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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
Before there was Mothership, the legendarily elite American production company, there was Jake C and Scott Deppe - Two true American glass masters from before Operation Pipe Dreams was an actual thing. While most contemporary functional art collectors only know him for his founding of Mothership Glass with Jake that is far from his only credential. When you hold a Scott Deppe piece in your hands you will marvel at the precision of his craftsmanship - while many artists are hard at work cornering a niche market with their trademark style or signature design Scott has always been one to display an amazing ability to master any technique he worked at hard enough. Custom linework, crazy stemless bubblers, thirteen different types of wig wags, opal encasement, dry, bubbler, stemless - Deppe has thrown down something in literally every single one of those styles that make artists with ten years on the torch weep a single, appreciative, tear upon viewing.
All of that being said, this piece is the culmination of everything he and Jake worked towards when they started Mothership - A completely custom piece of work, designed by the company owners, and executed by Scott. The secondary faberge egg percolator is fed by a fixed, stemless, downstem which itself is diffused by six deeply carved Seeds of Life. The downstem, foot, neck, and bucket are all encalmo black-to-rainbow sections, some wagged out with custom rainbow linework - All handmade by Scott Deppe himself. The foot is sandblasted with the classic Mothership logo and the titanium hinge on the honey bucket is also deeply carved with matching Mothership branding. This piece is a one of a kind, museum quality, collectible piece of the American functional art industry. You don't have many chances to own a piece of history and Illuzion Glass Galleries' is absolutely proud to offer that opportunity to our clients. The piece is available to view at our downtown Denver, CO, location and may also be viewed here on our website.
Since our website has gone live we have been in the process of making constant improvements, large and small, to everything from the user experience (that would be you lovely folks sitting out there reading this) all the way through to the hard work on the back end. During all of this we at Illuzion Glass Galleries' truly appreciate everyone for enjoying the site and alerting us to any minor inconveniences - the community we are building here truly contributes and it is great! As we are fine tuning portions of the website we will also try to throw up a blog post about those products, companies, categories, or artists so check back here frequently to see what we have been up to!