The art of glassblowing dates back to some of the earliest civilizations but it was not until the late 1970s that the first patent was filed for a glass pipe meant to be smoked out of. Little did anyone know at the time just how large of an industry, and a culture, would form around this simple design.
In the past 10 years we have witnessed a renaissance of mind-blowing functional glass art created by incredibly talented individuals, some of whom ride that talent to the top of the game and stay there, and some who burn out quicker than a busted kiln.
It’s not ever easy to make it as an artist, but for many years this particular form of art came with a real risk of running on the wrong side of the law so those who made it through those darker days and are still blazing borosilicate on the other side deserve our respect.
If you’re using the top weed grinder in the game, odds are you probably appreciate badass glass as much as we do here at SLX Grinders. So here is our list of the…
TOP 10 GLASSBLOWERS STILL STANDING IN 2020
Art is subjective and we have about a hundred artists off the top of the head that could make it on a list like this but these are some of our favorites. The first person that came to mind was an old friend whose impeccable style has consistently evolved and has certainly withstood the test of time…
THAINE RAWLINS / RAWLINS GLASS / OLYMPIC GLASSWORKS
Olympic Glassworks based out of San Diego, CA was at the top of the glass game a decade ago, putting out flawless glass bongs with innovative percolator designs that led to unrivaled diffusion and bubble stacking function.
Although Olympic Glassworks is no longer around, Thaine Rawlins the man behind the torch still is and these days his work is labeled as Rawlins Glass and can be found in the hottest headshops and glass galleries online and in stores across the country. We caught up to Thaine recently and asked him about those early days and how he has been able to ride the wave for so long.
“I had loved color changing pipes forever then my friend Stevo started making them in his garage so I started in ‘98 but I’ve been making glass full time since 2003. The first thing that comes to mind (from the beginning and sill to this day) is it’s all about being able to hang out with friends while we make and watch magic happen every day,” Rawlins told us.
We also asked him for any tips he may have for other artists who want to be in it for the long haul. He told us, “I believe I’ve made it this long by one basic principle. Work ethic. Do the best you can do every time you do something and have fun while you’re doing it.”
That’s great advice!
While you may have been able to scoop one his earliest pieces of art for much less, Thaine’s value has held steady over the past decade. These days, you can find some fine examples of his scientific clear glass tubes for less than $700, with his headier, color-worked pieces fetching a bit more in price
A small-town Oregon native, Buck’s love for nature is expressed in every piece of art he makes. For a decade or more, his signature style has defined the upper end of what a glass artist can accomplish, and of what a functional glass piece can command, price-wise.
Buck’s work is always priced at least in the four-figure range, but some of his solo work and collaborations with other artists have climbed closer to the six-figure range. You may remember when the moneyed up playboy Dan Bilzerian tweeted that an Ambien-fueled online shopping spree landed a $6500 Buck Glass dab rig on his doorstep.
Big Dan must have liked it because he then commissioned Buck to create a massive, hand-blown glass chandelier.
Aside from his insane level of talent, Buck Glass is by all accounts one of the nicest human beings you will ever hope to meet, and THAT is real value!
JASON HARRIS / JEROME BAKER DESIGNS / JBD
It doesn’t get much more old school than a Jerome Baker bong or bubbler. If you want to go back further than JBD, you’re talking about Bob Snodgrass, and that is who Jason Harris honed his craft with early on in his career. The earliest JBD bongs did not yet feature glass on glass fittings for the bowl and downstem, instead using a rubber grommet to create the airtight seal at the joint.
Like Rawlins Glass, JBD recognized that there was a niche that needed to be filled in that price range and although both of those artists do occasionally bust out something on the higher end of the scale, Jerome Baker Glass can be bought brand new today for that same $100-500 price range and you can own something from a true OG.10-15 years ago, the glass market was nowhere near as diverse as it is now, nor were the customers as savvy as they are now. Back then you could snag a Jerome Baker bong priced anywhere from $100-500 on average, depending on how much extra art adorned each one.
Perhaps the best way to remain relevant in a saturated glass market is to create a base of dedicated collectors who love your signature style. For Elbo, the style is dope dinosaur dab rigs and the collectors can’t get enough.
Blending his unique forms with contrasting styles in collaborations with other artists helps a glassblower like Elbo expand his own collector base even wider. Elbo’s work always brought in top dollar, but the days of scooping new or used Elbo dinos for under $2k are all but gone.
EPOK / A REAL NOBODY
Known by most glass fans for his colorful, functional, dreamlike renditions of raindrops falling from clouds, our earliest memory of this artist’s work was when he created a dual function Nintendo Entertainment System… out of glass! Yep, you could dab or smoke with it, or play Duck Hunt or Super Mario Bros.
This artist doesn’t mass produce his work so demand remains healthy and his fair pricing hopefully keeps the orders rolling in. We have no idea if the NES piece ever sold, or for how much, but EPOK’s pricing has remained steady as long as we have followed him. For a grand or two, you can have what we think are some of the most eye-catching pieces on the market.
Probably the best motto in the glass game – “Only one carb!” – is a brilliant play on the fact that KGB glass is known best for making dry pipes (with one carb hole) shaped and created to resemble delicious donuts! Aside from the occasional collaboration that may fetch a higher price, KGB Glass pipes and wearable pendants have remained virtually the same in price over the years and can usually be had for a few hundred bucks or less, without that regretful stomach ache later!
So, the most money that a functional piece of heady glass art has ever gotten at auction is ONE MILLION DOLLARS. Yep, you read that right. The third highest amount ever paid for a heady glass rig was $300,000. What did they both have in common? Banjo Glass was in on the collaboration. Most people shake their heads in disbelief at prices like that but when you are as uniquely talented as Banjo, you just need a couple of people to literally buy into your vision.
Another real OG of the glass game, Phil Siegel’s work has always pushed the boundaries of what was thought possible with borosilicate glass. His earlier work was usually in the $500-1000 range for super heady bubblers featuring flawless discs, horns, and color combos.
Siegel’s Warlock and Wizard line of dab rigs are the real magic. This ever-evolving style has caught fire with collectors and routinely command prices ranging from $2,000 to $10,000, and more.
JP TORO / TORO GLASS
Some people favor function in the glass. Some favor form. For those who demand both, Toro Glass has been the standard for over a decade and counting. You will not find any sculpted creatures or delicate design here. Instead, you get a perfectly proportioned, flawlessly functioning, hard-hitting, durable dab rig. They’ve never been cheap, but the good stuff rarely is, right? For $300-$1000 you’ll never be disappointed with your Toro Glass and if you take care of it, it could be the last rig you ever need to buy.
Much like Mothership Glass, it becomes a hyped event anytime a high-end headshop or smokeshop is due to get a new drop of Sovereignty Glass pieces. They are not outrageously priced – plan on spending around a grand for one if it ever crosses your path – but these thick, massive, American-made bongs will sell out within hours of landing in a shop and good luck finding one just chilling unsold in any online glass shop. With demand like that and full control over the supply, Sovereignty Glass gives glassblowers the perfect playbook for how to build a brand that lasts.
Who are some of your favorite glass blowers, artists, and studios that continue to drop your jaw after all these years?
Let us know in the comments below!