You just picked up an eighth from the store and you know the drill. Grind up those poor unsuspecting nuggets and either wrangle them into a paper or a piece of glass for impending combustion. If you’re like me, then glass is usually the ideal choice – not to knock on those of us out there that exclusively roll joints. When you’re holding that piece of glass in your hand, did you ever really take a moment and ponder that that pipe, bong, bubbler, steamroller, or chillum used to be a mass of sand particles before it was melted and coaxed into a clear liquid state? While you may have heard some simple terms like glass-blowing to explain how a pipe or bong is produced the term is very loose and doesn’t even begin to describe the subtle nuances and different types of glass work that use glass blowing as a tool. To help me decipher the tangled skein of art glass I was fortunate enough to get to meet up with Corey Silverman, a lampworking and glass blowing pro who’s been in the world of creating glass art for roughly 20 years now.
Corey having moved out to Colorado a little over eight years ago has just started a freshly rebranded glass workshop, The Furnace Hot Glass Studio. The Furnace Hot Glass Studio is unique from some of the other studios you may have heard about around town for a few reasons. For starters, unlike many local Colorado glass studios, The Furnace by no means focuses entirely on marijuana paraphernalia. In fact, during my visit the real highlights were some of Corey’s brand new terrarium-style art vases. Second, The Furnace has a strong emphasis on the learning process behind lampworking and glassblowing and even offers classes where you can come and learn the basics behind working with glass. Lastly, unlike many local blowers, you can find Corey’s work in galleries across the country and many various different online suppliers as well. After I learned a little bit about what makes The Furnace Hot Glass Studio different from other locations around the state, I got to watch as Corey create a bong, from start to finish.
The process is pretty much as one would expect, involving a massive furnace, oxy-propane torches, a hearty application of blowing, and a whole lot of manual manipulation using a variety of graphite tools. What started out as a hunk of molten glass was slowly, blown and manipulated into what at first looked like a stylish vase. While repeatedly spinning the piece Corey would return the nascent bong to the glory hole (not what you’re thinking, this is the hole in the side of a high-temperature kiln) in order to keep the glass workable and soft. The next step after attaining the basic shape was to add in a dichroic glass effect, which was achieved by adding a combination of different minerals to the surface of the glass. A steady roll through some frit (small glass fragments) gave the bong a little bit of speckled character. After multiple trips back into the glory hole to smooth the entire surface, Corey along with some help from one of the other workers at The Furnace wrapped a long snaking string of glass around what would become the neck of the bong, and ever so gently spiraled it down towards the base. Another trip back in the heat to add a little ergonomic curve to the mouth of the bong and little bit of work rounding off the mouthpiece itself and he was left with a nearly completed bong. The only thing left to do was to drill out a hole in the side and insert a female and a slide. I’m not going to lie, Corey made it look comically easy, then again I guess that’s what 20 years of experience will get you.
One look at the lamps, vases, goblets, and bongs that Corey has put together and it’s easy to see why his work is in so many different galleries across the country. Corey explained that one of the driving factors that started him into the colorful world of glass was his aversion to how ugly the majority of lampwork glass pieces really are. The most recent heyday for the art just happened to be around 60’s and 70’s, eras of human history where we seem to have forgotten what colors are appealing to the human eye and what colors aren’t. Corey explained that he was sick at looking at over 40 years of “sickly phlegm colored lamps”. No mucus themed art here. The works that The Furnace Hot Glass Studio produces are vibrant and unique pieces of art that simply speak for themselves.
If you’re interested in picking up any pieces from The Furnace Hot Glass Studio there are a few good places to look outside of the various art galleries that may or may not have what you’re looking for. Some of their work can be found on websites like Artful Home and Uncommon Goods. Better yet, if you want to snag one of their pieces for free you may still have a chance. In 1954, a group of local Westminster school students created a legend of a lake monster living in Hidden Lake (at the time Mud Lake). Corey and The Furnace Hot Glass Studio were hired to produce 250 lake-monster eggs that will be randomly placed around the lake, so keep your eyes peeled. Even more exciting you may be one of the lucky searchers to discover one of the fabled lake monsters glass turds. That right, along with 250 eggs, Corey also had the fortune of producing a bunch of glass poop as well, so keep on the lookout and know that at least if you step on any of the glass poops, you won’t need worry about getting any on your shoes.
If you are interested in the world of glass art, then now is the time to dive right in. With the recent legalization of marijuana and the new cries for high-quality art glass for smoking, the demand for glass has possibly never been higher. You can sign up right at The Furnace Hot Glass Studio website for pipe blowing classes starting at $195. If you are looking to jump head-first into the world of glass, then keep an eye out for The Furnace Hot Glass Studio’s new weeklong class. This $1,200 course is all week long and will start you out with the basics and hopefully by the end, depending on your aptitude, have you working glass on a journeymen level.
My adventure was over and it was time to leave the studio and get back into the refreshingly cool 90-degree weather outside. So next time you pick up your favorite pipe and decide that it’s time to have a session, take a moment and really appreciate all of the work that went into making a handful of sand into the piece of art. After seeing what Corey can create, I know I came out with a better appreciation of what it takes to make glass. Now I think it’s about time I go hunting for some free glass art laying around Westminster; I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to find one of the turds.