Behind the Counter

The stories behind some of the art, companies, artists, and products in our Galleries. We go behind the scenes to bring some of the underground and hidden stories of this movement to you!

  • Bear-ly Legal: An Interview with Shurlok Holm

    In the world of functional glass art there are some well known names - Snodgrass, Tony Cray, Mike Philpot, Darby - names conjuring images of intricate borosilicate art pieces. Precious metal trapped in glass to form rainbows and skulls, graal-worked labyrinthine patterns and puzzle pieces, spinner jets and razor marias, glittering dichro cacti and peyote buttons...These men are some of the peak artists in the community but they have also spent years working on their greatest collaborative achievements: Their children.

    Some children of these modern glass masters have followed their parents onto the torch, some of their grandchildren, too - Snodgrass, particularly, already has two generations lampworking with him! Tony Cray's son, Niko, is well known to collectors and artists alike for his amazing work forming glass into functional shark sculptures. Mike Philpot's eldest son, Mike Junior (known as Coilpot in the lampworking community), is an up-and-coming artist based out of Oregon with peerless color-working ability.

    In this particular blog we had a chance to interview the talented but humble Shurlok Holm (Darby Holm's eldest son) about his work, family roots, and future. If you are not familiar with Shurlok Holm let's go over the basics: Coming out of Grants Pass, OR, (Another hotbed for the functional glass industry) this twenty-one year old is already years on the torch - A GTT Delta Elite, in case you were wondering. Without further adieu let's get to the interview!

    Illuzion: All right, thanks for taking the time to chat. So how long have you been on the torch?

    Shurlok Holm: Probably, let's see, do the math now, I wanna say I've been making it my job the last three years but I've been on the torch for as long as I could remember. So there's kind of a little patch in there where I was still playing on it, but it wasn't a job. So I'd say I picked up the flame around seven and learned the basic fundamentals. That is where my addiction [to glass] started.

    Illuzion: So what did you learn to do first when it comes to glass?  

    Shurlok Holm: So like I said, I started playing when I was really young, like elementary school still. I started making just clear marbles then on a real regimen and I kinda went from there - I made a certain amount of this and that and then I made some mushroom marbles, then some mushroom pendants and some simpler pendants. I went from that to - I started learning, let's see - Eush showed me how to make vases to test out my hollow themes, like little tiny ash vases for people - for their loved ones [cremains]. So I started on basically the fundamentals and after I learned flowers and mushrooms I learned how to twist dichro and pull spikes.  I turned 18 and then he (Darby) finally gave me some hollow tubing and said, "This is how you make a pipe", that's when I started at making functionals.

    From that point on, I've always had my eyes set on functionals because of the fact that was who I've been around.

    Shurlok Holm Panda Bear Rig Desiigner (Panda panda panda) glass.

    Everybody's always been like, "When are you gonna do that?  When are you gonna do that?", so it's always been a goal of mine, but I knew it was all for a reason and there was a purpose for the way it was being done. He (Darby) was honing me into the shape that I needed to be before I could actually produce what I wanted, anyways so I took the steps necessary to learn my craft.  

    Illuzion: Very nice. Now, obviously, growing up as Darby's oldest you've been exposed to glass from an early age but if an alternate reality had happened, if you were just coming into this, you think you'd still be interested in working in the medium? Would it have been something that you would've gravitated towards even if you weren't raised in it?

    Shurlok Holm: Yeah, I think the only reason I'm actually so into it, to be honest, is the fact that this community and this lifestyle, it's a staple in our [American] culture as it is already. You know what I mean? So, for me, this is kinda like, it's my lifestyle no matter what. I don't see any other life, really.

    Illuzion: That being said, have you found it to be good or bad to be growing up as Darby's kid in the industry, both trying to be your own artist and just growing up as Darby's son in general?

    Shurlok Holm: Well, there's definitely the sides of both coins with every question, you know what I mean? Being my dad's son has got me to meet amazing people. It's brought me to amazing places and I've seen amazing events. I've been a part of amazing changes within our culture [the glass industry] that I've actually seen firsthand, which is rare and beautiful. That's honestly the best thing about being his son is the fact that I'm just able to be alongside most of the greatest things that are happening in [functional glass] history at the moment.  

