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Glass Blowing Is Experiencing A Revival With Cannabis Legalization

Francis Cassidy
work like this is uniquely linked to the cannabis industry

Glass blowing is a sophisticated trade that had its heyday around the time of the Roman Empire, but legalization has paved the way for a comeback.

Since cannabis legalization starting spreading around the globe, glass blowing has made somewhat of a resurgence. The demand from cannabis consumers for ever more decorative and creative bongs and pipes has led to a new generation who make some incredible art.

The Return of the Art of Glass Blowing

Glassblowers are just as in-demand today as they were at the inception in the second millennium BC. The art of glass blowing first evolved in modern-day Syria. In terms of trade, it was a lucrative business. Those that had mastered the skill were kept on a tight leash for fear their knowledge may escape with them. In fact, certain jurisdictions threatened glassblowers with death if they tried to escape!

With the recent boom in the cannabis industry and the myriad of ways to consume, glassblowers find themselves back in demand. The art of glass blowing is one that both machines and robots have found hard to master. So for now, capable glassblowers find themselves in the middle of a new evolving market full of opportunity.

The creative skills that many modern glassblowers possess have meant that glass pipes and bongs have become a status symbol among consumers. Just like the resurgence of vinyl, we’re seeing a resurgence in glass bongs and pipes with elaborately creative designs that fetch big money, up to $100,000 in the case of one glass bong.

glass blowing like this is uniquely linked to the cannabis industry

What is Glass Blowing and How Does it Work?

Glassblowing is the process of inflating molten glass into a bubble, or parison, using a blowpipe or blow tube. To begin with, the glass is slowly heated to temperatures exceeding 2000°F. Once molten, the glass becomes malleable enough to shape. Then, with the help of a hollowed steel rod or blowpipe, the glassblowers begin to do what they do best—blow. This fills the molten glass with air and hence forms a bubble within the glass.

From here, the bubble can then be further worked into any shape desired. The only limitations are the experience and creativity of the glassblower. The shape can be further refined by blowing air in through air holes that are drilled into the steel rod. As the glass begins to cool, it still remains malleable where finer tweaks can be made.

To ensure consistency, the stem, mouthpiece, and cylindrical parts of the bong can be worked with a lathe to ensure an optimal finish. Once complete, the glassblower can then make and add additional parts such as ice catchers, percolators, and other attractive additions.

glass blowing like this is uniquely linked to the cannabis industry

Why Glass is a Preferable Material

Metal pipes have certain advantages over their glass counterparts. These are cheaper and much more durable than glass, and won’t break when dropped.

But the problems with metal begin to arise when you consider what happens when consumers encounter heavy metal exposure. According to research, heated or corroded metal exposure leads to significant health risks. A study, published in Environmental Research (2017), involved the collaboration of several universities in both the U.S. and Europe. They investigated the effects of the ingestion of heavy metals when vaping from metal cartridges. They found that “all of the tested metals (cadmium, chromium, lead, manganese and nickel) were present in the e-liquids analyzed.”

Glass bongs or pipes are a much cleaner material, one where heavy metals are not a concern. In addition, glass has the added advantage of staying cooler, something which results in reduced harshness in the smoke.

glass blowing like this is uniquely linked to the cannabis industry

Glassblowing: What’s the Best Glass For Bongs?

When it comes to high-quality glass bongs, borosilicate glass is where it’s at. Borosilicate glass offers many advantages to cannabis consumers over the glass that’s used in cheap Chinese bong imports.

It’s stronger, more durable, and has extreme temperature and thermal shock resistance. In addition, borosilicate glass is resistant to corrosion, is easily cleaned, and offers extreme optical clarity.

Bongs blown with borosilicate glass should last for many years to come. Its thermal shock properties ensure it stands up to quick temperature changes again and again. This means, they won’t break from extreme heat, and they won’t crack when rinsed with water.

Borosilicate glass is much easier to clean than soft glass bongs due to a smoother surface — something that also means they are less likely to chip.

assorted pipes made by blowing glass

How to Learn The Art of Glass Blowing

The recent boom in glass blowing has meant that many budding artists have become interested. Glassblowing classes are common all across North America and are easy to find. But, glassblowers can also be a reclusive bunch. In fact, in the times of the Roman Empire, banishing glassblowers to the Mediterranean islands was commonplace for fear that their knowledge may spread. Even to this day, many of the gurus still working in the area prefer to work in private, behind closed doors.

If you’re starting out, then it’s best to start with a class in pipe making. These are commonly available at schools and community craft centers and are a great place to become familiar with the art. There you’ll learn the basic skills, as well as obtain an overview of health and safety.

Once you’ve honed the basic techniques you can move onto something more advanced. As you build your skills at acquiring more time with the torch, perhaps reach out to one of your favorite artists and take a class.

Old Skills in a New Market

The recent demand for glassblowers demonstrates how potent the waves of change can be. The ripple effect of legalized cannabis means that opportunities are arising in many related areas. Glassblowers are one such tribe, but there are many more. And if you haven’t got the talent for blowing into molten glass, then fear not, there’s undoubtedly an opportunity out there for you in the cannabis industry.

Francis Cassidy

Francis Cassidy is a freelance writer who writes on a variety of topics. With a particular focus on the cannabis industry, he aims to help ensure the smooth reintegration of cannabis back into global culture. When not writing, he's to be found exploring his new base in British Columbia, Canada. You can follow his other works including his photography on his blog thestrayphotographer.com

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