Jeff and Heather Thompson
Jeff and Heather Thompson are the dynamic duo of the Central Oregon glassblowing world with a focus on sculpting hot glass. Jeff has been exploring the medium since 1997, and just one year into their marriage, Heather joined him in this practice to form a powerful collaborative. Better together, their artworks are an intelligent blend of contemporary, traditional and custom techniques that are further complimented by a diverse taste in modern sculpture. “The connection between us is a driving force in the studio,” says Heather.
In 2001 Jeff personally designed, engineered and built their glassblowing studio focused around three primary furnaces: the Crucible Furnace, Glory Furnace and Annealing Lehr (kiln). The Crucible Furnace is the source for the molten glass and holds 350lbs of clear glass at a liquid temperature of 2100 degrees Fahrenheit. This furnace remains hot for months or years at a time depending on their work schedule. The Glory Furnace is a reheating chamber that is fired at 2300 degrees and is used while actively blowing glass to keep it hot over many hours of work. This furnace is fired early in the morning so its at working temp when they’re ready to get started and then turned off at the end of the day. The Annealing Lehr is loaded with the day’s finished works and held at 900 degrees. It’s then allowed to cool down very slowly, sometimes over a period of several days, to prevent cracking.
Each artwork begins by using a five foot long steel blowpipe to gather a small glob of molten glass from the crucible furnace. Once that glass cools down some and begins to firm up, it forms the foundation to take subsequent and larger gathers from the crucible furnace. They introduce colored glass and patterns on various layers of the gathering process to create and array of effects depending on their vision at that moment.
The Thompsons have a particular affinity for making sea creatures: gliding sea turtles, flamboyant octopuses, cresting whales and more. Jeff attributes this to the fact that glass shares a lot of qualities with water. “Glass flows like water. It reflects and refracts light like water. Our sea life sculptures glisten with a glassy wetness,” says Jeff.
Glassblowing is an extraordinarily difficult practice taking decades of skill-building along with strength, dexterity and endurance. “The desire to create is part of my personality,” says Jeff. “I’m compelled by the challenge of bringing a vision into reality.”