POST CATEGORY: Device of the Month, Reviews

Film Review

April 09, 2013 | NORTHWEST LEAF

Degenerate Art: The Art and Culture of Glass Pipes

Just the opening of this documentary alone inspires me to go out and make glass art! It has a great sense of timing and flow, mixed with cool overhead panning of a glass studio and a sick blend of sound. 


I took a hit off a local piece and turned up the volume. This was going to be cool.

The first interview with Bob Snodgrass gives amazing insight to one of the creators of the glass industry. Snodgrass was the inventor of a process called "silver fuming," which allows for color changing glass and more developed colors. This process laid the groundwork for the entire glass industry as we know it today. Don't miss the  cool time lapse series that shows a pipe in various stages of use, and the change from bright pink to deep blue is quite entrancing to watch.

Another interesting connection that this full-length documentary explores is between the lampworkers and the color companies. In the 80's and early 90's most lampworkers were limited to only a dozen or so available colors. Today, there are more than 300 different unique colors, enabling the lampworkers to make cutting edge pieces. More colors equals the sicker heady pieces we featured this month, for instance.

The biggest message this film conveys is how incredibly hard it has been for these artists to climb out of a social and legal grey area. Much like medical Cannabis providers, the production of glass pipes is never fully protected by law, and can even result in a prison term.
Elaborate operations by the DEA in the 90's called "Headhunter" and "Pipe Dream" were despicable attacks on lampworkers across the nation. The coordinated raids resulted in the arrests of hard-working entrepreneurs trying to make their products available to consumers. They were treated to SWAT style barrages to which only drug dealers were accustomed. 

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The government claimed that the 60 organizations shut down were, and this is sadly not a joke,  "supporting terrorists." In reality, the operation was concerned with future crimes, assuming that illegal drugs would be consumed by use of the device. 
"It takes a lot of hard work to get at these [glass production] sites, but we can assure worried parents that today there are 11.coms that are .gone," a DEA agent recapped during a press conference.

This is why so many glass shops have signs displayed prominently claiming "For Tobacco Use Only." This is why a publication such as Northwest Leaf often can't even be displayed in certain shops. This is why a patient can't talk to a sales person about a dab rig without speaking in absurd, coded terms like filler and water pipe. Because dabbing Tobacco makes so much sense, right? This film enlightens viewers and forces them to confront the issues the glass industry has managed to mostly overcome.

Today, the glass market is reemerging and finding new strength. The major growth in medical marijuana and the recent legalization of recreational use of Cannabis in two states has certainly helped. 

Still, new questions are being asked about the glass industry. Is glass the elephant in the room of associative Cannabis markets? Could this billion-dollar industry double or even quadruple over the next decade? While no one can say for sure, we can expect that dedicated entrepreneurs will do whatever it takes to compete, stay in business and continue making the art they believe in. 

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