James Wilbat Works

James Wilbat began to display his creativity as a youngster, studying watercolor and drawing as early as the 5th grade.  He continued his love of the arts at Illinois State University where he received a BS in Fine Arts in 1977.  Though he had concentrated on ceramics in undergraduate school, he was introduced to glass blowing his senior year, and he knew he had to learn this unusual craft.  He continued his studies at the University of Kansas, where he focused on learning the ancient art of glass blowing, and in 1980 he received a Master of Fine Art degree in Design.

James was fortunate to be able to study under numerous well-known glass blowers, including Joel Myers, Dan Daily, William Carlson and Vernon Brejcha.  He has developed his own unique style, which he describes as a combination of Old World Glass and contemporary design, reflecting his love of Abstract Expressionist painting.

James creates his colorful art works in series of steps.  He first produces a palette of colors to choose from by blowing large this plates of individual colors consisting of a layer of colored glass, a layer of white glass, and two layers of clear glass surrounding them.  These plates must be cooled overnight before they can become part of the actual piece he is making.  He next prepares the details for his pieces, including hollow cane, thin lines of colored glass and his signature twisty shapes, forming by fusing and twisting two strands of hot colored glass together.

Now that James has his color and detail pieces ready he can begin to blow a piece of his work.  He begins by selecting several colors from the plates he has already made, and cutting them into the desired shapes and sizes.  These shards are then placed into an oven and heated to 1000 degrees so that they will not shatter when they are being picked up.  With a 5 foot stainless steel hollow rod, called a blow-pipe, he gathers clear glass from a 150 pound tank of molten crystal, heated a at a constant 2200 degrees.  Gradually he builds up the layers on the end of the pipe, shaping the hot glass with specially carved cherrywood molds or folded wet newspaper, or by rolling it on a steel marver table.  The rod must be turned continually to prevent the glass from losing its shape.  When the glass on the rod is the desired size and shape, James picks up the pre-cut heated shards of color from the annealing oven and fuses them one at a time into the surface of the clear glass.  He keeps the piece he is working on at a constant temperature by frequently reheating it in a reheat chamber.  Next he fuses in the detail by picking them up from the steel table.  The piece is then blown and shaped, knocked off the blow-pipe, and placed into an annealing oven which is approximately 900 degrees, where it will cool slowly overnight.  Once the piece is cooled it is ground and polished on several different grinding stones to smooth the bottom.  Some of the pieces are sandblasted, acid etched or cut and polished further.  Each piece James creates is signed and dated.  His work is available at numerous prestigious art galleries across the country.