PHOTOS: Heart of Glass: Jersey City Artist Kiva Ford and His Passion for Glassblowing

So I have happened upon glassblower Kiva Ford’s work at least three times in the past and each time I thought, “Hey, I should write about this,” but I’d always forget about it. In June, he was featured by the New York Times and InStyle Magazine, and I finally woke up and actually sent this fine chap an email to do this article. This is one of my first using a new feature writing technique I thought of while copy editing Olympic Daily features for Sports Illustrated. The other two are about masking tape artist Kayt Hester and changes coming for West Side Avenue in Jersey City.

Kiva let me visit his studio in Downtown Jersey City and I got to take pictures of him making a bottle. Here was the result.

Heart of Glass: Jersey City Artist Kiva Ford and His Passion for Glassblowing

It’s easy to make Downtown Jersey City resident Kiva Ford sound like a bit of a geek. He works for a pharmaceutical company, which is already pretty nerdy, and the minute he’s off the clock, he’s dying to work again. In fact, he does — but only because he’s following his passion.

Every day, the 28-year-old heads to Roche Pharmaceuticals in Nutley where he works as a scientific glassblower, making glassware for chemists’ various experiments. His elaborate creations are more Rube Goldberg than Emil Erlenmeyer, with jackets, condensers, Liebig columns, stopcocks, triple stopcocks, valves and a bunch of other structures you won’t find in your typical high school lab. (If you want to know what all these things do, we suggest doing some research — it’s kind of complicated.) After he gets off work, Ford returns to his Jersey City studio, an old garage tucked away in an alley by the Sixth Street Embankment. This is where the real magic happens.

With a rainbow palette of borosilicate (the same sturdy stuff scientific glassware is made of), Ford creates artistic glass pieces like dragon-adorned goblets, otherworldly glass pendants and miniature vases. He is also clearly influenced by his day job, making itsy-bitsy chemistry sets and a small-scale series of body parts in jars that includes an anatomically correct heart.

He’s addicted to his art. “I never get bored,” he says. “Every time I heat up a piece of glass, I’m still fascinated by it.”

Ford has always literally made it his job to enjoy life. At 15, he started juggling professionally and put himself through college by traveling with the Philadelphia-based Give and Take Jugglers. “I really just try to have fun with life, but I also want a job; I’m pragmatic about it,” says Ford. “I always thought that if you love your work, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Read the full article on JCI.

Check out my photos of Kiva in his studio and at work. Mouse-over for full captions:

And here are some examples of his artistic glass work from Etsy, courtesy of the artist:

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About Summer Dawn Hortillosa

Summer Dawn Hortillosa is a journalist specializing in arts and entertainment. Among other things, she is also an award-winning playwright, director, singer-songwriter and actress. Her work has been seen in The Jersey City Independent, The Jersey Journal and other publications.
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