Perpetual Motion: â€œJ.A.G. Just Another Glassblowerâ€
By: Aaron Evans
Every so often you meet a mind so creative that every angle and aspect of that personâ€™s life simply oozes with ingenuity. Blessed with an inherent indifference to societyâ€™s notion of what an artist should be, they live in a world of freedom and imagination. When boundaries and roadblocks become the catalyst for self-improvement, rather than excuses toÂ wither andÂ fold, one becomes unstoppable, infinite.Â This monthâ€™s Perpetual Motion proudly presents J.A.G. (Just Another Glassblower), a craftsman whose work and ideology embodies these ideas to a tee. From Easy Street, his one of a kind glass art gallery in New York City, to his role in creating â€œSmokedâ€ Vol. 1 and 2, J.A.G. constantly resets the bar for himself and those around him. Even his name, which I asked him the meaning of, was answered only by a playful sarcastic smile, confirming that he knows he is anything but Just Another Glassblower.
Last month, on my way home from rocking a show in L.A., I was honored to be invited to his brand new shop here in San Diego for a face to face discussion about the numerous roles he has played in the culture. Having just relocated from Philadelphia eight months ago, he had just got done putting the finishing touches on his new digs, and it was impressive to say the least â€“ seven torches, 20+ foot ceilings with exposed wood beams, kilns in every corner, and a ventilation system that looked like it was powered by a jet engine. This was a place of manifested dreams. He explained to me how his new palace had come to be, only after years of paying dues with hard work and sacrifice. I asked him how his journey began and he explained that since the very first time he had hit a glass bowl, he was mystified by the medium and spent his entire life determined to propel his techniques and the culture forward. I knew from seeing his remarkable pieces at IGS and CHAMPS that he was one of the top blowers in the world; but as he continued to talk, I realized that this angler had just landed himself a white whale.
Now one of the coolest things about getting to go to a torch workerâ€™s layer is that you get to see their current inventory and take a peek inside their private picture collection. J.A.G. has done a phenomenal job documenting his career and showed me a vast presentation of his works.Â Being that he was initially brought up and taught in PAâ€™s booming glass scene, his early pieces show a level of skill that is almost hard to believe. Most of his work from 10 years ago is still considered cutting edge to this day. My gut tells me the rest of the world is simply trying to catch up with him and his compadresâ€™ innovative compositions, and Iâ€™m starting to see that in the glassblowing community thereâ€™s the best, and then thereâ€™s all the rest.
Quickly rising in the culture, he decided to open a gallery in Philadelphia to showcase his higher-end pieces, but there was one major problem â€“ Operation Pipe Dreams happened the day it was set to make its public debut. For those unfamiliar with Operation Pipe Dreams, Iâ€™ll give a quick explanation. In 2003, our government had the fantastic idea to flush 12 million dollars down the toilet in a national raid targeting the most despicable of all villains â€“ artists. Sighting outdated laws in Pennsylvania and Iowa, 55 people were arrested; 54 of which got off without being sentenced to jail â€“ all except for Tommy Chong. Thank god we got him off the streets for 9 months. I know Iâ€™ve never felt safer than that time in my life. Even though very few blowers were sent to jail, the sting sent shockwaves through the community for years and artists were sent underground once again.
Being that he was at the epicenter of the raids, J.A.G. had to scramble to find a creative solution to a very volatile landscape. Initially stepping back from making pipes, he spent a few years designing jewelry that looked like something from a futuristic tribal gathering set in another galaxy. Still, he missed his roots and decided he would find a way to go incognito. His environment demanded adaptation, so he rose to the occasion obliterating the box and taking his craft to a whole new level. By never saying never and diving down the rabbit hole, he found a personal wonderland where anything and everything could be inspiration for a smokeable piece of art.
Sherlocks became elongated silhouettes of African goddesses standing tall and proud. Bubblers became naturalistic narratives depicting landscapes from Asian bamboo fields. His pieces became living works of art, untamable by conventional thinking. During this period, his creations were so undetectable, as pipes, that you could stare at them 100 times over and not notice the stunning imagery in front of you was a functional way to medicate. Words like breathtaking and groundbreaking are often used to describe this time in J.A.G.â€™s career, and the acclaim is well deserved. As an artist, when youâ€™ve earned the respect of your peers, you know youâ€™re doing something right. His collaborations, with almost every other major name in the glassblowing community, confirm that it has been a long time since he has made a wrong turn. This may be one of my favorite eras from any blower ever. If I had to choose one word to sum it up, it would be eloquent â€“ simply eloquent.
The only problem with a cat like J.A.G. is that there is simply too much to cover in one article; you would need a book, which he told me is in his plans for the future. Being that we only have so much space, Iâ€™ll jump ahead to his adventures in California and the new line of scientific glass he is introducing to the medical community. He told me that the two primary reasons for his relocation were: A.) Starting a new chapter in his life where he could refocus on his art under the warm San Diego sun; and B.) His desire to feel less like a criminal for ingesting a daily medication.
Now for as much as I love his previous periods of work, I have to admit that I was a little skeptical when I first saw that his new line was flagshipped by glass replicas of syringes and pills. Iâ€™m not one who partakes in other drugs (thatâ€™s not how NUG rolls), and given that fact, I was somewhat turned off. Then he explained how the entire idea was spawned as a satirical spin on the current establishment of medicine. He figured that if he made our tools to smoke weed look like the traditional methods of medicating, people would finally see that we are, in fact, patients. Fucking brilliant! I was instantly sold.
He let me take home a few of the pills, which he has titled the â€œManifestaâ€ line, for me and the NUG fam to try out. One feature I really like about these pipes is that the line consists of 12 various etchings, representing ideas or desires one may want to manifest in their life. â€œBalanceâ€, â€œPowerâ€ and â€œPeaceâ€ are examples of the different options one can pick. He sent me with a â€œLoveâ€ for myself and a â€œBlingâ€ for the editors, wishing them success in their future ventures.
Now I donâ€™t know if itâ€™s the concept behind the pipe, the pristine craftsmanship, or a combination of the two, but all I can say is that this pipe hasnâ€™t left my hands all week. As I pack another bowl of Rickey Williams O.G. from Trichome Healing Collective, I realize my favorite thing about this piece is that the smooth, clean, white side adds class while the transparent mouthpiece allows me to gauge the size of the hit I would like. Iâ€™ve used this from sunrise to sunset, and my mind is set that this is the perfect piece for just about any occasion.
Ranking J.A.G., or any other blower of his caliber, is almost absurd. He is absolutely a master of his craft who never rests on his past accomplishments and tirelessly plows forward into uncharted waters. At the end of our conversation, he told me his big dream in life right now is to spend several months traveling around the globe. After talking with him, I have no doubt that heâ€™ll manifest his goal, and I canâ€™t even begin to imagine what offerings are in store for collectors upon his return. Check out J.A.G. online at www.easystreetbrooklyn.com, and on Facebook â€“ â€œNate Purcell (JAG Justanotherglassblower).â€
Weâ€™re firing up the engine on all cylinders now; the flame is burning brighter by the second. Make sure to check out next monthâ€™s edition of Perpetual Motion. Till then, keep the fire burning, you know I will.