    There's also the side of it that, yeah, I do get a lot of stress sometimes, cuz I have to live up to that but at the same time, I'm my own artist and I'm my own name. I will make my own image and whatever that turns out to be, my dad is pretty proud of me because I'm working hard. As long as I work hard, he will continue to be proud of me and that's fine with me. As long as I do what I do, I feel like I'm doing a good job.  

    A field of teddy bear pendants by Shurlok Holm Bear-ly legal skills.

    Illuzion: So what is the story behind the name?  

    Shurlok Holm: I actually really like this story! So Merc, like the Merc's Minions MERC, so it was Colorado project. I wanna say this was, wow...yeah, it was just a little before I turned eighteen. It was around 2000, I wanna say maybe '13 or '12. That way I was still fidgeting with the name a little bit back then, how I was gonna do the logo and the style and whatnot. So anyways, I got on stage with the Chicharrones..they were playing at this afterparty [for the Colorado Project] and Merc happened to know them and he got me up on stage with them. Then I was beat boxing with them and before I walked down, he was like, "So those of you who don't know...this is Darby Holm's son, aka Shurlok Holm", and he kinda just said it and made my name. He just said it in front of a lot of glassblowers and everybody was like, yes, I love it.  

    Illuzion: It stuck, nice!  

    Shurlok Holm: Yeah, it really stuck and it was kinda cool. So from that night on, I was always trying to just make it more me and become that name. More or less, I didn't become the name but it became me.  

    Illuzion: So what is your favorite subject matter, man, when it comes to actually working glass - even if you haven't worked it into glass yet - what is your big thing?

    Shurlok Holm: I don't have a favorite subject per se, but my thing is I like to expand my knowledge. Where I stand now on only 5, 10% into what I could know, I really wanna learn how to do soft glass. I don't know anything about soft glass, the techniques in that I feel like I could bring back over into borrow and utilize those techniques like way better than I have been. Just from observing and using those techniques and honestly, the more I collab, the more my knowledge grows. The more I work alongside these amazing artists, the more I find new techniques and new things that make my work better as it is. So, I can't really say I have a favorite subject. I can't really say I know what I'm working towards because in the end, I'm just working towards being better than I am yesterday, you know what I mean? Tomorrow is [my work] better? Because tomorrow is a better day. That's how I wanna see my work. If it can come out cleaner, more precise - sharper edges that don't look bad - just that clean sharp, sexy look. If I can get that to look that much more every time, that's what I work towards.  That's what I've always worked towards, excellency, I guess. Without working for excellency, you're not gonna get excellency.

    Shurlok Holm x Hoobs Sneaker Rig Mille, and bears, and sneakers, oh my!

    Illuzion: I got you. So, keeping that in mind, what is your current favorite technique? What do you like the most?  

    Shurlok Holm: Well, mille work is since I learned to make it two years ago now. That's what I have been using in my pendants, bear rigs, and all the tiles in Hoobs collab shoe. Really liking exploring it.

    Illuzion: So, all right, besides Darby (with him being pretty obvious) who's your biggest inspiration? What artists either in the glass industry or outside the glass industry are really inspiring you right now?  

    Shurlok Holm: Give me five seconds to think. [COUGH] To be honest, man, I took a lot of art school and if I could say anybody besides my dad - which is a really hard one to pass up because he is most my inspiration - yeah, so anybody besides him? I'm taking out the rest of the glass industry, cuz I don't feel like that really counts, and music doesn't count for me either because I am so iffy and so back and forth with music. But I'd have to say between the three, I really appreciate Van Gogh, Salvador Dali, and...Picasso, obviously. So those three artists - besides glass, music, and anything else modern - I'd probably have to say are really inspirational.

    Shurlok Holm Mille Teddy Rig Picasso isn't just an app!


    Illuzion: Very nice. So who's your fantasy collaboration, man, what's the fantasy collab for you right now, the artist you feel like you can't approach?

