A Glass Act
The Corning Gaffer District’s GlassFest 2017 on Memorial Day weekend will have something new in this, its eighth year—a featured artist who will take glass art lovers on a tour of five galleries where some of her works will be on display and available for sale.
This is not just any artist. Julie Conway is a world-renowned designer and creator of pieces, both large and small, which feature the effects of light and shadow reflected by and refracted through glass. She’s the owner and designer of Illuminata Art Glass Design (www.illuminataglass.com) in Seattle, Washington, and she’s as excited to be a part of GlassFest as organizers are to have her here.
“I’m beyond ecstatic,” Julie says. “I could not be more excited or more honored. is is a fabulous opportunity to be included in the Corning world of making, inventing, collecting, and archiving the amazing element of glass.”
The free festival, on and around Market Street, is billed as four days of glassmaking demonstrations, music, arts and crafts vendors, shopping, and food. GlassFest lineup includes glassblowing demonstrations in Centerway Square on Saturday and Sunday, a reworks display Saturday night, and—now—a strolling artist.
“We’re so pleased that we’re going to have an artist of that caliber for our first featured artist,” says Coleen Fabrizi, executive director of the Corning Gaffer District, the event organizer. She explains the strolling artist concept: Julie will lead a walking tour of the District’s galleries and will also participate in other festival activities during the weekend. The stroll is scheduled to start at about 8 p.m. on opening day, Thursday, May 25, at Gustin’s Goldsmiths at 71 E. Market Street, then to the Rockwell Museum on Cedar Street, then back to Market Street to the West End Gallery and Segwick Interiors, culminating in a reception at the Arts Council of the Finger Lakes, where Julie will have time to give a longer talk.
Julie’s Saturday duties include serving as guest artist for a demonstration at 4 p.m. at the Vitrix Hot Glass Studio at 77 W. Market Street.
There’s growing anticipation at all the sites awaiting her visit. Jesse Gardner and her husband John—who own West End Gallery, celebrating its fortieth anniversary this year—say they have watched GlassFest grow over the years, and believe Julie’s visit will make this one extra special.
“We’re excited and honored to be part of that,” says Jesse.
Coleen met Julie Conway last year, when the artist was enjoying her first visit to the Crystal City, and moved quickly to book her for this year’s event.
“We had always wanted to have some sort of an exhibit of glass with a featured artist here in the district,” Coleen says. “This just seemed like a wonderful opportunity.”
Julie, for her part, calls Corning “one of the glass meccas” and says it was a thrill to visit the city for the first time.
“Last year I was so excited when I got to go there,” she relates. “I was blown away. I was actually in tears a couple of times (at the Corning Museum of Glass).”
Julie had always been interested in art but didn’t get into working with glass until 1997, when she was twenty-six years old and had already established herself as a designer and maker of jewelry. Her creations were displayed and sold in museums and gift shops.
She grew up in Denver and majored in art history and French at Colorado State University, and had also studied art history at the University of Avignon in
France. She continued to study and work with masters in France, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and the United States to develop and refine her techniques.
In 1997 she opened a studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she lived at the time. She took the name Illuminata Art Glass Design “from the Italian Renaissance group of thinkers and artists who expanded consciousness and brought enlightenment to the public” and have inspired and influenced her work. Then, about five years ago, Julie moved herself and the studio to Seattle, which has a large and vibrant art glassmaking community. She now produces projects for corporate clients and private collectors all over the world, including chandeliers and other large pieces for hotels, restaurants, museums, and individuals. Her clients include the Four Seasons and Hilton hotels and the Walt Disney Epcot Center. Just recently, chandeliers she designed and produced for Google were installed at that company’s headquarters in Kirkland, Washington.
Julie has earned numerous industry awards for design, lighting, and artistic accomplishment, and she is in demand as a speaker (and now as a strolling artist) across the country. She has exhibited throughout the United States and abroad.
Green is her new favorite color, Julie says, green as in low-energy LED components that she uses in many of her projects. She is a founder of BioGlass (www.bioglass.org), a small nonprofit dedicated to “the advancement of using sustainable fuel sources and recuperation techniques” in glass studios.
“Currently, the sustainability and future of this ancient art form is in crisis due to fossil fuels, cost of operations, and loss of centuries of technique,” she explains. She is part of an international group of artists who are spreading that message all over the world.
Locally, Julie will help make GlassFest bigger than ever this year, Coleen says. But “it’s not necessarily that it’s bigger—it’s always huge—but we always keep the very best and try to add new elements every year. I never wanted it to be one of those festivals where people feel if you’ve seen it once you don’t need to go back. We’ve always got something new and exciting to experience.”
And this year it’s Julie Conway.