More than a few things can go wrong when you’re swinging a ball of 2,000-degree glass around. Hot glass rods (or worse, flames) to the hands or face, debilitating lacerations and blisters—the list goes on. But glassmakers have been dealing with the risk of serious physical danger since around 2,000 BC, making huge technical and artistic advancements in the craft along the way. Almost anything nowadays, it appears, can be mimicked in glass. So, whatever you put in your pipe, though we’re sure it’s tobacco, support your local glass blowers. They may just end up being some of the defining players in modern glass art.
Just Another Glassblower (JAG)
JAG is to Philadelphia’s functional glass art scene as Questlove is to the city itself—he might not live here anymore (now in San Diego), but we’re claiming him as our own anyway. A highly respected artist with a sleek, art-deco style, JAG, real name Nate Purcell, has been behind the torch since 1998. He co-founded the now-defunct, yet highly influential Silica Galleries and Philadelphia Glass Works with Ian Kerr in 2003, a move that ultimately helped put the city on the map as a destination for glass pipe aficionados across the country.
A Philly boy born and raised (though he left the city earlier this month for Austin to collaborate with Salt), Snic has come to be known for his intricately blown and electroformed tubes, spoon pipes and accessories. Slinging glass since 1997, Snic’s ability to meld glass with metal surpasses most other blowers attempting the process, as illustrated in Max Tubman’s new “Singularity” video, which showcases Snic’s artistic process and final products for late 2011. He is also one of the artists behind boutique (read: expensive) glass brand Fuck Your Crew, a collaborative effort along with JP Toro of the famed Toro Glass and fellow Philly artist Marble Slinger.
If JAG is Questlove, then Zach P. is the Philadelphia pipe industry’s resident punk rocker. This Tyler School of Art grad has been working with glass since 1999, subsequently developing an artistic style that is as sarcastic and funny—his lazily drawn enamel sketches satirize the overblown color work often present on traditional glass pipes—as it is functional and sleek. Currently, Puchowitz owns and operates Ouch Kick Studios, an independent glass and mixed media space, in Port Richmond.
In many ways, Sling is the public face of the glass pipe world. A glasshead since 1997, Sling is known for precisely sandblasting the visages of pop culture icons—like Audrey Hepburn, Sherlock Holmes and others—onto matte-finish, color-blended pipes and tubes. A lot has changed since ’97, though, with Sling most recently having his first documentary, Degenerate Art: The Art and Culture of Glass Pipes, named as an official selection at this year’s SXSW Film Festival. He has also expanded the online presence of pipe makers through his site ThatAintArt, which showcases the work of some of today’s most revered glass artists.
Also a Tyler grad, Elbo could be considered Philly’s hottest up-and-comer, only having been working with glass since 2004 (lampworking specifically sometime in 2009). He is perhaps best known for his series of pickle pipes (and matching jars!), but his glass-sculpting abilities, as evidenced by the ultra-detailed pigs’ heads for which he is also known, go far beyond replicating a deli extra in smokable form. Currently engaged to fellow glass artist HackySacky and having produced collaborations with Snic, Zach P. and more, Elbo has deeply embedded himself within the glass community at large.
Of course, not everyone can drop the coin for luxury glass. If that’s the case, you can go the gift shop route and get a t-shirt from Glasshouse Clothing, a Philly-based company that produces screenprinted clothing with designs from glass artists around the country.
Photos taken at Primal in Springfield, Delaware County.