John Chiles was born in Groton Connecticut in 1962. John grew up in Hawaii, Guam, England, the U.S., and France as the family followed his father’s work for the U.S. Navy.
John first began working with glass in 1980 while a student at Bucks County Community College in Pennsylvania. Classes at Bucks prepared him for an apprenticeship with a local glassblower. From there he started in a production studio where he worked for the next six years as a glassblower and studio manager. Since 2002 John has maintained both a glass equipment manufacturing business and a glass blowing studio in Orwell, Vermont, where he designs and makes functional glassware and one-of-a-kind pieces.
John has been designing and building furnaces, glory holes, annealing ovens and other glass shop equipment for over twenty five years. Equipment he has designed and built is used by some of the United States’ most preeminent glass blowing studios such as Steuben Glassworks in Corning, NY.
Glassblowing requires cooperation and encourages collaboration.The glass community is relatively small and people for the most part are generous in their exchanges of knowledge and information. This exchange most often happens in workshops, collaborations, and seminars. Over the years John has attended many crafts schools, glass workshops, and seminars with master craftsmen and artists from the United States and Europe both as a student, teaching assistant, and teacher/lecturer.
In addition to his own work, John has worked on a contract and freelance basis for other glassblowers and manufacturers. He has worked in glass production teams on small and large scale projects that range from one-of-a-kind art & architectural installations to the coordination and production of seasonal product lines for a large manufacturer.
The process of designing glass is essentially the attempt to best realize an idea within the technical constraints of the medium.
Trying to coax the material into new forms gives rise to new technical solutions and inspires new design ideas. I get a lot of satisfaction and inspiration from the process itself and find designing both product lines and one of a kind pieces to be equally challenging and rewarding in their respective ways.
The design process begins with sketches that are rendered to scale drawings which are then used as templates by John and his assistants in the glass shop.
Production time is organized around specific colors and shapes in order to work as efficiently as possible. Production begins with the shaping of elements that will later be attached to the body of a piece.
Elements are made from hot molten glass gathered from the furnace and worked on the end of a solid metal rod. When each element is finished it is put in a gas fired oven called a garage where it is kept hot until it is time to attach it to the finished vessel. For the vessel, molten glass is again gathered from the furnace but this time on the end of a long hollow metal tube called a blowpipe. The glass is blown and shaped at the glassblowing bench. A gloryhole is used to periodically reheat the glass during the shaping process. Reheating keeps the glass soft and pliable enough for the glassblower to continue working the glass.
After the vessel shape has been completed and while it is still hot at the glassblowers bench the previously made elements are brought from the garage, heated by the assistant, and then fused into place. After all the parts have been been attached and adjusted the finished pieces are put into an annealing oven where they are slowly cooled.