    Shurlok Holm: I've never been asked that...well, you know what? That is a hard fucking question! See, that's the thing, because I've collabed with quite a bit of people. The thing is, is I would really, really - honestly there's probably one collab that I see being the most beneficial for everybody but then, well, [whistles] I see two pretty dope collabs in my head [those] would be obviously a collab with Buck and then obviously a collab with WJC.  Those would probably be two of the heaviest collabs I can think of at the moment...or a Banjo, but we all know that would be sick as fuck no matter what. Those are probably the sickest in my mind I could come up, besides one with my dad.  

    Thanks for joining us here at this Father's Day week for our first artist interview here on the blog, we are incredibly happy it could be with one of the up-an-coming second generation glassblowers. Beyond this article we are also excited to announce, officially, that our downtown Denver location will be hosting father and son, Darby and Shurlok Holm, as a team later this year for live demos later this year! Happy Father's Day, one and all!

  • Fitted to the Industry

    Ryan "Ruga" Connolly is not your average CEO and Grassroots California is not your normal clothing line. Raised on the outskirts of Detroit, Ryan headed west after high school to earn his degree at the University of Colorado. During his time there he fell in love with the city but still heeded the siren's call of California upon receiving his degree. Once arriving in California Ruga first went to work in the corporate culture of real estate finance.

    As with many coastal Californians Ryan fell in love with the ocean, surfing, and the vibrant culture found at the beach, as well as in many of the beach communities. While enjoying his chosen past time Ruga suffered a severe skull injury - fractures in three spots - that caused him to seek and use alternative treatments for the recovery and chronic pain. With this new perspective on the healing properties of the plant he took a hard look around the real estate industry and saw a lot of his colleagues making a huge profit off of this healing movement and realized he desperately needed to change focus and find a new passion that more closely aligned with the counter culture.

    At this point Ryan decided he wanted to make a difference more than a dollar and, after receiving his end of an $11 million dollar real estate deal, left the finance industry to begin work on a film documenting the burgeoning California cannabis scene and culture. While beginning work on making his film a reality he used friends as a sounding board and think tank to develop funding ideas and raise awareness about the culture in general, that is where the seed that would grow to become Grassroots California was planted.

    In 2009 Ruga launched the progressive clothing company known as Grassroots California and since then has quickly come to be one of the most recognizable brands of hats in the game. Beyond his clothing line Ryan was also instrumental in starting the 710 Cup, a competition for herbal concentrates that ran until 2015. Between these ventures he has worked with counter culture legends like Jerry Garcia, Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Method Man, Griz, and many others. His company is also incredibly well known for working directly with many different glass artists and companies to create some of the most cutting-edge headwear on the planet - Embroidered, silk interiors, hologram bills, and more!

    Grassroots California is now an established brand with followers worldwide. Beyond being carried at all Illuzion Glass Gallery locations and they can be found in all fifty states and twenty other countries around the globe. Last year they put another trophy on their wall by successfully opening two permanent locations in Denver, CO, and Chicago, IL, as well as a successful pop up store in Barcelona, Spain. Ryan Connolly and his atypical company are definitely spreading the gospel of our culture across the globe and into the cultural mainstream - we cannot wait to see what this design-a-day company has in store during upcoming years!

  • Honey Bunches of Glass

    Head on with the first bee pendant from Phil Siegel. This ain't no Cheerio bee.

    Rear view of the first bee pendant from Phil Siegel The buzz is real.


  • American Glass vs. Import

    Welcome to the hot button issue of the functional art market, the debate is now entering almost old enough to drive a vehicle in many states. This is an emotional issue for many companies and artists because, quite literally, competing with import glass is taking food out of their employees and families mouths. The arguments are actually fairly disparate - Quality, working conditions, legality, and respect for original designs or brands - but it all comes down to this: Which of them is actually better for the collector and consumer?

    Let’s start with what many industry analysts agree is the jumping off point for independent artists and American production companies truly fighting imported merchandise - Operation Pipe Dreams goes into action on February 24, 2003. Early that morning agents, operating under the direction of then Attorney General John Ashcroft, raided hundreds of different locations around the country and arrested fifty-five different people. In short order, with the prosecution of Tommy Chong as well as other well-known American pipe manufacturers, glass shops and distributors across the country went underground, online, or flat out of business. At this point everyone in America immediately stopped buying, or needing, functional glass art. At this point smoke shops across the country began looking literally ANYWHERE to satisfy the demands of their customer base and previously overlooked importers started making frantic calls to factories in China, India, Pakistan, and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

