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The Glass Master–Charles Lowrie [Gallery & Video]

Artist Charles Lowrie creates a complex variety of glass art pieces much like his predecessors did a couple thousand years ago. The tools of the trade are almost the same, and the use of fire to melt and then mold the glass remains constant. And although the final product is a delicate masterpiece, the dance between the artist, his archaic tools and fiery medium is one that takes strength, patience and practice. After spending some time with Charles, I found out that it also takes a deeper bond between the artist, his environment and himself before that work is finally mastered.

“My work is basically derived from quieting my mind, mostly, and getting deeper inside of myself and seeing everyday metaphors in life, and drawing from that an inspiration,” he explained, as we sat outside of the Green VI Glass Studio in Cane Garden Bay. “I really put all of my heart and all of my soul into this.”

The Oregon native and longtime Hawaii resident came to the Virgin Islands in February as an artisan resident at Maho Bay Resort in St John, and has also shared some time and work at the glass studio in Cane Garden Bay on Tortola. As a visiting artist, he has worked with VI glassblowers to create work inspired by the local environment—dolphins jumping from water, a crab in mid-clamp, a frog suctioned to a dew dropped leaf. He has also worked on personal projects, including a 10-year project called Transcension, which focuses on pieces that illustrate a deeper conciseness and understanding. These multi-layered sculptures use depth, dimensions, color and magnification to invite the viewers on a complex visual journey. He soon hopes to amass 33 collaborated pieces and embark on an international museum tour where visitors will find themselves in “a complete environment you’re transformed to before you leave.”

Early in Charles’ voyage to become a master artist, he found himself inspired by the beauties of Oregon farm life. Eventually, he developed an interest in music and the arts. His journey took him in search of balance in his life, and eventually led him into a vested interest in glass art. His fascination brought him to the studios of various masters under whom he apprenticed and collaborated. His ultimate learning experience would be presented to him in 1998, when he had the opportunity to meet and assist Maestro Pino Signoretto, a widely celebrated and accomplished Italian artisan. Five years of work and study under Maestro Signoretto taught Charles priceless lessons in focus, balance and connectivity between his visions and the medium.

Charles said his time here in the Virgin Islands has not only allowed him to impart his teachings on local artists, but to also channel his surrounding and learn from new working environments. During his time at Green VI Glass Studio, which functions with the use of recycled glass bottles, Charles admitted the melted glass material was new and challenging to that which he is used to.

“This glass is formulated to come out of the furnace and whatever form it’s in, it’s going to want to freeze there,” he said of the recycled glass, which is mainly comprised of beer bottles. “So, to coax it into some of these living sculptures I’m working with—this fluid movement—it’s been challenging. But glass is glass; I just listen to it and balance it.”

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While Charles’ recent visit could be seen as short-lived, the versed artisan said he fully intends to come back.

“I see myself coming out here—throughout the years, throughout the rest of my life—sharing what I do and letting others share what they do,” he said. “That’s the spice of life.”

View Charles’ work from the Transcension project:

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