Glass Story

By James

Redbeard

As a non-Canadian it’s funny how little I knew about this place before I arrived. I knew they had: rivers of maple syrup, a passion for hockey and obviously some seriously good weed.

Aside from that everything was new to me. As a glass collector, seller and user, one of the first things I did when I arrived was try and find out what was going on with the Canadian glass scene.

After a lot less digging than I expected I uncovered a growing scene of Canadian artists ranging from prodo workers running out of their sheds to super heady guys. I tried to catch up with as many of them as possible to show off their work and just get to know them a little better…

How long have you been blowing glass?

RB-The first time I got behind a glass torch was the fall of 1997. My room- mate and best friend Sebo had just got a few simple tools, and for months I’d watch and absorb everything I could. My short apprenticeship with Sebo started full time fall of 1998, in Kaslo, BC. I’ve been pretty much full time since then quitting my last ‘day job’ around the year 2000.

What got you into glass blowing?

RB-Watching my bro Sebo every chance I got, then when he started getting orders for his pipes, he asked me if I wanted to learn, and help fill his

orders. Hell Yeah! I was hooked.

Have you worked with any other artists?

RB-The majority of my years on the torch have been spent alone in a shop, I think this helped me find my own ‘style’. I love working with others though, and have taken lots of oppor- tunities to do so. Friends like BE Glass, Gibsons Glassworks, Stratisphere, Korey Cotnam, James F., Kim @ Mystic Glass, and many other Canadian artists. To further my skills, I took les- sons with glass masters Robert Mickelson, Josh Sable, John Kobuki, and Amber Pelligrini.

What has been your most memo- rable moment over the years?

RB- It’s hard to say what my most memorable moment has been. The first pipe i made is vivid in my memory, a small trail and rake design that turned out perfect. the first of thou- sands to come…. Another memorable moment was learning from Robert Mickelson, at a Graal class in Victoria BC. What a privilege it was to soak up some of his knowledge. I spun my first perfect flat footed goblet foot with him watching at my shoulder. But I’d have to admit, more great moments are fresh in my memory from the Great Canadian Glass Gatherings. 5 years ago I decided I wanted to host a glass- blowing party. With the help of several colleagues, the event was a great success. Matt Eskuche made it up from the states, and I think his quote went something like “best guerilla glassblowing event I’ve seen”.

You could say the environment was rustic. the organic farm I was living on was perfect, with fresh ‘goataccinos’ in the morning. not baaaaaad eh. The event has gotten a bit bigger and bit better every year, with about 15-20 active glassblowing stations and many more glassblowers, collectors, store owners, and other spectators watching and enjoying the party. Collabs were passed around the table, spontaneous “flame-offs” between artists, and collectors ordering custom work and watching it be built in front of their eyes. I’m really looking forward to this summers Gathering, to see all my friends in this community again.

Do you feel the glass culture in Canada is much dif- ferent to the USA?

RB- Canada’s glass scene is indeed different than the USA’s. we’re a tenth of the population! and we’re spread out further too. So I’d say we’re a smaller scene, perhaps behind on the most current trends but holding strong, and getting stronger all the time. New glassblowers enter the market all the time, and the bar keeps getting raised. I think it’s beneficial that we all have to push our limits to keep on top of the market. I think one of the things that really boosted the American scene forward, (and consequently our canadian scen too) was that alot of american shops would have many glassblowers working in them at the same time. i know some of America’s greatest came out of a scene where their colleagues were right there, bouncing ideas of each other, feeding off each other’s creativity, and pushing Everyone’s limits. And the Bar get Raised.

When I started blowing glass, everyone was very secretive about their techniques, their designs, their equipment, everything. Around the turn of the cen- tury, the glass curtain was raised, and ideas and designs were shared freely and everyone benefitted.

There’s not too many large shop environ- ments with many individual artists work- ing in Canada. More are needed. We see that every year at our Gathering party.

JF Glasswerx

How long have you been blowing glass?

JK: Around five years. I originally took a lesson from Korey Cotnam, and learned a lot from other local industry leaders such as Pat V (Redbeard), Ben Evers, Pat S, and Gibson, among others. Other than occasional exposure to these other great artists, I am largely self-taught, practising alone in my shop over the years.

