader in the “green glass” community, and founder of BioGlass.org.