Perpetual Motion “Ryno”
By: Aaron Evans
Six months into this adventure, I had an epiphany: Iâ€™ve been given a golden key. I, like so many of us in modern day society, am quite voyeuristic. Though Iâ€™m lucky enough as an artist to spend most of my life around other individuals with avant-garde ideologies about our world and its aesthetics, itâ€™s not standard form to sit them down in the hot seat, causally remove my scalpel, and pick their brains without reservation or apprehension. We artists are known for our ability to build emotional and social barriers around ourselves for an endless list of reasons. It makes sense. Iâ€™ve moved my fair share of pieces across the chessboard, and when living in wonderland, one must be careful with whom he shares what secrets. But here I am conversing with another master glass contortionist, about to turn the key and dive headfirst into a worm-hole of creative expression, yet again.
This month, Perpetual Motion has led me into the domain of Ryan Oâ€™Keefe, a.k.a. â€œRyno.â€ Iâ€™ve been looking forward to featuring some homegrown talent, and as this harvest season comes to an end, Iâ€™ve finally found a San Diego native who is humble and one hell of a craftsman. Well, I didnâ€™t really find him; he was right under my nose this whole time grinding away at the â€œGlass Palaceâ€ with J.A.G., JOP, and a few other cats Iâ€™m jazzed to cover in the future. Truth be told, the extent of my search was taking in a panoramic view of the shop. EVERYONE there is that dope. But hey, if Iâ€™m given a golden key, you can bet your ass Iâ€™m going to use it as often as humanly possible. You never know how long a worm-holeâ€™s portal will stay open, and Iâ€™m not one to ostracize an opportunity knocking at the door.
Now for those of you sitting at home who think glassblowing is an easy, simple, or even safe profession, let me take this opportunity to stop you in your tracks and share a quick story. When I touched basis with â€œRyno,â€ he was stoked to meet up, but had to arrange it around doctor appointments. The day before I contacted him, his EYEBALL had come in contact with a molten glass rod in a freak accident. Not his eyelid; his EYEBALL! Holy hot shit, batman! â€“That had to fucking hurt! Upon hearing this news, my jaw didnâ€™t hit the floor; it started digging a hole to China. But thatâ€™s the life of a glassblower: go hard or go home. True to his roots as a SoCal skate kid, Ryan was right back on the torch. If you donâ€™t land a trick, brush off your shoulders, ignore the bloody shrapnel buried in your skin, and blaze on toward glory.
If you could capture the sun and convince it to do your biddings, then you would begin to understand the true creative energy that lives behind each glassblowerâ€™s artistic universe. If you could befriend gravity and gradually develop a patient relationship with its unforgiving forces, then you would start to understand that the touch of a sculptorâ€™s hand is not given, but earned. If you can stare into the eye of danger, let its daggers protrude into your soul and ask for seconds at the dinner table, then maybe, just maybe, youâ€™re ready to be a glassblower.
Being that Ryan was born and raised in San Diego, it should come as no surprise that his lifeâ€™s story just oozes with SoCal swag. From his aforementioned first love for skateboarding to scuba diving, to spinning wax at house parties in O.B. that were so fresh, the cops would stop by not to shut them down, but to ask if they could come kick it after their shift change, Ryan has, as one of the assistants at the studio put it, â€œlived the dream life,â€ and itâ€™s hard for me to deem it anything but. But, you know me; Iâ€™m always looking for the â€œleap of faith.â€ And just because he was blessed with an S.D. upbringing and a loving F.A.M., it doesnâ€™t mean â€œRynoâ€ didnâ€™t get to where heâ€™s at without having to step over the edge more than once.
After working at a scuba school for several years, the facility shut down and he was laid off. Around the same time, an old DJ friend had begun blowing glass out of a garage and asked him if he was interested in checking out the medium. Given that he was already attracted to artistic outlets like drawing, it didnâ€™t take long before he was neck deep in pursuing a new dream. He used his unemployment checks to survive and decided that he would attempt to break through as a torch worker before the well went dry. Through scraping by and sacrificing, he propelled himself into success by staying focused on the finish line and not caving in to the burn of each individual step of the race. In fact, he was so focused that he still, to this day, ponders his obsession as bordering on the line of self-destruction.
This leads us to the three pieces featuring cartoonish caricatures with bombs for heads â€“ an introspective statement about how we all have our self-destructive tendencies, whether spawned from healthy or unhealthy intentions. It is true that he loves his art, but is it to his detriment? It is true that he loves the â€œno worriesâ€ lifestyle of SoCal, but what long-term repercussions do partying and revelry have? I know I can relate to this concept like the back of my hand and Iâ€™m willing to bet most of our readers can too.
These pieces are just straight up gangster and heavily influenced by a strong interest in comics, ranging from Marvelâ€™s Silver Surfer to the Sunday papersâ€™ Calvin and Hobbs, to the zany pages of MAD Magazine, with the latter perhaps having the most impact on this line as it instantly reminded me of their â€œSpy vs. Spyâ€ series. Some of the pieces take the concept of self-destruction to an extreme, featuring sculptures with guns to their heads and bad intentions in their eyes. Artistically, I find these pipes to be phenomenal. I find myself really drawn to the cleanness of pure black and white set against each other. When he adds a dash of color to this line, it jumps, or pops in a way that makes it look as if itâ€™s almost alive with movement.
Moving forward, letâ€™s take a quick look at his production lines featuring â€œRubber Duckiesâ€ and â€œFlying Pigs.â€ Now these have meaning behind them, but some secrets just arenâ€™t meant for print. Iâ€™m keeping that one up my sleeve. What I find so interesting about all his pieces outside of the â€œSelf-Destructionâ€ line is that they look like a Crayola box went crazy inside the studio. Itâ€™s true: for every yin, there is a yang. Bright colors are a real pain to work with, given that they burn easily, which changes the chemical compound and, thus, the color. Not only are these pieces fun, but they also required more skill than one may think upon first glance. The pink â€œFlying Pigâ€ he gave me is priceless at every seal, from snout to curly tail, and not a speck of torch burn in sight. I took this with me on the NugLife radio show and it proved to be the perfect snapper for the bong rip challenge; not to mention, just a lot of fun.
The last line of pipes I want to mention doesnâ€™t have a name; theyâ€™re just pipes. Slick, innovative, flowing, deep sea-esque, sick-ass pipes. If one were to title this line, it would be something along the lines of â€œAquatic Adventure,â€ often acting as a reflection of the days he spent under the waves scuba diving. Something I absolutely love is his use of the stemless bubbler technique. By simply creating a deep axis point within the pipe, he allows himself to add water to pieces without the use of interchangeable and sometimes breakable parts. This also allows him to keep the movement within the main chamber minimalistic or dense depending on his discretion. The portion and balance on these pipes are perfect, and are for someone looking for something a little more traditional in their smoking apparatus. These sculptures are exceptionally beautiful display pieces and completely functional juggernauts.
In the essence of those cartoons Ryno loved as a child, â€œThatâ€™s All Folks!â€
To see his amazing work for yourself, stop byÂ Daâ€™ Glassworks in P.B. or shoot him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also wanted to send a shout-out to his mom and dad for all their support over the years. Good form sir, good form. Iâ€™m out. Till next time, keep the fire burning. You know I will.