A gallery dedicated to super-cooled molten sand in all its glory
by Christie Chisholm, Weekly Alibi, March 31, 2011
Troy Lowe and Brian Burge were tired of head shops. For years, the two glassblowers made pipes because they were more marketable than pendants and marbles and the odd art piece. But the primary venues for selling their work were stores that specialized in drug paraphernalia, and it didn’t feel like a good fit. “We didn’t like being in there,” says Lowe. “It was kind of seedy.”
In September, Lowe and Burge swung open the door to a business that promotes their aesthetic. Boro Gallery—“boro” is short for borosilicate, the kind of glass both artists work with—sits on the corner of Third Street and Gold. The Downtown gallery is comprised of two main rooms, with the front showing off works from local artists. This month, it’s devoted to Taos artist Maye Torres, whose science- and mythology-influenced bronze sculptures and graphite drawings line the walls.
The back room is home to Lowe and Burge’s work, which packs two large display cases. The owners still sell pipes, but much of their focus is on jewelry. Their newfound freedom has also lent itself to more unusual pieces. Lowe’s in the middle of making a chess set—a fact that makes him smile every time he mentions it.
Even though the glass sits primarily in the back, it’s still the gallery owners’ focus. Most of the gallery’s revenue comes from their blown glass, which includes custom work such as wine goblets for weddings. The highlight of the store is an impressive, 6-foot, 4-inch-tall vase that sits by the entrance. Constructed with a network of winding, clear, tentacle-like tubes, it was made by Burge and Niles Mahlman and took home a blue ribbon at last year’s state fair.
Burge, who’s 27, discovered the craft seven years ago as a collector of blown glass. He was enrolled in a bachelor’s program in wildlife management at CNM when he found himself drawn to the art. “As soon as I touched a torch,” he says, “I fell in love.”
Lowe, 26, got into it as he was finishing a bachelor’s in economics and Spanish at UNM. Hunting for office jobs, he was miserable. “It was not appealing to me,” he says. “Making money wasn’t an issue. I chose happiness over money.” He gave up on economics and started blowing jewelry instead. About four years ago, the two met as a result of running in the same circle and started working together. “Brian showed me how to do pipe techniques,” Lowe says. “It really advanced my skill.”
They knew they wanted a Downtown gallery because of the area’s nightlife. Boro doesn’t open until 5 p.m., when many other businesses are closing. Because it’s up late (until 11 p.m. on Tuesday through Thursday, and until midnight on Friday and Saturday), Lowe and Burge see a lot of foot traffic from the bar crowd. That also frees their day up for making art and going on sales trips. It adds up to 14- to 16-hour shifts, but “it’s a battle that’s worth it,” says Burge.
Night hours also open up the gallery concept to a younger demographic. “We want people of our generation to know they can come in and hang out,” says Burge. “We want people to buy stuff, but it’s not just about that.” What it’s about is helping create a Downtown community, he says.
The gallery is still finding its footing, but its owners have goals they hope to reach this year. High on their list is carrying locally made Van Rixel Bros. gelato and doing live glassblowing in the front window.
Other businesses in the neighborhood have been supportive of their fledging enterprise, especially galleries. “It’s nice to know that in some realms, they’re not going to hate us just because we have a similar business,” adds Burge. Lowe agrees, and chimes in, “They can’t believe we’re two young dudes doing it.”
317 Gold SW