By Craig Stocks / Photography by Craig Stocks
For Central Illinois artist Jeremie Draper, blowing glass is both an art and a form of dance. Each piece begins with an initial gather of glass from the 50 pounds of molten glass she maintains in her furnace. The dance starts as she rolls the molten glass blob into its first form. She then blows a strong puff of air to start the bubble, and twirls the pipe in a circle using centrifugal force to elongate the shape. The dance continues as she moves quickly but carefully between the reheat chamber and the bench where she expands and shapes the glass into a finished work of art.
Jeremie is a native of Pekin, Illinois. As a child, she would spend hours drawing or painting. On nice days, you might have seen her in the front yard with her easel. Other times, she’d leave the easel inside and draw right on the driveway with large, colorful sidewalk chalks. By high school, she was beginning to explore art more seriously, and knew that she wanted to spend her life pursuing art, both as an artist and as an educator.
After graduating from high school and Illinois Central College, Jeremie attended Southern Illinois University intending to study art education. As she explored a wide variety of mediums, she became captivated by fiber art and color. Eventually, she was attracted to glass. She decided to change her focus from fiber to glass after hanging around the glass studio to watch the graduate students. “When I took my first glass class I was bit by the bug.”
Jeremie loves the process of creating glass art. “There are no limits,” she says. “When you’re gathering glass, you’re the one creating something.” She also likes the intensity of the process. “You cannot walk away,” she said. “Unlike a painting where you can step back, glass is in the moment. You don’t have a second chance.”
Other than the furnaces required to heat the glass, the tools used in glass blowing are remarkably simple. Once the glass is heated, Jeremie uses very few tools to shape the glass. “It’s mostly using your breath of air, gravity and centrifugal force. It’s the simplicity of having a steel table, a couple pieces of wood, a bench to work at and your glass in hot form”
Jeremie loves to continue to challenge herself to learn new forms and skills. After spending time exploring the rock formations of the American Southwest desert in Utah, she was inspired to figure out how to recreate the look of layers of sedimentary rock. The result was her “Landscape” series where earth tone colors are applied in simple but striking bands circling around the piece.
The art of glass blowing has been around for centuries, but the studio art glass movement in the United States is rather young, generally credited to two artists in Toledo, Ohio. Prior to 1962, most glass work was done by teams of workers who relied on large industrial equipment to heat the glass. It was Harvey Littelton and Dominick Labino who devised the means to move glass to a smaller scale that could be managed by a single artist in their own studio. Since the movement is so young, Jeremie enjoys the opportunity to attend workshops taught by the pioneers of the movement in the US.
Besides creating her own art, Jeremie absolutely loves to teach. She will be holding an open house on Friday, November 9, 2012 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM. The public is welcome to take advantage of this free opportunity to see the process first hand. Jeremie will also be holding classes this fall where students will begin by making simple objects like paper weights and ornaments.
For more information, visit Jeremie’s website at www.echovalleyglass.com. Jeremie’s studio is located at 608 W. Garfield in Bartonville adjacent to Echo Valley Meats where she is the Catering and Events Coordinator. Her work can also be seen at The Moon Dancer Boutique Grand Prairie, Exhibit A Gallery in Junction City, and in her gallery by appointment.