Recreational weed is legal in eight states, and medical weed is allowed in almost Even with a new presidential administration opposed to pot legalization , the country is a much friendlier place for stoners than it used to be. And weed legalization didn't just make it easier to carry paraphernalia, it also generated a lot of cash for some cannabis entrepreneurs.
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Most of Washington's legal weed businesses can deposit money in banks, but that banking access is severely limited outside of our state. The medical cannabis industry in states like California and Arizona, which has very limited access to traditional banking, has put hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash into the pockets of individual people. Without a bank to use, those entrepreneurs are looking for places to invest their dough, and a portion of that cash has likely made it into this glass market.
Plus, the liberalization of weed laws has allowed stoners in the upper echelons of our society to come out of the woodwork.
Anyone who has spent time with America's ultrarich knows they like drugs just like the plebeians. Now that weed is being normalized, they can publicly affirm their coolness with extremely expensive bongs.
In Uncleerrrl's exact words to me through Instagram: "I went after the ms sagan cuz I had two sagan pieces already. In addition to being a marketplace, Instagram functions as a venue to show off. Almost every glass artist conducts some portion of their sales directly through the social-media website, allowing them a free way to post images of bongs for sale and to connect with buyers. G lass-pipe making is naturally a dispersed and underground industry, with small studios set up in backyard sheds and ignored warehouses across the country.
Even in a place like Washington, where well-known bong makers are scattered throughout the state in cities and suburbs, there was no hub for high-end bong making until in , when Nathan Aweida opened 7 Point Studios in a warehouse on Dearborn Street in Seattle. Aweida's studios became a nexus for high-end bongs and the artists who make them. Some of the most influential and expensive pieces in the world have been worked on at 7 Point Studios.
Aweida made a name for himself within the industry when he came up with his signature Swiss Perc design in The design, which Aweida recently won a trademark for, is a disk-shaped tube with multiple holes punched completely through, making the glass look like a piece of Swiss cheese. Each hole in the water pipe functions as a percolator, breaking up the smoke and making the hit smoother. In addition to offering a space for glass artists to make pipes freely—most institutions with glassblowing studios, like Pratt Fine Arts Center, still don't allow people to make pipes in their facilities—7 Point offered a school dedicated to glass-pipe making.
Aweida called it the Boro School, its name inspired by borosilicate, the type of glass that most contemporary glass pipes are made out of.
Borosilicate is able to withstand repeated heat changes without breaking, which makes it a natural material for cannabis pipes and scientific lab equipment. It's also the same material that Pyrex is made out of. Bob Snodgrass is the artist widely credited with making the first borosilicate smoking pipes. Snodgrass starting working with glass in Ohio in the s and then traveled around the country blowing glass pipes in a mobile studio set up in a bus and often touring with the Grateful Dead.
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In , Snodgrass settled in Eugene, Oregon, where he started attracting apprentices and laying the groundwork for the Northwest to be the center of glass-pipe making. In this case, Eugene happens to be pretty close to Seattle, which has been a mecca for glass for 30 or 40 years, so the proximity of the two is really nice. Snodgrass invented many of the foundational techniques of pipe making.
The Northwest does not have an exclusive claim on the current high-end pipe market—Philadelphia, Denver, and Southern California have very active scenes—but Snodgrass's inventive spirit has lingered here. Many of the biggest innovations in pipe making, like color-changing pipes and the use of meticulously crafted marbles, came from him. And there are other functional-glass inventions that originated in Washington State and immediately got copied by the entire pipe industry. For instance, Kevin McCulley, who used to work for an hourly wage at Mothership, went on to revolutionize the dab sector of the market with a piece that could vaporize concentrates far more efficiently than anything before.
It looks a bit like a golf club, with a bucket at the end of a hollow tube. He named it the Quave Club Banger.
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These days, the vast majority of concentrated cannabis dabs are vaporized on Quave Club Bangers or their knockoffs, and, just like the word "Kleenex" is to tissues, the word "banger" is now synonymous with any piece used for dabbing. McCulley left Mothership in and set up shop at 7 Point Studios to manufacture his banger. After two years, his operation had too many employees to stay in Aweida's warehouse, so McCulley moved into his own space in Seattle's Sodo neighborhood.
The year-old's production facility, Quave CB, has nearly 30 full-time employees. The Klein, which sends smoke vapor and water into tubes that exit and reenter the bong, has since become copied by bong makers across the world. And after McCulley moved to his first studio at 7 Point, he became a mentor to two other young glass artists who have since become big names in the industry.
Lee, who is 23 years old, moved to Seattle from Vancouver, BC, in , and immediately rented out a glassblowing station in 7 Point Studios. Lee said watching McCulley work on a set of pieces for a Quave show was an invaluable experience. Lee told me that McCulley "pretty much spent the entire time working on one solo show, and we got to learn the fundamentals by watching him.
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That's where I'd say I learned all of my fundamentals of glassblowing. Lee's signature bong design, called the Skurper, has gotten so popular that people around the world clamor for the chance to spend thousands of dollars on them and Chinese manufacturers have started copying him. D anny White is using a blowtorch to connect the head of a snarling glass dog to its glass body, which will eventually become a water pipe.
He makes a slight misstep and has to rearrange his hands. The whole process looks goofy and dangerous, with a blaring blowtorch in front of his face, so I ask how often he burns himself. The quick-witted White responds, "Only on payday.
That glass-artist joke within a joke makes a lot more sense when you realize what Rogers and White are in the middle of doing. After years of working in the traditional glass industry, which rewards iconic names like Chihuly with big paychecks but pays little to the glassblowers behind the scenes, the two are attempting to make the switch into pipe making. Rogers and White have set up a pipe-making studio in an old fish refrigerator at Seattle's Fisherman's Terminal.
They are, in effect, trying not to get burned on payday anymore. In switching from sculptures to bongs, the two are not only changing the function of their art but also the material they work with. They come from Chihuly's world of "soft glass," which is fundamentally different from the borosilicate glass that pipes are made out of. Borosilicate must be heated to much higher temperatures to melt, hence its nickname "hard glass. Chihuly's soft glass uses the indirect heat of room-sized kilns.
Rogers and White nonchalantly talk about the switch from soft glass to borosilicate. They recognize that they are learning new techniques, but they don't see themselves as breaking a cultural divide between the two art forms. That's a perspective shared by many soft-glass artists but not by most pipe makers, who after years of working in the shadows feel like they've been largely shut out of the traditional glass world.
As Deppe explained it to me up in Bellingham: "We've been shunned. We've had people who worked at our shop try to get their nonfunctional art in shows, and the galleries said, 'No, you worked for that bong shop. Aweida said he's always seen the soft-glass world carry a stigma against pipe makers. Borosilicate has been kept as an underground art form both because it's used for smoking weed and because of the relatively low cost of setting up a borosilicate studio.
And running a soft-glass studio for just an hour is extremely expensive. Lydia Boss, exhibition assistant at Pilchuck Glass School, said that low start-up costs for working with borosilicate have allowed the pipe-making industry to flourish underground, outside of places like Pilchuck. You can excel and innovate things at a faster rate because you are just a slave to the torch," Boss said. You can't rent the studio every day of the week unless you have tons of money. Boss is one of the people helping to bridge the gap between soft and hard glass. Well, FabLane Hair can help you!
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