In the 1960’s, what is referred to as the “studio glass movement” began. Ceramics professor Harvey Littleton and engineer Dominick Labino experimented with small furnaces, melting glass, and making blown-glass art during a workshop. They promoted the use of furnaces in small studios and encouraged artists to develop the modern glass-blown art we see today.
By the 1990’s, the first true glass-blowing artist Bob Snodgrass begins making glass pipes and bongs using a “fuming” method. Fuming coats the glass with vaporized silver or gold on the inside. Snodgrass, along with his first student, Hugh Selkind spent a Winter in Oregon making glass pipes and bongs. The following Spring they traveled and sold every piece they made. Snodgrass gained more students, causing today’s movement of small glass-making shops to develop. The glass-blown pipe and bong industry received another boost when the famous Tommy Chong entered the business. More elaborate and decorative, Chong’s pieces would sell for thousands of dollars.
Today, blown-glass pipes and bongs are a multi-million dollar industry. Still, hand-blown glass bongs have become more detailed, fanciful, and grand. Nowadays, glass-blown bongs include diffusers, ice chambers, double bubblers, and spill-proof twists. Next time you buy or use a glass-blown bong, take a closer look at the artistry involved in creating the piece of art you hold in your hands.
Modern molding methods have tried to replicate the look of the “bullseyes” achieved by glass-blowing artists. But, factory methods can not repeat the center created by hand-spinning and breaking the glass off the rod. The spun center is different in each piece machines can’t duplicate the variability of an artist.