What got you into glass blowing?

JK: Fall 2007, Cannabis Culture issue 68 was it. This issue featured ‘The Best of BC’s Glass Blowers’ and after reading about how they got into it, how much they loved it, and all their amazing art – I knew it was the career I’d been looking for. I practically dropped everything else and went on a mad quest to learn the art of lampworking. It was the perfect time for a transition in my life, and it probably saved me from a lot of trouble if I’d decided to stick with the path I’d previously chosen. I took a lesson from Korey, and hermited myself in my shop for months until the first Great Canadian Glass Gathering – where I met so many other great artists. It took me about a year before I was comfortable selling my work, and here I am today! I only hope that someone reads this, and finds themselves as inspired as I was!

Have you worked with any other artists?

JK: Yeah, a lot of other local artists. Recently (within the last few months) I’ve collaborated with Redbeard, Ben Evers, Colby – with plenty more down the road!

What has been your most memorable moment over the years?

JK: Definitely my first glass gathering in 2008. It was an absolutely amazing experience. I learned as much in the time I was there than I did practising alone in my shop for over 6 months. Everyone was super friendly and open, shar- ing knowledge and experience. That and it was probably one of the biggest, craziest smoke-fests I’ve ever been too – I don’t think there was ever a point where I didn’t have a joint in my lips or a bubbler rumbling my lungs… For medic- inal purposes, of course.

Do you feel the glass culture in Canada is much differ- ent to the USA?

JK: Yeah, absolutely. I feel the glass culture/scene in the states is much larger than ours. Its more ‘mainstream'(a lot more e-coverage and publicity to the public eye through events like the Arizona Project, etc) while still being largely underground. I think it has a lot to do with population density though. That being said, the Canadian scene is by no means lacking, even if it is smaller. I also think we’re a little less worried about image, but that could just be my perception.

Barracuda

Barracuda spins a lathe out in Calgary and has been working with glass since 2004, doing live demos at the Shambhala festival in Nelson, BC, from 2006 – 2010. Since being borught into the world of lamp working by “a girl” he has come along way. Now he works in a studio with his wife Jodi and regu- larly works along with other artists, including Jared Toner (White Flame), Chris Breneau and at the time of writ- ing just finished working with Jon Kostuk. Since picking up his lathe he was lucky enough to take classes from Merc & J-Red, which opened up a whole new range of possibilities.

Goolen

I started blowing glass at the age of 12, so I’ve been working glass for 11 years. I started blowing glass because my sis- ter and my mother blew glass. I have worked a little with Marbleslinger but my sister Willow and her husband Quinn are the people who showed me most of what I know.

Ben Evers

How long have you been blowing glass?

BEN- I finally got my torch in the winter of 99′ so that’d make it near 13 yrs.

What got you into glass blowing?

BEN- I was travelling around in Washington state and I saw a friend, James Sheldon, make a piece, a little spoon, I was hooked instantly. Upon returning to Canada i ordered the tools and began to fumble my way into the glass world.

Have you worked with any other artists?

BEN- As many as possible! I’ve spent the last few years travelling the world working with glass artists. Places such as England, Czech, Germany, Netherlands, and many wonderful artists from across Canada as well.

What has been your most memorable moment over the years?

BEN-Its so hard to pick just one… I would have to say the inaugural year of The Great Canadian Glass Gathering, in which my friend Red Beard asked me to assist in organizing the first major gathering of Canadian pipe artists. It was Epic! Camping, a pig roast, and entertainment, all while hanging out with some of the coolest cats around. We’re just now com- ing up to our 5th yr, and its shaping up to be the best year yet!

Do you feel the glass culture in Canada is much different to the USA?

BEN- I’m having a really hard time to answer this question. I’m not allowed to travel there so i cannot really say 100%

From this end of my computer it looks to me like glass culture is significantly different in Canada. Sadly not as evolved. We do not have; easy access to the knowledge base (esp. for borosilicate), nor the schools, classes, tools and supplies, the shear volume of lampworkers, or anything else involving glass. Were a little isolated here in the great white north.

