Francis Hilario and Hope Janelle Berninghausen of Philadelphia Neighborhoods caught up with a number of Northwest Philadelphia artists for an artist spotlight series this week. Today’s installment features glass artist Jim Loewer.
Working with glass wasn’t always on Jim Loewer’s radar. In fact, the artist, who has a degree in painting from the University of California and a degree in teaching from the University of South Carolina, had only been exposed to the world of glass through friends who were glassblowers.
“This was more a random set of occurrences. I kind of started out in college painting,” Loewer said, “then ended up teaching and then ended up doing this.”
Loewer’s line of work is called lampworking, a type of glasswork in which a torch or lamp is used to melt glass as opposed to glassblowing which uses a furnace and a glory hole.
After being exposed to glass, the self-taught artist started his own company called Jim Loewer Glass Co., which is based in the Sherman Mills complex in East Falls.
Loewer said he believes that being self-taught, as well as pulling from his background in painting, has given him knowledge that those who went through school might not have.
“[If you go to school,] you might end up with a certain set of techniques that you imagine you should follow,” Loewer said. “Kind of like, ‘This is what other famous or fancy glassblowers have done and I aspire to do that.’ I didn’t go that route. I like painting [and was] more influenced by that than any kind of any education in glass or any other glassblowers that I had seen.”
Some of the techniques that Loewer said set him apart from others include the coloring of the glass as well as making large pieces with the torch, which is typically used to make small and intricate items such as beads.
Since starting his own business seven years ago, Loewer has provided work for companies such as UncommonGoods and Anthropologie.
Loewer said working with big companies hasn’t compromised his artistry or controlled his career path. Instead, he said he believes that it has helped him grow as an artist.
“The UncommonGoods catalogue just ordered a couple of these heart-shaped bowls. I’m not sure if I would just make a heart-shaped bowl on my own,” Loewer said, “but I feel like I’ve grown with the places that buy from me. I kind of feel like I’ve made stuff that they like and it’s kind of engrained in me a little bit.”
As for the future, Loewer said he would like to expand his company and hire glassblowers to work on pieces so that he can focus on combining glass with his background in art.
“I feel pretty lucky and happy to be making a decent living making the stuff I make,” Loewer said, “but I’m interested in kind of bringing in my initial interest in fine art from painting into glass and doing a little more installation, abstract or meaningful work.”