Johns Manville Employee Fuses Hobby and Career in the Glass Lab at Technical Center in Littleton, Colorado

A self-described “starving artist,” Anthony Graham didn’t hold out much hope when he typed “glassblowing” into the search field on Indeed, an employment website.

But to his surprise, Graham – a glass artist who is also a trained chemist – the “pretty much perfect” role popped up: Senior Glass Lab Technician at Johns Manville Technical Center in Littleton, Colorado.

Joking that the “secret to happiness is low expectations,” Graham said he didn’t expect to hear anything after applying, but instead, he got the job.

“Turning a passion into a career is not something that happens every day,” Graham said.

In October 2022, Graham started work at Johns Manville and began spending his days testing raw glass materials for the company’s insulation and roofing products in the glass lab  – and his nights and weekends as a lamp work glass artist.

“I love it so far,” Graham said of his job. “Everybody is great and so helpful.”

“It’s fascinating to see a lot of the things we’re doing with glass here,” Graham said, noting that some of the discussions and techniques used in the lab at Johns Manville have served to inform his work as an artist.

Graham is the second artist to join Johns Manville in the glass lab; Platform Leader Elam Leed is also a glass blower and creates artwork for internal company awards, annually.

“We’ve talked quite a bit and showed some of our work,” Graham said.

Graham makes icicle ornaments, glass pendants and drinkware, among other pieces of lamp work glass art, a niche form of glass artistry.

“Only about 10 percent of glass artists do this kind of glass art,” Graham said.

The glasswork Graham creates is small and intricate and is made using a torch and hand tools. More traditional glass blowing is done by working in a “hot shop,” where artists create larger pieces using molten glass on a long rod, shaping and repeatedly heating the glass in a furnace.

“I love making things,” Graham says.

Prior to joining Johns Manville, Graham ran his own business, making and selling glass art. “I did all of the marketing and sales for myself. I was always looking for more avenues and more things people wanted to buy and things I could make.”

He said working as a professional artist was rewarding. “It was a proud moment knowing I went from raw materials and equipment to cash in hand. It was definitely a powerful feeling.”

“I was able to wear all of the hats (artist, salesperson, marketing) but some of the hats fit better than others,” Graham said, noting he “bounced around” at other jobs to supplement his artist’s income.

“At the end of the day, the market is so small,” he said. “I wanted to get back into a laboratory. It’s where I’ve been happiest in my life.”