Women in Lighting

Your Interview Julie Conway

Introduce yourself (name, company, position, country) and tell us how you got into lighting design (including education/qualifications).

Hello! My name is Julie Conway, I am an American glassblower and lighting designer based in Seattle, Washington, USA.

I am the owner of Illuminata Art Glass Design and the founder of LUMi Collection my new ready-made design series.
For 23+ years I have dedicated my glass practice to creating not only challenging pieces of blown glass, but utilize them in ways to create illuminated environments, and focal points of interior architecture. I seek to make a transcendent experience through glass and light.

I studied art as an international student at the University Avignon, France. I absolutely fell in love with the handmade quality of literally everything in Europe. And visiting the old castles with the hundreds-year old glass chandeliers... It was planting the seeds for a future in Lighting. Everything had a craft person behind it, a story, a tradition, some thing that America does not have.

Although I was studying art, I realize that it was craft and making things for a function when I really came alive. And when I found glass, it was the material that literally took my breath away. Light through glass — my medium, now my soul can express itself! The mission of my studio— “To bring light and beauty to the world”. 


From one project to the next, I have built my studio & expertise on lighting and glass from years of experience, and support of clients. I studied with glass masters from all over the world, but was lucky enough to be invited several times to Murano in Venice, Italy. My training with glass masters gave me a history of the traditions with which I meld my modern design aesthetic. 


I love this material! It was only then that I connected my absolute passion for light. The desire to create beautiful ambience and environments with light to effect mood and space became the goal via the glass medium.

After 2 decades of bridging art & design in my studio, I have now received several lighting awards, artist opportunities for exhibitions, and the honor to have my works commissioned in custom luxury residences, public spaces, and high-end hospitality locations.

Tell us about your work – is there a specific type of project you like to work on or an area you specialise in and why?

I am known for lighting and glass and feature functional work in hotels bars museums and homes. I love the challenge of suspension and the engineering for chandeliers, and architectural installations. I thrive being involved in collaboration with architect/designer/hospitality projects. I’m not afraid to go big!

Green design is very important to me! I currently partner with a glass studio in Mexico making my designs from 100% recycled glass and made from glass furnaces fueled by vegetable oil. I have lived off the grid, driven a hydrogen-powered vehicle and currently live in a green design home in Seattle.

Collaborations with designers or other creative people usually results in something fantastic that would never have happened otherwise. Call me to collaborate! I love travel, speak foreign languages and love design adventure. 


Lighting up a piece of glass for the first time is my most spectacular moment in the studio! Bringing a design from colored pencil on paper to blown glass, it is still not complete until it is drilled polished and assembled with lighting components. Then BAM(!) the light turns on and the entire room changes! I still get goosebumps every time. Light is just so amazing, and using glass to refracted, reflect it, band, cause diffusion, magnify it, all the amazing things, I just can’t stop! It is so inspiring. 


What project are you most proud of and why?

2 moments of accomplishment come up for me to share. Recently, I attended the Glass Art Society conference in Murano, Italy where I learned to blow glass. I also was able to display my illuminated glasswork in a collaborative gallery show with 3 of my Italian glass maestri and other world-class artists in the LUXE LUMEN exhibition during the 2018 Venice Biennale. Full Circle!

My other moment of pride was witnessing my glassworks commissions bringing work to so many other people. It made me so happy to take a large-scale hospitality commission for DinTai Fung, a Michelin star restaurant. The extra large glass globes, were made in in the Museum of Glass, and I was able to employ 10 glassblowers, metal fabricators, glass coldworkers, installers, and multiple electricians alongside myself to build a stellar team! 


What is the biggest challenge that you have overcome in your career?

I have overcome challenges of expectation, creating my own path in a world of glassmakers dominated by men, architecture dominated by men, lighting designers dominated by men. It definitely makes us stronger to forge our way as a woman, I always seek ways to create opportunity for growth and experiences. Men have also given me several opportunities and I look to create work to inspire for everyone.

Other challenges are in the glassmaking environment. Every single year the cost of fuel and materials increases, fossil fuels are limited, and studios are closing worldwide. In the art market, glass is less valued than bronze and much more breakable.

Another HUGE challenge for me is the loss of incandescent lamps in the industry! Not only does LED not enliven glass with its natural sparkle - LED can make glass Dull and lifeless. I am DESPERATELY seeking a lighting partner that can help develop the newest generation of light bulbs that can be energy-efficient + sparkle! Help me! 


How does light inspire you?

I sometimes would consider myself more of a light artist than a glass artist. Inspired often by nature, and phenomena such as raindrops falling in sunlight, or sunshine glinting off water, or a shimmering skyscraper. I cannot get enough! Light makes us feel bigger than we are, and can lead us to inspiration. It transcends. 


What is your message for other Women In Lighting?

I am thrilled to find this group and so many inspiring ladies that share my passion! If anyone ever wants to chat (vid call) or studio visit, you are more than welcome! I always enjoy conversations about lighting and inspirational projects. I also am open to sharing troubleshooting, collaborating and am here for support in our group. Sparkle on!

Lives in:
Seattle, WA
Born in:
Denver, CO
Qualifications:
24 years glassmaking in 6 countries, Commissions for custom Lighting Installations for 20 years
Started working with light in:
Santa Fe, NM 2001
Offices worked at:
ILLUMINATA ART GLASS DESIGN studios
Now works at:
ILLUMINATA ART GLASS DESIGN studios
As well as being:
glassblower, lighting designer, installer, world traveler, speaks 4 languages, light artist, product designer, tequila lover
Professional membership:
Glass Art Society, Northwest Designer Craftsmen
Has been awarded:
LIT (Light in Theory) Awards 2020 Product Design, SERAFINA table lamp, Gray Magazine Awards, Editor's choice: Product Design SERAFINA table Lamp
LIT Awards 2018 Winner Artisan Blown Glass,
Honorable Mention, Chandelier Design
Honorable Mention Pendant Light
Juror Choice Award 2014
Loves:
world travel, ancient cultures, meeting friends from all over the world, glassblowing, tequila

“I still get goosebumps every time. Light is just so amazing, and using glass to refracted, reflect it, band, cause diffusion, magnify it, all the amazing things, I just can’t stop! It is so inspiring.”

Selected portfolio:

FracTur(ed) installation at the Bellevue Arts Museum   LIT Awards (Light in theory)  winner  2018 Navicella Blown Glass with Mirror Copper DetailsJulie blowing glass in the hotshop furnaceLarge scale blown glass chandelier , 35' x 7' x 5' hospitality installation for Din Tai Fung Gabbietta Chandelier - Blown Glass Outdoor Living Space Chandelier

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