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Functional Glass Art is a Major Component of Underground Cannabis Culture

Ashley Priest

by Ashley Priest

March 1, 2021 11:20 am ET Estimated Read Time: 8 Minutes
Functional Glass Art is a Major Component of Underground Cannabis Culture

Cannabis glass art is a functional art of spectacular proportions. There are many different variances of functional glass art created by a multitude of talented individuals. Glass and grass go hand in hand for many people. Glass pipes provide smooth, clean-tasting hits, and people love the endless possibilities of their designs. It wasn’t but a few short decades ago, when glass pipes were rare. When it came to pipes for cannabis consumption, they were mostly metal, wood, or stone.

You may remember, Tommy Chong spent a little time in jail for selling glass pipes. Go figure it wasn’t the weed that went in them that landed this cannabis legend behind bars. This was all part of Operation Pipe Dreams. It was an investigation by the federal government targeting businesses that sold cannabis pipes and bongs. The feds ended up arresting 55 individuals. Fifty-four of them received home detentions along with fines, and seizure while only one of them served prison time. Tommy Chong ended up doing nine months behind bars in federal prison. He also paid a $20,000 fine and underwent the forfeiture of a hundred and three thousand dollars of assets along with a year of probation and a cherry on top. Basically, Tommy Chong took a plea bargain to keep his wife from being prosecuted by the federal government. It is said that Operation Pipe Dreams utilized the resources of an estimated 2000 law enforcement officers and cost somewhere around the neighborhood of 12 million dollars. That’s the past, though, and these days glass is an in trend.

Glass has changed the game for grass, creating a multitude of different ways for consumers to inhale the good and exhale the bad. Glass isn’t just reserved for smoking cannabis flower or blazing buds. It has also become the go-to source for making dab rigs used to consume cannabis concentrates such as wax, shatter, crumble, or diamonds. So when exactly did glass make its debut on the scene in the cannabis community? Are there different types of glass? What is the average price of glass pipes? Are there any famous glass pipe or dab rig artists? These are all great questions we’re getting ready to explore.

When Did Glass Art Show Up on the Cannabis Scene?

Glass cannabis pipes first starting making their appearances throughout the cannabis community and culture during the 1960s and 70s. Intricate and exotic glassworks were designed as functional art for smoking weed. These bongs were more scarce than other traditional smoking devices such as stone, clay, metal, or wood pipes.

Glass pipes took a weed nap for a bit, but by the early ’90s, they were a hit again. By the late ’90s and the early 2000s, glass was just about everywhere. Color-changing pipes and small glass spoons were extremely popular. The only downside to glass pipes was dropping them off your lap and breaking them on the floor or gas station parking lot like so many of us have done.

Glass Type is Imperative for Proper Function

Not all glass is great for smoking. The thinnest and thickness can determine how heat distribution works as well as other factors. A glass pipe should always be hand-blown and never drilled. All too often, cheap China glass makes its way over to the United States, breaking through customs designed as a necklace. The pipe simply has a piece of quarter twine through it and no hole to smoke in the bowl. Once the shipment is on American soil, a dubious individual drills holes in the bowl to make them into pipes. This can create potential dangers such as the inhalation of tiny glass particles. Not many people take the proper procedures to work on called glass utilizing diamond-tipped drills and blades along with proper safety protocols. This type of glass is sold cheaply via wholesale and is often fragile and chintzy.

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Borosilicate glass, similar to Pyrex, is the standard for today’s cannabis pipes. Whether you are looking for a bowl or a dab rig, this is the way to go. This type of glass can endure extreme temperatures and, when blown thick enough, can even bounce. Yes, you heard that right I have seen glass pipes bounced off of the ground on purpose to demonstrate their durability. Pipes that are not made using borosilicate glass often are more prone to shattering, breaking, cracking, and producing low overall functionality.

If you are looking for glass in the form of a dab rig, you will want to make sure to have borosilicate glass and a quartz banger or nail. Should you get a male or banger made from cheap glass, you will know it the minute you put a flame on it. Within no time at all, it will crack. A glassblower friend of mine told me that a quartz banger can be glowing cherry red and placed into water or isopropyl alcohol and will not crack.

Functional Glass Art Can Soar into Six-Figure Prices and More

The price of glass might knock you on your rump. You can find glass pipes starting around five or $10 that are typically cheap pipes made of glass imported from China. The average glass pipe that is hand blown from borosilicate glass averages around $20 and up. When I say up, I mean waaaay up. There are glass pipes that run hundreds of dollars, thousands of dollars, tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and yes, they can even hit the million-dollar bracket. These prices are reflective of the technique and skill that goes into the fine art of glassmaking and for those specifically in the interest of art collecting and appreciation.

Two examples of glass pipes that have a $1 million price tag are The Throne and Earl the Skeleton Pipe. Of course, if that price tag is a little too hefty for you, there’s always The Sedna you could score for a near $300,000. If that still seems a little steep for you, there’s the Gold Encrusted for 100k. I know that’s still a bit up there for me, but how about Monkey See Monkey Shoot. This yellow AK-47 looking type with a Coyle Condenser brand monkey holding a finger gun sitting on top will only set you back $45,000. I once had the opportunity to smoke out of a $25,000 dab rig but absolutely refused. I was sure I would break it.

Don’t freak out, though, because not all glass pipes are this lavishly priced. Most people can score a pretty decent pipe for somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 to $200 bucks, depending on what you’re looking for. When it comes to functional glass art such as cannabis pipes, the ones that cost the most come from prestigious artists with a reputation and a mass following.

Notable Glass Artists

There are many different glassblowers out there that are extremely talented. I have personally run across several of them out in Colorado that have amazing talents. They sell their pipes through a personal private market and are often underpaid. This isn’t always the case, though. When an artist makes a name for themselves blowing glass pipes, their work can fetch a pretty price. Many showcase their arts and are sometimes able to sell/auction their pieces on social media sites such as Instagram. There is absolutely no way to give credit to all the exceptionally talented individuals who’ve helped the cannabis pipe glass blowing industry get to where it is. However, here are a few notable names to be familiar with:

  • Bob Snodgrass is often called “The Godfather of Glass.” He was working in a machine shop back at the start of the 1970s. After seeing a glass pipe displayed in a head shop window and meeting the artist, Bob found a new purpose in life.
  • Robert Mickelsen has a history in fine glass art. He took an apprenticeship with a professional lampworker before marketing his work in galleries back in 1989. His work has been featured in famous places like the Smithsonian Institution, the Corning Museum of Glass, and the Renwick Gallery of American Crafts. Robert also held a position on the board of directors at the Glass Art Society for six years. One day, he took his talents underground and began making functional glass pipes. His elegant creations helped bridge the world of glass art with the underground world of functional glass art.
  • Tammy Baller is a talented glassblower who’s become iconic for her sculptures of legendary people and characters such as the Wicked Witch of the West and Jerry Garcia.
  • Other honorable mentions of OG’s in the glass scene are Scott Deppe, Jake C Glass, Jerome Baker Designs, and Alex Ubatuba

When it comes to grass, the go-to is glass. For those who do not want to compromise flavor and are looking for exquisite style, glass brings a different level of class to cannabis. Blowing glass may have been around since the days of the Roman Empire, but that was a long way from the functional glass art of today. While there are many famous artists you can purchase glass pieces from, it is always a great idea to check out your local artists and see what they have. Oftentimes the local artists just haven’t become famous yet. If you have a favorite glass artist, let us know in the comments!

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