Perpetual Motion: An Exploration into the American Glassblowing Culture

Article By: Aaron Evans
Photos By: Brom Richey

When I started scripting the first installment of “Perpetual Motion,” I chose the title for several reasons. To begin with, glass never truly settles into an absolute solid state. When you heat the molecules, they become rapid and frantic, and loosen their bonds as the substance becomes free-flowing and malleable. In contrast, when you cool the molecules they resettle into a hardened form, yet never crystallize to become fully solidified, as is the transition with water to ice. This fascinating duality leaves glass in a category defined only by itself, and without any parallel. The title can also be explained by watching the artisans work within this medium who must maintain a constant state of movement while practicing their craft. Gently seducing gravity as they carefully and precisely mold the molten liquid into its new refined shape, a blower’s hand must move with the grace of a ballerina balanced with the strength of an ironsmith. The final reason I settled on the name that I did, is the art itself. Classically, torchworkers’ creations have been a lucid freedom likened to improv jazz or a Jackson Pollock painting come to life. Not having a rhyme or reason, they shine in their perfect, imperfections. Moving forward into a new era of technical advancement where ornate attention to detail is the fashion, even the most realistic pieces still look as if they could just melt away and are not quite convinced they must stay in their confined shape.

This month’s NUG proudly presents our first featured blower, “Maximus,” a muse who fuses the old school to the new school with this throwback bubbler that carries touches of modern flare. Maximus hails from the Midwest, and like so many other blowers in the culture, he is self-taught. He chooses to learn through trial and error, which allows his style to develop naturally and organically. I was fascinated with a story he shared about an early period in his career when he would simply pull into the lot of a Grateful Dead show or stop at a local rest area, pop out his tanks and fire up his flame wherever and whenever inspiration struck. Now if that’s not the essence of D.I.Y., then I don’t know what is. In a world of mass reproduction and impersonal assembly lines, American glassblowers like “Maximus” are true rebels standing on the last line of defense against a homogenous existence.

When this piece first arrived in my hands, I was elated to see it was a water pipe. In fact, my favorite feature about this pipe is how he left the white bottom chamber open and extended the downstem into the chamber, which effectively hides the water and muck that can begin to build up after only a few uses. I also dig the insane candy cane colors that swirl and play while still leaving enough clear transparency to watch your favorite flavors dance their way toward the mouthpiece. The overall shaping and use of color is what truly makes this a collision of the old and the new. If the pipe was abstract throughout, then I would say it only captures the old school vibe. However, given the clean lines in the overall presentation, not to mention the wildly protruding arms on the backside, I see an edge of new school influence.

This brings us to the next feature I’d like to highlight: those eccentric arms that have no real practical application, but can add so much depth to a piece. On each side, you’ll find a dichroic horn that gives a rugged and strong touch as it sparkles, fizzes and explodes, exposing endless colors as it captures and reflects light from different directions. Dichroic is a type of glass with metals inlaid into one side allowing the blower to magnify the small particles. Ranging from almost paper thin to large sheets, “dichro” has roots that date back to 4th century Rome. Though a relative newcomer to the world of pipe working, it has become a mainstay in the culture as a personal favorite of many smokers over the last 10 to 15 years.

Squeezed between the outer horns are two squiggly arms – the more interesting one being the taller, more protruding red one. By placing a glass rod into a reduction flame, “Maximus” forced the inner metallics of the glass to the surface; thus, creating a milky mat finish of bold maroons and mahoganies. From a purely aesthetic perspective, this is hands down one of my favorite processes in the medium, and I’m excited to add another pipe to my collection with this eye-catching feature.

Now, I’ve saved the best part for last. HOW DOES IT HIT???

As I load up some Saturn O.G. from Trichome Healing Collective, I can see that this isn’t going to be a sipper. This thing is going to chug. The size of the hole in a bowl is a major factor in the way a pipe hits. If you like smaller more controlled tokes, I would point you in the direction of a bowl with a smaller hole. If you like more thunderous hits, I would recommend something with girth that creates more airflow, and thus more smoke. Be careful though, too big of a hole can lose your precious green as it’s pulled through – something none of us would want.

Now my favorite thing about getting lifted with glass is that it leaves the medication untainted, pure. As the smoke pours through the percolation chamber and over my taste buds, that signature California flavor shines true. Heavy but not harsh, my lungs feel a hardy expansion, but enjoy the smoothness provided by the water filtration. The red and white wig wags almost become 3D against the grey backdrop of sweet sinsemilla. I feel my mind ease, my anxiety fade, my physical pain dissipate.

For me, this piece is ideal for a mid-day medication. It packs more punch than what I’m looking for in the mornings, but it doesn’t strain me to smoke all day long like tubes sometimes can. Overall, I’d rate this pipe a 7.5/10. In a culture where prices can exceed $20,000, handing out a 9 or 10 is going to be tough. But, for a piece that’s a functional, beautiful work of art that won’t kill the piggy bank, I or anyone else should be proud to add a “Maximus” piece to their collection.

Join me next month as I venture even further into the unknown. ‘Til then, keep the fire burning. You know I will.

bringing you that fire! stay tune for more posts.

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