Kansas City native Tyler Kimball has had a passion for glass work since he was a child admiring his parents’ stained glass window. This installation was the first time Kimball thought about the processes by which human hands could make such intricate designs with glass. It began his lifelong passion for glasswork.
Kimball climbed up the ranks, from being a cold worker in a factory to lead glass blower. After traveling around the United States for nearly two decades and working in countless studios, Kimball returned to KC to open Monarch Glass Studio in late 2015.
We talked to Kimball about glasswork processes and Monarch Glass Studio.
How did you get started working with glass? After getting my degree in creative writing, I realized I was much more interested in glass than I was in writing, so I moved in hopes to get a job in glass. Actually, I was looking to get a job in creating stained glass. I became a cold worker at a factory and I made over a hundred thousand Christmas ornaments while I was there. A lot of people come up through a school, but I got my knowledge and excitement for glass blowing through working and coming up through the factory. Now, I get to marry the two things that I really love, which is the process of glass blowing and the finished look of stained glass.
Can you tell us more about the founding of Monarch Glass Studio? I moved back to Kansas City from the Northwest in hopes to set up a glass studio here. It’s really expensive in the Northwest, and it’s saturated with glass. I grew up in Kansas City, but there was nowhere I could find the answers to the questions that I had. So I wanted to come back to my hometown and create those answers for people who had a passion for learning about glass.
How did Monarch Glass Studio get its name? I found a great building in the 18th and Vine District that had an old elevator shaft that I could turn into a nice ventilation duct, and it had all cement floors—I mean it was just primed and ready for a glass studio. There’s such a rich history of baseball here in Kansas City, and being four blocks away from where the Kansas City Monarchs used to play, it seemed like a fitting name. I also make rondels for stained glass artists. One of the premier sheet glass makers in the nation nicknamed me the rondel king about about ten years ago. I already had that kind of monarchy feeling behind me. So I was like, we gotta open up Monarch Glass Studio—I’m the king of rondels.
What can people expect to find at Monarch Glass Studio? I am still very involved with education. I have to do what was done for me, which is to hand down any knowledge that I have to the next generation. But the glass blowing is where the drama is at and it’s what people want to see. It’s got the fire and excitement.
I love doing art installations because it’s not just for one person—it creates that location’s personality. But I also like when somebody comes in and they’re looking for something that they can’t find in the gallery and we can talk about making it specific for them. We have some really nice barware and pieces that are always in the gallery for purchase, too. You’re not going to go to Target and find these.