    So let’s get into the arguments, for and against, huh?  It breaks down like this: The only pro for import glass is price. Ta da. It seems like such a simple answer but it really is the truth, you buy import glass if you cannot afford anything better or if you break glass like it is spun sugar. Why is American glass more expensive?  The quick and dirty answer is that the American government does not subsidize manufacturing or handicraft but the Chinese, specifically, do and it keeps the labor prices MUCH lower. You are also paying for the cost of living in the United States - health care, rent, materials, and all of the same bills everyone living there deals with. No one ever likes hearing it stated so bluntly so we can break the two main arguments down, too.

    Quality - American production companies, and almost all well-known solo artists, spend thousands of dollars and man hours doing iterative prototyping (they make it again and again until they cannot improve it any further or are satisfied) single pieces of work. Import glass is manufactured under the mantra of “Make it faster, make it cheaper” and it shows in every aspect of the work. Lower quality supplies, thinly worked glass, bad welds and joints, no thought to durability - These are the hallmarks of imported functional production glass.

    Working Conditions - Following their mantra of the most work for the least money, import glass manufacturers pay incredibly low wages and have minimal safety equipment or training. This means that there is a very real human cost to imported glass that is rarely discussed by the customer. Beyond the safety hazards many of these companies do far more than just make smoking devices, this also means that cross-contamination of materials is a reality. Would you buy a piece of plumbing from Flint, MI, to take home and use with your friends and loved ones? This is the ONE area where United States Federal guidelines mean we are all better off working here.

    Over the ten years since the founding of Illuzion Glass Galleries we have been proud to contribute to the resurgence of the American functional art glass scene, even as more import glass showed up on the market and forced prices ever higher. We continue to be proud to support American companies and solo artists because they treat glassblowing as the intricate and innovative art form that it is - Overseas this medium is not treated as an art but as a manufacturing job, where designs are copied instead of created. By purchasing American glass you are contributing to the legacy of American craftsmanship as well as helping to earn functional glass art respect within the broader art community.


  • Seeing is Believing

    The largest, most heavily worked, Absolute Krunk tube ever. One of the largest, most heavily worked, Absolute Krunk tubes ever. Only available at our Denver, CO, gallery location.

  • Having a Truly Sprung Spring

    We at Illuzion Glass Galleries' are truly stoked to bring you our Sprung Spring Sale! To honor our clients we have decided to put some massive, site-wide, discounts out there...Plus free shipping on orders over twenty-five dollars! We know summer is coming and want to help all of you break out some epic new glass for the coming season of events (you know: barbecues, pool parties, field parties, festivals, and gatherings.) Sale ends by the time summer begins, don't be caught sleeping and miss out on all the goodness. Remember, we love you all! Spring Sale


  • Manifest (Glassworks) Destiny

    New York state-based Manifest Glassworks (or MGW) has been making quality American production glass for over a decade now as though it were their destiny to do so. Bonz, the owner and company mastermind, has been working glass for over fifteen years and made a name for himself back in the day by making functional art out of custom stick stacks and early dichroic glass that has truly stood the test of time for both design and style. Priding themselves on being part of the American Craft movement they use all American manufactured materials to make stemless water pipes, traditional water pipes, bubblers, vapor rigs, ash catchers, and more. Their work is not restricted to simple single color or clear glass, either, they also produce tubes with reversal work and fuming, too.

    When it comes to scientific diffusion MGW is probably best known for their distinctive CIRQ and Birdcage percolator designs. The CIRQ, a perc tube inside an oversized showerhead perc , gives you 360° diffusion through the precision cut slits for maximum filtration on Manifest Glass tubes; the Birdcage features four different uptakes feeding 360° of percolation. Between these two percs once you add in a diffused downstem you have all the right elements for perfectly filtered smoke or vapor...Although don't be surprised to see these New York madmen stacking multiple levels of vapor refinement onto a single piece.

