James Alloway Interview
All Pictures are courtesy of Alloway Art Glass
- Having read your bio, it seems awfully strange how a "gear
head" building hot rods, becomes a renowned glass artist. Is there
any similarities between the two?
A - Building motors involves perfection...so does working with glass.
I took all of my skills from working with motors, (i.e., electrical,
welding, refrigeration/heating) and applied them to constructing my own
studio which allowed me to start working with glass
Q - Do you have any "hot rods" today
that you tool around the streets of Portland in?
A - I have the "Family Pet," a 1974 Ford F 250 Camper Special
that has a rebuilt engine, a "Future Beauty" 1969 Chevy Nova
that I put a 350 4 speed in to, and the new to me baby.... A 2000 BMW
323i, which is named "Goldmember." The BMW has the sport
package so I get to "enjoy" driving in this little beauty.
The Nova has the potential to be a "hot rod" in the future....
love to hear those tires screech! The gearshift in the Nova is a
spiraling blue orb that I made :0)
Q - A back injury pointed you in a different
direction from your days as an auto mechanic, were your early
ideas concerning glass more along the lines of a hobby?
A - I actually started with stained glass which evolved in to fused
glass as a hobby to keep me from getting bored as I mended from my back
injury. I continued to reminisce about my early trip to Colonial
Jamestown, I was intrigued about furnace glass. I took one class
and then came home and built a studio in my garage. My father
owned his own business, so I knew that I wanted to do the same.
When I had the studio ready, I then attended the school of hard knocks,
burns and cuts and worked on perfecting my skills. After the
furnace was fired up it went from a hobby to an obsession.
Q - Did you ever envision becoming a Master Glass
A - Someday, I hope to achieve that status. There still is so much
that I would like to learn, I realize that it will take a lifetime.
Glass has a way of keeping you humble, if you think you are good, just
add one more gather of glass and try again. It is all about
practice, practice, practice.
Q - Are there any other artisans in your family
tree? Any future artists?
A - I have a 14 year old daughter, Shanna. She is very artistic
and has done very well in the classes that she has taken in school.
It still a bit too early to tell if she will channel this in to anything
to do with glass.
Q - What became of your early glassblowing pieces?
For example, were you immediately selling your wares?
A - When I started I had the discard pile directly next to the opening
to the glory-hole. This pile went from waist high to having
nothing there, I knew that I was on the right track by watching this
pile dwindle. I gave many of my early pieces to friends and
family, I’ve managed to sell almost everything or I’ve had to
pay to have it taken away.
Q - Did your early obsession with glass go over
well at the house? I mean, a studio in the garage after a few classes of
glassblowing wouldn't go over too well at my house. Were your talents
obvious at the time?
A - Actually it was exactly the opposite, by working from home making
art glass, I was able to help raise my daughter. It actually came
to me easily when I first started working with glass. With glass
you’ve either got it from the start or you don’t. I
can’t really say if my talents were obvious, I just knew that I wanted
to be good at this and to be good meant that I could pay the bills from
Q - How long have you been working with glass?
A - I started working with furnace glass in 1987, 15 years and counting.
Q - This seems like a strange question, but have
you in the past, or are you planning in the future, to work with any
other medium? Maybe dabbling in ceramics or something?
A - I am not really interested in any other mediums. I have many
more things that I would like to do with glass, for instance I would
like to have a furnace with hot colors.
Q - You're self taught, does that mean you've made
a few...ahem.... mistakes along the way? Care to tell us about any?
A - Where do I start? I have made just about every mistake you can
make, many times over. You have to learn to be critical of your
own work and have a lot of patience. There are literally about 100
steps to making a marble and if you mess up on one step, your piece does
not turn out.
Q - Where did the idea of you making marbles
A - My friend Dan Wolf was selling items on eBay and he talked me in to
trying to sell my creations on eBay. He kept pushing me to try
marbles, but I only listened to the eBay part. After I started
selling paperweights on eBay one of my first patrons, Pat Sellars,
contacted me and asked me to make a perfectly round paperweight... after
seeing the reception that marbles received, the rest is
"history" so to speak.
