John Almageur’s Art of Glassblowing
“This one’s called ‘Divine Covenant,’” announces John Almaguer. The glassblower picks up a sphere of frosted grooves, at once both massive and elegant, from the shelves of work that adorn the sun-filled living room of his Asheville home. Peering into the piece, he points out a clear, delicate inclusion beneath the opaque surface. “The carving on the outside is exactly reflected in the bubble on the inside. It’s about union, the spiritual relationship with God mirrored in the relationship of my wife and I,” he explains.
The sculpture is one of a kind, technically innovative, and imbued with a higher meaning—the hallmarks of Almaguer’s approach to glassblowing. Since he first stood awestruck as a young teenager in front of Dale Chihuly’s iconic work, the artist has been drawn to exploring new expression in glass. Almaguer’s journey has taken him from the Appalachian Center of Craft at Tennessee Tech University to apprenticing on the islands of Murano in Italy, which have housed world-class glassblowing workshops since 1291.
Almaguer arrived in Asheville in 2011, and he soon began working out of the North Carolina Glass Center in the River Arts District. He says that the move gave him the freedom to develop his own style as a glassblower while drawing on a vibrant artistic culture for inspiration. “In the RAD, there are over 200 studios within a mile and a half, and nearly all of them are public,” Almaguer says. “It’s been a huge blessing to connect with so many different people.”
The artist shares his love of the RAD through Asheville Art Studio Tours, an enterprise he founded to give visitors an insider perspective on the local scene. But Almaguer also uses his art to make a difference in the wider Asheville community. His favorite project has been “Kids Design for Kids,” a fundraiser for an orphanage in Madagascar through Asheville’s New City Christian School.
“I came to the school and educated the students about glass, then had them design pieces that my team and I then made,” Almaguer says. After a showing at The Hop Creamery, the art was auctioned online, and all of the proceeds went to the orphanage. “A lot of those students were on scholarship themselves, so it was cool for them to be part of giving back.”
Just as important as the money raised, explains Almaguer, was the chance for kids to be involved in the design process. “People feel a euphoria when they’re around art,” he says. By sharing the joy he takes in his work, Almaguer hopes others will be drawn to appreciate the act of artistic creation.
Keep up with Almaguer’s work on Instagram (AlmaguerGlass). You can tour the North Carolina Glass Center, as well as many other studios in the River Arts District, through Asheville Art Studio Tours at AshevilleArtStudioTours.com.