The growth and success of the glassblowing and cannabis industry are mindblowing to everyone who has been immersed in this culture through the years. What was once a fringe, underground movement has exploded into an international celebration of all things kind and heady. Having been a player in this game for decades, I am astounded at the progress that has been achieved. Over the years, I have had the pleasure and good fortune to not only grow my business while continuing to expand and evolve as an artist but along the way, I have also been recognized for my skill in some pretty major events. These experiences fill my heart with gratitude, and these opportunities have surely been influential in the progression of my work. So, I’d like to tell you about one of the most meaningful of these events I was so lucky to be a part of and even more fortunate to take the top award in.
The Eugene Glass School Flame Off
Back in 2010, my glass blowing partner Gabe Whitted and I took first place in the team division at the Eugene Glass School’s 8th Annual Flame Off competition. Though today’s glassblowing industry is booming and filled with creative artists and up-and-coming makers alike, 2010 was a totally different world. There were very few events dedicated to glassblowing and certainly not an abundance of tournaments that we see today.
About the Competition
Eugene Glass School’s Annual Flame Off was a huge deal in the industry, and it happened once a year. The only other competition of its kind was the Degenerate Flame Off, which was only open to the 30 best glassblowers in the world. If you wanted to compete and were not included in that very exclusive group, the only other option was the Eugene Glass School’s 8th Annual Flame Off. This meant you had to bring your best game if you were going to step into the ring!
The Dynamic Duo of Glass
Gabe and I have been friends for years, and we decided to give it a shot and enter together in the team division of the event, figuring it would be more fun than going solo. Neither of us had ever competed in such an arena, and we were a bit nervous heading in.
We both have very different styles of creation; while I focus on abstract visions with dichroic glass, always trying new things with swirls and galaxy-inspired marbles, Gabe is all about sculptural creatures and characters. Infusing our styles, we created a really wild, original piece featuring a flying eagle swooping into a lake, with a massive 4” dichroic marble. This piece physically had both of us pushing our limits at full throttle to execute.
The work was beyond intense, we were using extra-large torches maxed out to produce a serious amount of heat. I was geared up to the nines in heat protection gear, and my competitor tag still melted from the inferno! Completing this work took everything we had in us, this piece required multiple pieces being made separately and then added all together in one final step. Through the fervor of bringing our vision to reality, upon completion we both threw our arms up in a successful celebration as the watching crowd applauded and cheered.
And the Winner is…
We were super stoked to find out the next day at the award ceremony that we took first place and won a big fat prize. I’m very honored to have accomplished that with my good friend Gabe. It was a serious moment of accomplishment having pulled that off! Honestly, we were just happy to make something cool that didn’t break. It’s crazy how your nerves can affect you when you’re literally on the spot, on the torch in front of a crowd on the stage. I can’t tell you how full of gratitude I am that I was able to step on stage and take first place at this competition in the early days.
Changing Times and Going Along for the Ride!
Seeing how far the industry has come, there are 6 or 7 major comps that happen every year now, and it’s really awesome seeing everybody pushing the limits. In the much broader scope of things, with the changing of the times, we truly are experiencing an American glass renaissance revitalizing the glassblowing industry. Glass artists in the US are producing more borosilicate glass art than anywhere else in the world. We are turning into the new Murano, Italy and it is such an honor to be a part of it!