Richard Jolley was born in Kansas in 1952 and spent much of his childhood in Oak Ridge, Tennessee where his father was a research scientist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In 1971, as a student at Tusculum College in Greeneville, Tennessee, he became fascinated with sculpting glass. Jolley went on to earn his BFA in 1974 from George Peabody College at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and in that same year also pursued advanced studies in glass at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina.
Describing the early days of the studio glass movement he says,
“There was very little knowledge available, as far as the premise of glass, and what was being made. There was this experimental flavor of having this hot, spontaneous material to try and make things with. It had as its essence, the sense of discovery.”
Jolley sculpts solid ingots of hot, clear or colored glass into human heads and figures or animal forms. He pulls and twists the near-molten plug of glass, which is the size of a rolled up Sunday newspaper, into a bust of a Greek god, or a standing terrier, or a flying bluebird.
For his “Totem” series, he then assembles the multi-part sculptures either by heating the base with a torch until it is soft and attaching it to another piece or by mounting them on sandblasted discs of glass that can be annealed together.