Glass blower captivated by creative process

Bruce Stowell practices his alchemy in a studio set in his serene avocado grove. There, he coaxes and cajoles molten glass into stunning works of functional art: vases, lamps, martini glasses or goblets.The work is grueling.

Temperatures in his two furnaces can soar to 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit.

"A lot of people try glass blowing and quit because they can't deal with the heat," Stowell said.

He has not only persevered but continues to be excited and energized by the medium. He has been a professional glass blower since 1987.

"It's very magical. I'm still captivated," he said. "The potential in glass is unlimited. It's been barely touched."

Stowell imbues his lead-free creations with delicate, abstract swirls of color, lip wrap and a lustrous sheen. His works can be found in galleries in Arizona, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin and in private collections.

His inspiration comes from his medium.

"I'm still fascinated by the liquid form of glass that takes shape and character as I work with it," he said.

Stowell, 53, grew up in the Los Angeles area and moved to Fallbrook in 1976. Like many other North County glass artists, his introduction to the medium was through Palomar College's acclaimed glass-blowing program.

On his first visit to Palomar, Stowell, then a Montessori school teacher, was an onlooker, watching a friend who was taking the class.

But it didn't take long for him to become captivated.

"I just sat there for hours watching them and signed up for a class," he said.

It was the beginning of the journey. Stowell studied at Palomar for four years while he worked his way up to become a ceramics assistant. He later earned a master's degree in fine arts in ceramics and glass from California State University Fullerton.

The education helped him develop his artistry as well as his expertise in using furnaces and other equipment.

"The education took away fears and forced me, and still does, to experiment with design and function," he said.

Twice in the early 1980s, Stowell tried to set up studios with a few friends. But the cost of fuel proved too prohibitive for the artists who were just starting out.

Stowell established his Glass Triangle Studio about 18 years ago. Since then, the flames in his two furnaces have burned without interruption, consuming about 1,200 gallons of propane a month.

The left-handed artist has an array of tools for his needs: jacks that resemble giant tweezers, graphite paddles and wood blocks. Scattered around the studio are stainless-steel blowpipes; wads of wet newspaper, which he uses to shape glass; and cranberry-, gold-and cobalt-colored glass.

Stowell's wife, Holly, is a painter. The couple often travel to art shows together, and they host an art sale in their home every December.

"Art surrounds us, and we love to embrace it," Stowell said. "We are blessed to live out our dreams."

600450 Glass blower captivated by creative process

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