My fascination with glass reaches back some forty-one years to when I would watch the lampworkers when they came to the mall around the holiday season. The small figurines captured my imagination as I watched them come to life from the fire. Fortunately both my parents supported my interest in learning to blow glass. My father was interested in ceramics as a hobby and knew about kilns and glazes. It didn’t take much effort to interest him in building a small makeshift glass furnace. We melted glass one day, and I was hooked. My interest in glass led me to an apprenticeship in scientific glassblowing at the University of Florida. As a young teenager I would spend afternoons, evenings, summers, anytime I could, hanging around the chemistry and physics departments learning about glass or whatever the topic of conversation was. I continued my scientific glass career in Memphis, Tennessee before turning my attention to college. I attended Western Carolina University, and received my BA in Philosophy and an MA in English Literature. After teaching English at WCU for five years, my thoughts of a career teaching English turned to thoughts of being a studio artist. Leaving academics in 1995 I never looked back.
My love affair with the romance of Italian glass is evident throughout my work. Light, fine, and fragile it tends to focus on the inherent strengths and weaknesses of the material. Fellow glass artist Robert Mickelsen writes: “Parramore is known for his decanter and goblet sets, lidded urns, and broad-lipped compotes. Extremely adept at forming relatively large blown forms, Parramore has sometimes been called the ‘human lathe.’ The bodies of some of his vessels are formed of clear borosilicate glass with color being reserved for ornamentation, stems, and handles. The clarity emphasizes the sense of fragility, while the form lends a feeling of strength. Others are built in the Italian incalmo style with heavily reduced colors giving the surface a ceramic-like appearance. Roger’s vessels are precise and impossibly thin. The perfect shapes of his paper-walled goblet bowls and bottles are a testimony to his extremely high skill level. His highly developed technical skills and uncompromising design aesthetics place Parramore squarely among the very best lampworkers in the world today.” Fellow glass artist and author Bandhu Scott Dunham writes: “Among lampworkers, some of the most sublime goblet bowls are created by Roger Parramore, who pays respect to the Venetian tradition. His scientifically-derived technique produces simple, dramatic, deliciously satisfying forms.”
Growing out of my experiences in the worlds of chemistry and physics, I am not only fascinated with the glassblowing process, but also glass as a material. As a result, I founded the Parramore Color Company. Color manufacturing is a playground for me to explore the world of colored glass. “Just as in his artwork, Parramore readily displays his masterful abilities when it comes to creating the material itself. His color is recognized around the world for its consistency and quality.” What began as a small pet project has grown into an entity I would have never expected. I am proud of the success Parramore Colors has enjoyed, and to realize that from my studio goes a raw material glass artists use in their works the world over is truly an amazing experience.
While I feel it is important to constantly develop my own aesthetic and technical abilities, teaching is a very important part of my artistic experience. “As one of the premiere lampworkers, Parramore enjoys an international respect and reputation, and as a result is able to travel teaching at the most respected facilities in the world.” Teaching will always be a large and personally satisfying part of my career. Whether it is in Japan, India, Australia, or the Pilchuck Glass School, I go where glass takes me, continually sharing my passion for the material.
The world of glass artists and glass making affords wonderful opportunities for collaborative work, but equally satisfying are my collaborations with musicians. Founded in January of 2004, the ParraTone Banjo Company builds custom, one-of-a-kind banjos. The name Roger Parramore is well recognized in the world of art glass, and now ParraTone is quickly becoming recognized in the world of bluegrass music. Parallel with my near life-long interest in glass is my interest in the banjo. By anyone’s standard I’m not an accomplished player, but my passion for the instrument as an art form is rivaled only by my passion for glass. Working one-on-one with a musician is a very different experience than creating an artwork in glass. Tone, color, feel, choosing and shaping the wood to someone’s ear and hand is a very personal yet shared experience. Like knowing my color will be seen by countless viewers I will never meet, I know my instruments will be heard and enjoyed by countless audiences wherever the musicians travel.
Though I say I left academics, academics never left me, and it has manifested itself in my pursuit of studies in transformational leadership. During my travels in the Near East I was afforded the opportunity to meet with numerous high ranking religious, political, and academic leaders in a quest to understand the history and issues facing this region and its difficult leadership challenges. Bringing those experiences back closer to home, I was able to apply them in an effort to understand the nature of urban outreach and the many issues facing disadvantaged youth and the homeless in Seattle. Again, meeting with political, spiritual, and academic leaders I was able to bear witness to the extremes of social strata and the difficulties faced as they exist within Seattle’s urban landscape.
Taken on the whole, my experiences as a teacher, artist, craftsperson, mentor, entrepreneur, and academic have given rise to my most recent project The Theology of Creativity: A Search for Creative Dignity. A work in progress, this book will explore the intricate facets of the creative life and how they can in turn be applied to social, spiritual, and community leadership and development.