Tyler Kimball feels most at home and comfortable when the temperature is 22 hundred degrees.
For many of us, glassblowing isn’t a pastime or even an activity that we have ever attempted.
However, for Kansas City native and Monarch Glass Studio owner and operator Tyler Kimball, glassblowing is a skill he has honed since 1999 by working in 53 different art studios worldwide for 17 years.
Although Kimball is very proud of his Kansas City roots, it wasn’t until Kimball studied at The University of Montana, where he then discovered his passion for glassblowing and mastering the art of stained glass on his own.
Monarch Glass Studio was founded in April 2015 and Kimball is proud of the fact that every kiln and furnace is man-made and built in-house by him and his staff.
“Glassblowing is a very science-related art. I would like to think that it is the only medium where you have to first learn a whole bunch of other mediums. You need to know how to weld, woodworking principles, ceramic fundamentals, and thermodynamics,” Kimball said. “You need to understand all of that before you can even start to work with glass.”
When asked what his most significant piece in the studio is, his response is always “the next one,” which he says with a big smile and a twinkle in his eye.
“My favorite thing is when a customer calls and says ‘I don’t know if this can be done.’ That catches my interest and I get excited,” Kimball said. “I receive many odd requests, which I like. For instance, about a month ago, a customer came in and requested a glass version of bed castors. It was a fun challenge for me. Another customer came in and asked for blown glass taillights for a 1957 Lone Star Meteor. There are only twelve of these boats left in the world so he wanted twelve sets to send them out to everyone who owns that specific boat,” Kimball said.
Monarch Glass Studio also offers different levels of classes including a Introductory to Glassblowing recreational class where participants can sip wine. Also available is an Intermediate class with more advanced projects.
“I try to tell people to prepare to be frustrated because it’s not like a lot of other mediums where you can catch on quickly. Glass takes multiple years just to be able to create something that you sketched out,” Kimball said.
As for Kimball, he’s always up for a challenge.
“I’m constantly trying to do new things and be adventurous with my work. I do have signature work that I am known for such as ‘The Shuttlecock,’ which is found in front of The Nelson-Atkins Museum. It has been something that I have been making for a long time. Recently, I’ve been focusing on Glass-At-Work; working glass telescopes out of blown glass, working fans out of blown glass and glass houses. What is the most time consuming is learning something new. Whenever I have a new sketch, I know that I’m going to have a few failures before I find the right path that I need to venture on, to make what I need to make.”
Kimball’s work is currently on display at Saint Luke’s South Hospital in conjunction with Leopold Gallery + Art Consulting, featuring 66 blown glass discs suspended in mid-air.
“I like bigger installations and public work. It is very rewarding to see components come together to make a bigger element and then knowing it’s not just for one person, but for many people to enjoy,” Kimball said.
It is no surprise to find out that Monarch Glass Studio’s name is quite recognizable to Kansas City’s 18th and Vine district.
“Monarch Glass Studio is named after The Kansas City Monarchs. I have a tattoo of The Kansas City Royals because I love baseball. I also love the neighborhood that I am working in. I love how historic it is and how many stories there are behind each one of these bricks,” Kimball said. “Kansas City has a connection to me so it would be a great legacy to be featured in one of the city’s parks or museums.”
You may view or purchase Kimball’s artwork at Leopold Gallery + Art Consulting, The Kemper Contemporary Museum of Art gift shop, TallullahBelle’s or Monarch Glass Studio 1919 E Truman Rd, Kansas City, MO 64127.
Words: Ellen Leinwetter | Photos: Ellen Leinwetter