Art Glass by Kevin O'Grady
Kevin O'Grady began lampworking glass in 1989 while living in Santa Fe. His prior experience as a silversmith and lapidary artist helped him to quickly develop his lampworking skills. Working glass in a flame is more than Kevin's favorite artistic medium, it is his passion.
Primarily known for his beautiful glass bracelets and collectible marbles, Kevin is also accomplished in making beads, small platters and vessels. Kevin is also well known for his detailed mastering of borosilicate murine. Murrini canes are detailed "pictures" in glass which date back to the Romans, but which the Italians are famous for perfecting over 200 years ago. Making murrini in borosilicate glass is especially challenging due to the hardness of the glass. Kevin was one of the first to pioneer this technique in borosilicate and has murrini canes in the Corning Museum of Glass. Every piece Kevin makes is signed and dated with his exclusive signature cane.
Kevin's work has been published in both print and video and has been featured in magazines including "Ornament", "Bead and Button" and "Lapidary Journal". His marbles are also featured in the book Contemporary Marbles and Related Art Glass by Mark Block.
“I am an independent glass artist who works borosilicate glass rods over an open flame, often called a lamp worker or torch worker. I use a surface mix torch, which uses propane and liquid oxygen to produce a flame hot enough to work hard glass, or borosilicate. The required working temperature of borosilicate is approximately 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Borosilicate is more commonly known as Pyrex and is a very strong and durable glass. The color palette commonly available in borosilicate is very limited and dull. I have perfected mixing techniques that enable me to create vivid and beautiful colors previously unknown in borosilicate glass. Many of my techniques are self taught.
“Each one of my pieces is a one of a kind, signed, hand worked original made solely by me using no apprentices. My inspiration for colors and designs come mostly from nature. Such things are feathers and water as well as flowers and galactic stars can be seen in my work. Artists such as Monet, Escher and Matisse also inspire me.
“I started making marbles in 1993. In the winter of ‘93 Lewis Wilson and I were in Quartzsite, Arizona attending a rock and mineral show where we met Mark Capel and his father Jerry Capel. Mark, his father, and Lewis were “old school” boro workers making “carnival” glass objects. Lewis had just started to make his bead making videos and was very interested in teaching lampworking. I had already set up a successful business of making glass bracelets. This is how we struck up a relationship with Mark and his father. In the evenings after the shows, we spent time playing on the torch where Mark showed us how he was making marbles. To my knowledge, Mark was the first to make lamp worked borosilicate marbles, an idea which he shared with Lewis and me on those crazy nights in Quartzsite. I was fascinated by what Mark had showed me and I was hooked on the challenge of making marbles. That year I experimented and made hundreds of different kinds of marbles. I made everything from pinwheel designs to dichroic galaxies, to ribbons and more. I attempted to do a face cane marble. That first, rather crude, face cane is now part of the Corning Glass Museums’ collection. In 1993, inspired by the Hulet sisters face cane marbles, I attempted to achieve the same thing in borosilicate and struggled with success. While trying to put the cane into the marble without distortion, I kept pulling the cane to the back of the marble to straighten it out, what I discovered was the early version of the vortex. Over the years I taught and demonstrated the vortex technique which now has become a borosilicate “standard”.
“I learned to love working glass while employed by Ann Miller Wearable Glass in Santa Fe, New Mexico in the late 80’s. It was with her initial bracelet making instruction that I found my passion. I soon left her company to explore all the ideas in my head. I have since built my business and reputation on my unique glass cuff bracelets. But those early days in dusty Quartzsite, making marbles with Mark and Lewis under that moonlit desert sky have always haunted me and I have continued to chase my marble dreams.”
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June 14, 2017.
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