    Illuzion Glass Galleries' have been proud to see Manifest Glasswork's crowned and three-eyed lion staring out from our shelves since the beginning, they were one of the first tube companies we stocked to try and get affordable, quality, American-made production to the consumer. Since then we have only seen their style and technique get better all the way around, we truly look forward to seeing what the next hot thing from this company is over our next ten years in business!Manifest Glassworks Banner


  • Planetary Alignment

    Half normal light, half UV light photo of Ill Glass 50 Watt Cycler Custom w/ Planets The planets have most definitely aligned!

  • ZOB - Southern California Science

    ZOB Glass was founded in 2004. Chip, the lead designer and salesperson for ZOB, has been blowing glass for well over fifteen years at this point. Since joining the Southern California-based company 2009 this team of production workers have supplied the eager public with distinctive styles and percolators. Their dedication to clean lines, as well as a distinctive graphical flair when it comes to ZOB branding, makes their pieces immediately recognizable even at a distance.

    Style? Oh, they have it. In spades. Illuzion Glass Galleries’ are proud to offer a wide variety of ZOB styles - bubblers, vapor rigs, tubes, and accessories - all manufactured out of German scientific-quality Schott glass. The innovative “wubbler” design is particularly interesting, it was designed to be a combination of a bubbler with the more traditional tube. Usually more experienced smokers find that a bubbler can be too small, while a typical water pipe would be too large - Chip and his team came up with this gorgeous Goldilocks of a piece, fitting right between the two. Not only is it between the two pieces in size, but Wubbler’s also pack one of ZOB’s unique percs into that package for unparalleled filtration to size ratio.

    The pinnacle of ZOB's percs - The Zobello

    Speaking of those unique percolator designs, did I mention the Zobello? Sure, they do make rather nice UFO, 8-arm tree, inline, and flat disc percs but the Zobello is truly Chip’s masterpiece. This perc is designed for maximum control on the release of gas, meaning that the bubbles are dispersed evenly throughout the ring and thereby more finely filtered. Not only are you getting a well-filtered smoke, or vapor, from the Zobello but it also releases the bubbles from the cylinder’s center - A beautiful visual as everything separates then reunites in a frothing roil. Functional and beautiful, just that simple.

    From their start as a baby scientific company to their current position as one of the standards for American production companies ZOB Glass truly has something for everyone. Chip and his team will no doubt continue to produce new and impressive Instrumentum Percolatus far into the future - Illuzion Glass Galleries will be here and proud to present them to you! ZOB Banner

  • Mobius Glass - or - How to be an Overnight Success

    Mobius Carb Cap Stylish and simple.

    Making it, as a glass artist, follows a similar path as many industries to make an overnight success. It's simple, really: spend ten years on the torch and you may have what it takes to be declared an "overnight" success. In a lot of ways that is what happened with Mobius Glass. The company founder, John (known as cIRclE to many in the glass community) began blowing glass in November, 1999, after initially pursuing a degree in music performance. Initially working out a small shop in the San Fernando Valley as an apprentice he fell in love with glass while also learning about real life.

    Mobius Logos

    cIRclE launched Mobius Glassworks in April of 2010, almost eleven years after picking up a torch, and almost immediately found that "overnight" success. With the dual core values of "innovation" and "perfection" John and his small hand-picked team of glass experts have now continued to impress and amaze for over seventeen years at this point. To absolutely no ones surprise John continues to enjoy his work creating unique functional art and still has a deft hand with the torch!

    Mobius Glass Stereo Matrix Perc The Stereo Matrix Perc by Mobius

    Perhaps best known for their intricate perc work, the Matrix is perhaps their most widely utilized creation. Using either a tube or puck of glass their technicians ensure that there are up to one hundred and sixty small holes for maximum diffusion around the entirety of the percolator. This perc is featured, to great effect, in many of their designs and allows the vapor-filled bubbles to rise and stack with minimal drag - Plus the vapor, or smoke, is incredibly filtered and smooth when it reaches the end user.

    Helmed by someone with almost twenty years in the business, now, Mobius continues to evolve their incredibly stylistic scientific style. Known for respecting other blowers ideas this team is committed to always pushing the boundary in a new direction - not to simply reinvent or restyle someone else's design. It has been an absolute pleasure seeing and experiencing what this company has made over the last seventeen years, we wait in mute anticipation to see what new things lay in store over the next seventeen years.

    Mobius Brand Banner Innovation. Consistency. Perfection.

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