"I want my glass to stop conversations, and then provoke long discussions."
For 20 years, James McKelvey has worked to capture the magic of glass in his art. As chairman of the world's largest gathering of glass artists in 2006, he strove to surprise and challenge other artists with his innovative glass faucets. Demand for the faucets proved so strong that McKelvey and a team of artists and engineers spent the next nine months perfecting his design.
Creating functional art is a great challenge for an artist/engineer. Each of McKelvey's faucets is shaped by hand from a tube of molten glass. For every four attempts, only one faucet is accepted. It is then cut, polished, tempered, and assembled using materials so pure that the FDA approves them for implantation into the body. This patented design is like nothing else in the world.
McKelvey began blowing glass as an undergraduate engineer at Washington University in 1986. Upon graduation, he supported himself as a glass blower while he established Mira Digital Publishing, splitting his time between the corporate and art worlds.
He has studied with dozens of artists but was primarily influenced by the Italian techniques of Lino Tagliapietra and his disciples. "Before there were good classes and textbooks, apprenticing was the only way to learn, so I spent years traveling and working with artists all over the world. I spent many days working with people with whom I couldn't even converse."
McKelvey has taught glass blowing at Washington University's Art School and Glen Echo National Park in Maryland and presented several workshops in the U.S. and Asia. His work has been exhibited nationally and three galleries represent him.
In the fall of 2001 he co-founded the Third Degree Glass Factory. At Third Degree, McKelvey teaches classes for the Washington University College program. He developed the basic curriculum used in all Third Degree courses and in 2006 wrote The Art of Fire: Beginning Glassblowing, a textbook used for classes at Third Degree as well as at colleges around the world. He's also produced a 4-disc DVD set that complements The Art of Fire and brings an additional dimension to learning glass blowing.