In a time of darkness, Julie Conway relies upon her studio practice for survival, but also as a means of sharing sparkle, beauty and light with the rest of the world. A glass artist and lighting designer, she founded Illuminata Art Glass Design LLC to offer bespoke, luxurious custom lighting designed to amplify molten glass and its abilities to refract and reflect light. Named in homage to the Italian Renaissance thinkers and artists who expanded public consciousness, Illuminata currently offers a new version of enlightenment for the masses.
Says Conway: “We are dealing with grief, emotions, change, and finding life routines. There have been some solitary days in the studio. I put my time into some deep designing and launching new content on my new readymade website. My team and I have returned to blowing glass in limited capacity with a few extra juggling steps, but I am so happy to be back producing glass and installing new commissions. For me, it has been so important to have my studio practice. Getting lost in creative projects has now become a mode of survival. I feel that we must continue to find things that inspire us. The only way through is through. Feel the light. It is here for us.”
A passionate collaborator, Conway works closely with architects, designers and clients to create extraordinary hand-made, illuminated glassworks. She conceives all site-specific original designs and executes their fabrication in the hotshop with her team. Crafting the suspension systems, creating the blueprints for armatures, and integrating the technical electrical components are all part of her process. By communicating and coordinating with teams of electricians, installers, architects, designers and clients, her artistic vision is achieved. Merging concepts of art installation with functional design, spaces are transformed by light.
She says: “Light is fascination, attraction, a beacon, it is life. Light travels for eons before our existence. We see it after the millennia have past and the fleeting moment is gone.”
Beginning in 1997 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Conway took her first steps on the pathway to glass working as an apprentice for three and a half years alongside a glass production artist. From 2003 to 2011, she served as a class organizer, teaching assistant and Italian translator for various glassmaking classes on the island of Murano. Subsequently, she spent years teaching glassblowing and flameworking herself at Public Glass, San Francisco, and Pratt Fine Arts, Seattle. In addition to lighting, Conway creates glass jewelry, small sculpture and Christmas ornaments from her workspace within Seattle’s Equinox Studio, a nexus of collaboration where artists often contribute to each other’s projects and have renter equity in a collection of industrial buildings.
Recent awards include Conway’s selection as the 2017/ 2018 Visiting Artist for Motif Seattle, a hotel that blends its identity to the vision of an area artist on a rotating basis. In 2018, the artist participated in LuxLumen, an art glass lighting exhibition for Berengo Studio and Gallery, shown during the Venice Biennale in Murano. Her work FracTur(ed), exhibited at Glasstastic, the Bellevue Arts Museum Glass Biennial exhibition, won the global lighting award from Light in Theory. In 2019, she designed, created and installed chandeliers at SeaTac Airport and Din Tai Fung in Seattle.
In 2007, Conway founded BioGlass, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the efficiency of glass studios and glass making practices, and disseminating the latest information on the best practices to lower energy usage in glass studios. On a recent trip to Mexico, the artist began a collaboration project for her new LUMI Collection, making products from recycled glass and using a biofuels furnace with zero carbon footprint.
Conway’s work evolved outside of the gallery scene due to the functionality of glass lighting. Instead, her illuminated installations adorn luxury hotels, bars, restaurants, award-winning homes and museum exhibitions. The Illuminata collection is an intentional juxtaposition of elegant blown glass forms and industrial elements surrounding patterns of light and shadow unique to Conway’s artistic expression, merging concepts of art installation with functional design. The result is the transformation of space via light.