by Caroline Ridgway
“I looked at my watch and realized I had been there for six hours.” On a whim, Naples glass artist Conrad Williams attended a glassblowing demonstrating during his senior year of high school, and was immediately drawn to the alchemy of the artform. So motivated, in fact, that he submitted a proposal to his school to receive credit for an off-campus internship at the nearby studio. Thankfully for those who have benefitted from Conrad’s passion and skill, the school agreed.
As a student at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Conrad initially relegated his burgeoning interest to a hobby, until “reviewing my calendar, I noticed that any spare hour I had was spent in the studio. It was time to make the commitment to glassblowing.”
Williams transferred to the California College of the Arts to formally pursue studies in glass. Formative to his hands-on education, Conrad spent Saturdays assisting two of his professors. It was there that Conrad honed his own style, blending the Italians’ technically meticulous but more ornate approach with the famously streamlined Scandinavian aesthetic.
Glass next took Conrad to Seattle and a year interning with renowned artists Dale Chihuly and Ben Moore. This immersion crystallized Williams’ intention to pursue glass as a profession.
Returning to Oregon, Conrad and his wife, Erin, a Rhode Island School of Design-trained photographer, opened a storefront studio out of which Conrad blew his own glass and taught lessons—soon growing to be the top-rated activity in Eugene.
When the couple welcomed their first child, the time was right to transition back to Naples, where both had been born and raised, to rejoin family.
In Naples, Conrad maintains two studios, one home-based and another that is fully mobile, permitting him to bring glassblowing to many who would otherwise never have the first-hand chance to experience it.
Conrad still pursues the fine art of glass, and his work is displayed at St-Tropez Home and Judith Liegeois Designs, both in Old Naples. But he has equally devoted his career to teaching. Several days each week he is based at the Ritz-Carlton with his mobile studio, and also teaches out of his home studio, welcoming anyone over five-years-old.
Williams remains drawn to the artistic heritage of glassblowing, and his fascination with the fluidity of the process and the raw glass.“It’s like watching professional dancers,” Conrad observes. “There’s a flow that needs to be balanced. I consistently strive to capture the essence of the material, translating the sense of movement through and into the final piece in its solid form.”
Conrad welcomes the evolution inherent in glass work, appreciating “the exploration of the material by way of practice, success, and failure.”
More than a keepsake, a piece of glass produced by, with, or for a loved one can represent a time capsule of that shared creation.
Offers Conrad, “Often people don’t know what to expect from a lesson, and it’s gratifying to see them fall in love with it the way I did, knowing they’ll finish with something one-of-a-kind that means something to them.”
That, right there, may be the real magic.
To schedule a glass blowing class with Conrad call 239-285-1101 or visit conradwilliamsglass.com. Classes do not exceed 4 students and start at $99. Ages 5 and up. Private events and corporate team building workshops are also available.