Q - I've read where the craftsman of old would
pick up shards of glass at the "End of the Day" and make them
into large marbles for their kids. Did you have any similar experiences
where you came up with something whimsical just for fun?
A - Everything is fun for me when it comes to working with glass, at
least since I got away from production work. Working with
glass, you are always on the brink of disaster. Getting the glass
hot enough to work, you’re barely in control, it is a complete
Q - In your Bio it mentions the importance of
timing in regard to glassblowing, did you think your work in marbles
would become so valuable so quickly?
A - I had no idea that my marbles would receive the attention that they
are getting. It has been a pleasant surprise to me and it has been
very inspirational because of all of the positive feedback from my
clients. It really pushed me to try harder. I love all of
the competition, there are a lot of really talented artists out there.
I give some credit to eBay but a lot of credit to my girlfriend Carrie
who works at promoting my work.
Q - Any suggestions for the up and coming marble
maker? Is there a secret to success?
A - Practice and learn from your mistakes. Never compromise
quality and remember that your clients are what enable you to work with
Q - How about for the person who is thinking of
taking a few classes and putting together a studio in the ol' garage?
A - I say go get your head examined.....Have you heard the term
"glass junky"? It is addictive and expensive....having a
supportive network of family and friends would really help to keep you
Q - Can you put into words your creative process
in making beautiful glass art like marbles? Do you envision the end
result beforehand, or go with the flow and see what happens?
A - I used to just go with the flow a lot, but now I envision things
before I actually make them. The creative aspect is very
complicated, there are at least 100 steps to making a marble that go in
to the process. I don’t know what makes me creative, but I do
know what makes me NOT be creative. I have had minimal support for
years, the question of "when are you going to get a real job?"
was forever in my head. The direct positive feedback from my
clients has really been the necessary encouragement for developing my
Q- I love the names you have for your
marbles...."Gaffer's Revenge," "Parallel Universe,"
"Portland Psychedelic" and "Split Personality" to
mention a few. You seem to have a lighthearted view about your work, but
you obviously pay close attention to details, how do you do it?
A - Well...I can't play the guitar or sing. It is my love of
abusing the English language coming out in the names I create.
Honestly, I am a smart-alic at heart, I don't take anything too
seriously. I hold a new marble design in my hands and kick around
names until something makes me laugh. When you take things too
seriously, it takes the fun out of it. I am all about having fun.
Q- What are the steps involved in making a marble?
A - Every now and again a e-mail will come through complaining about the
prices that my creations get via the on-line auctions. Initially I
was offended, as there is a great deal of time and energy that goes in
to each marble that I make. Over time, I have come to the
conclusion that the people who have written to complain have not been
informed about what is involved in the marble making process. The
different pieces of cane that I create are a 2 day project in
themselves. I literally devote 2 days to making long sections of
the different cane designs, it looks like a rainbow on the table that I
have to hold the cane until I use it. Mixing and making the barium
crystal that I use is another days project. The actual process of
creating the marble and utilizing the different components that I have
crafted is anywhere from an hour to 2 hours depending on the size.
Finish work usually takes about an hour to an hour and a half depending
on size. Ed Schmid has a couple of books that I would highly
recommend called "Beginning Glassblowing," and "Advanced
Glassblowing Techniques." These are a fantastic source of
information. It is available from Olympic Color Rods, at www.olympiccolorrods.com.
Q - Where do you get your inspiration? Are you
influenced by other glass artists?
A - The artist that most influenced my work would be James Nowak.
As far as inspiration, being able to pay the bills is a good motivation.
Q - What's in store for the future of Alloway Art
Glass? Any new designs or projects you would like to share with us?
A - I have been blowing some larger pieces lately. I like to do a
variety of things, it keeps me from getting bored.
Q - Thank you for taking the time to talk with us
James, any parting words of wisdom?
A - Just remember that it takes a LOT of patience and time to work with
glass, don’t get discouraged and don’t give up.
How it Works |
Club News |
Chat Room |
Message Board |
Hall of Fame |
Copyright ©2002, Marbles-and-More.com.
All rights reserved.
Site design by Gateway Business Solutions.