A brief history of Prairie Fire Glass

Prairie Fire Glass opened its doors in 2002, but its roots began years earlier. Jim started his career as an artist at Western Illinois University, where he studied painting, printmaking, and sculpture. From 1983-2001 he brought his visual creativity and teaching abilities to Kinko’s, Inc., first as a store manager and eventually as a national training director.

During those years, he developed an affinity for stained glass in his spare time, and created over 20 elaborate, handmade stained glass windows, several of which are now on display in the PFG gallery.

Jim first discovered his love for glassblowing in 1998, and he decided to pursue it as a full-time artist a few years later. Since opening in 2002, Prairie Fire Glass has become a life’s work, and we’ve enjoyed these many years of sharing it with our wonderful customers and friends.

A family-run small business

We’re lucky to have the support of our community and family. You’ll often see Jim’s wife Laurie at the store designing our beautiful signage and displays. We’ve got handmade furniture from Jim’s brother Tim, and handmade signs from his sister-in-law Karla. This website was created by his son Jonas. Even the grandkids chip in—Maddie helps with video editing and marketing.

Monticello is like our family too. We enjoy the rich local history and the interesting people who visit! We’ve even become the careful stewards of two small prototype Fu Dogs, like those you might see at Allerton Park. (We named them John and Yoko.)

Press & Features

Over the years, PFG has been featured in lots of TV spots and articles. Here are a few of our favorites.

From Outside of Ordinary Makers:

From On the Go Monticello:

From the News Gazette:

A word from Jim (Artist Statement)

Essentially, I just like making things. I’ve always liked making things. Out of wood, cardboard, metal, stuff I found around that had no particular use or purpose. I just like to make things.

I don’t wait to get hit by lightning. It’s rare that I have an idea for a finished piece, but more often, a general “direction”, inspired mostly by color relationships. Inspiration can come from sunsets, landscapes and flowers on the side of the road, to native weavings and images generated by the Hubble telescope. With glass, creativity is inherent in the process.

The “what if’s” are the catalyst for sometimes small, and sometimes large changes. It’s the changes and evolution in the process that lead to new doors and hallways, that in turn lead to other doors and other hallways. I prefer to make vessels. There is something primal about a simple, functional form that seems to fit with the long history and origins of glassblowing.

Glass is a unique material. In all different forms, it has a distinct character, temperament and personality that requires technical discipline and process orientation, but still allows for endless spontaneity.

I have worked with glass for over 30 years, first with stained glass, and for the last 25 years, as a glass blower. At 42, I took my first glassblowing glass, and found my "bliss." I feel most fortunate to have stumbled across a material and process that provides such an endless variety of applications that so perfectly suit my creative process.

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