Tim Shepherd is a glass artist, but embodied in that brief description is a world of swirling colors and truly breathtaking art, something most of us can only stand back and admire. But, to Tim, this is his world. He lives in it almost every day, as he heats and shapes and creates his work, and almost every night, as he dreams about his next designs.
“I love the luminescence of glass, the way that it catches, refracts and reflects light,” Tim said. “I am fascinated by the history of glass, as well as the chemistry involved in formulating it and ... the physics of shaping it. But what really attracts me to glass is the process.
“The process is almost a dance with the molten glass. It is incredibly exciting and both mentally and physically engaging to manipulate 2,000-degree glass. Utilizing heat, gravity and a variety of metal and wooden tools to coax your intended form out of the glass is such a visually and conceptually amazing process, it almost defies description.”
Tim has been fascinated by glass art since he started working with it at Carbondale Community High School, as part of a 2003 workshop at SIU’s Craft Shop. That’s when he first started to torch-work glass.
“Torch-working glass is the process of shaping glass using a torch, usually burning propane and welding oxygen, which allows you to apply heat in precise places and do very detailed work.”
Torch-work is different from the furnace-worked glass that Tim has focused on for the last eight years. Most American torch-workers use tools and techniques developed in the last century, but the tradition and techniques of blowing glass out of a furnace have developed over the past 2,000 years in Europe and Asia, so this method of shaping glass has a very long history. And furnace-worked glass can be produced on a very large scale.
Tim’s technique and talent developed through his studies at SIU from 2005 to 2010 as he earned his bachelor’s degree in fine arts, specializing in glass working. Then, through his work at Pilchuck Glass School in Seattle, he studied under glass artist Tom Rowney of Australia and explored the creative use of glass in art and design.
Since then, Tim has worked at Lincoln City Glass Center in Oregon, and, currently, at Douglass School Art Place in Murphysboro, affectionately known as “The Doug.”
Tim’s style and skill have grown immensely since that first SIU Craft Shop class.
“I have learned many techniques and styles of working with glass that give me the ability to make what I design,” he said. “I began my career focusing on shaping glass and spent several years developing those skills and knowledge. Then, studying at SIU and Pilchuck made me realize that my design, and the capacity to express my ideas through my medium, is an equally important skill to refine. Since graduation I have developed the awareness that my message — the concepts expressed in my art — are what define me as an artist. Now I would say that I am developing my message and my capacity to express it. Those are my current goals as I work.”