In my opinion, this has made

the progression of the Canadian lampwork/pipe making movement a little slower than our US coun- terpart.

However! Since the first GCGG things have been coming along nicely. We are forming bonds as a community, finally, and from the experience of working together with our peers I am seeing many

Korey Cotnam x Ben Evers colab

Canadian artists begin to push their personal boundaries in glass. It is very nice to see other artists working together on a regular basis now and long lasting friendships coming from the efforts of my good friend Red Beard and all who help to make the GCGG a reality!

Iceberg Glass

All Iceberg pics by Ron Pogue. 

“Iceberg Glass is about 10 years old. When I was a little boy I wanted to be either a candy taster or a glass blow- er. Good to know I got a backup career choice, eh? I have only done straight up collabs with Ben Evers and my for- mer student and good friend Dustin at Solid Flow. Many thanks to Phatty Glassworks for the fun openhouses, hosting workshops, and for the supplies back in the day. Thanks as well to Redbeard for hosting such fine Glass Gatherings, and to the Puff Family. Also a shout out to the Island headshops, Ahead of the Tymes, and also to my old ARC buddies Hippo, Surf Rat, and Slinger. My most memorable moment was getting supposed space gas poisoning, back when I was smelting lots of tektites. I’ve never fired up a torch in America, but all the folks I have met over the years from over the border are all fam- ily to me. Hope to come down and check it out soon!”

HT Glassworks

With only 8 months experience under his belt, Ben is a sign of the future of Canadian glassblowing. He made the break from collector to blower at the great Canadian Glass Gathering and hasn’t looked back. Under the wing of one of Canada’s best know artists Korey Cotnam, Ben moved out of his backyard shed and into a full shop for the first time. As well as working alongside Korey for a few months, in his studio, Ben has also worked with guys such as Ben Browski, Amsta Glass and Kwest. Now he’s working in the Submerge Studios in Vancouver, where they hope to develop a proper community shop & school.

Korey Cotnam

It was over a decade ago when Korey’s passion for the 420 culture and “love for sweet Maryjane” led him to the melting pot. Over the years he has soaked up every piece of inspi- ration available in order to further his art. He’s worked with names both sides of the border including Patrick Stratis, J-Red, Dew, Ben Evers, Red Beard, Jon Kostuk, White Flame and is always looking for new opportunities to collab- orate.

“My most memorable moment would have to be getting the opportunity to attend a Scott Deppe course, his teachings have greatly improved the quality of my work……Thank you Scott!!!!”

ME Glassworks

Matt was always destined to be an artist, it took until 2004 to discov- er glass but since then he was hooked. He made the move onto borosilicate in 2007 and never looked back. After graduating col- lege he moved out to Eugene, Oregon, where he worked at Dichroic Glass Alchemy before moving onto cooperative studios including Cornerstone and Freeman Studios. Since then Matt has taken all that he learned and applied it to ME Glass. Reaching the point where he can open his own gallery in Burlington, where he teaches, makes and showcases glass in all forms, and taking ME Glass to the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. His work is constantly evolving and he strives to merge the world of functional and non functional glass art.

Conclusion It seems like Canada’s glass scene is coming on leaps and bounds and a community is coming together to learn from each other and push Canadian glass to the next level. The Great Canadian Glass Gathering has been a huge part of opening the scene up and we will be heading out with the guys from TY and 1 of a Kind Glass to check it out. Started in 2008, the Great Canadian Glass Gathering has been held in the Coastal Mountains of BC, not far from the slopes of Whistler. Glassblowers from across Canada (and beyond) and across all glass disciplines (from beads to blasted panels to pipes) brought glass gear and camping gear to light it up together. With an ‘organic’ home-grown feel to the event, it is not so firmly organized. Demos all day, collabs everywhere, and collectors and store owners drooling at our shoulders, waiting to snap up the still warm glass. Delicious organic food, tasty music provided by DJ friends, we all gather under the roof of a great long out- door tent. It truly is an epic event. a Piper’s Dream.

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