A Modern History of Glassblowing
The Origins of Natural Glass & Glassblowing
Natural glass has existed since the origin of time, formed when certain types of rocks become molten as a result of natural high-temperature phenomena such as volcanic eruptions, lightning strikes or meteoric impact, that will then cool and solidify rapidly.
Following it’s accidental discovery, Ancient-Roman historian Pliny suggested a theory on the creation of natural glass, stating that the possibility of shipwrecked sailors building fires atop stones on the sand of beaches to cook eventually causing the sand to soon become molten and cooled thereafter producing hardened glass.
Someone who has painted hand-molded clay in an art class with a variety of colored glazes, would then know that firing ceramics in a kiln will lead to hard-glassy coats. It is likely that primitive beings tested many substances to discover which would generate the most durable and attractive coating for the otherwise dull and fragile pottery. Trial and error would consequentially lead to a glassy surface, which in turn would lead to the discovery of glass as an end unto itself.
In the second century AD, the use of glass spread throughout the Middle East, being a significant trade item, in the form of bottles, jugs, beads and amulets.The Greeks produced early glassware that displays evidence of being produced on a pipe. They developed the decorations of their glassware to a fine art. In time the forms became so unique and varied that by the Fourth Century, drinking glasses and wine bottles were becoming common. By refining the processes to produce these items, so, also, was their cost lowered. Now, glass cups, goblets, vases and bottles became more readily available. Adding silver, gold, cobalt, and iron to the melt produced rich and vibrant colors. These decorations enabled them to decorate and fashion into beads and stones to adorn the body.
Contemporary Glass Art
Today, glassblowing techniques have made tremendous strides since the days of molding. Eventually Pyrex, flameworking, the use of oxides, sulfides and other innovations like the inside-out fumed pipe became regulars in the market. As the market continues to thrive, glass water pipes are now a favorite for smokers and their popularity continues to grow. With functional glass exposition events taking place in Las Vegas, art exhibitions all over North America, and coveted collector pieces traveling worldwide, the art of the glassmaking can only grow. As time passes, glass blowers are challenged to come up with new, innovative styles and techniques in their glass creations.
One of the most notably impressive milestones for the glass pipe industry was the introduction of standardized glass joints on water pipes. The glass joints that are seen on water pipes today are derivatives of crude, tapered joints that have been used for glass bottle stops and carafes for years. The standardization of glass joint sizes to either 14mm or 18mm joints was facilitated by the water pipe industry in an effort to create more useful, modular smoking devices that can be easily customized with attachments such as diffused downstems and ash catchers. Water pipes are some of the most impressive examples of modern glass working, especially with the emergence of a new type of water pipe, the oil rig. Modern trends with functional glass include highly intricate and compact percolators that require an artist gifted with a steady hand to properly incorporate into a smoking apparatus.
A better-known method of producing color-changing glass pipes is the fuming process. In this process, glassblowers pass gold, silver, cobalt or other metal vapors directly through the glass as it is worked. Small amounts of the metals are trapped in the glass as it cools giving a very faint tint to the glass. When the pipe is used, resins and tars begin to coat the inner surface of the glass. This coating creates a dark background against which the trapped metal shows up vividly. The materials are vaporized with an electron beam inside a vacuum chamber while a slight charge is applied to the glass pipe In addition to the visible color, the dichroic layers also have unique reflective colors. The iridescent property is caused by the shifting of colors as the glass pipe is viewed from different viewing angles or under different lighting. Skilled artists can even create images on the glass by using lasers to etch the dichroic surfaces.
Most modern glass pipes are made with Pyrex or borosilicate glass to make the pipes more durable. The difference between a low-priced pipe that can break easily and solid nearly unbreakable glass pipes is usually not due to the quality of the glass, it actually depends if the glass blower forwent the extra time and expense to cure the glass for a few hours longer in the oven after blowing. The benefits of having a glass pipe made of Pyrex should be immediately evident to anyone who has ever dropped their pipe. Pyrex is virtually unbreakable because it is the same type of glass used for cooking and baking pans. Glass bats are great for caring around because they are stylish and compact. Glass bats are a straight pipe without a bend. Glass bats have the advantages of glass Pipes, such as flavor and its ability to not become hot, yet they can be carried easily and fit into that little pocket on your jeans. Glass bats are also easier to handle because they have no carburetor hole like a pipe does leaving one hand free if you hold the bowl in your mouth to hit it. Just like glass pipes, glass bats are crafted using Pyrex glass and they can also be single blown or Inside out glass. Despite the straightness of the bowl and the fact that the tobacco is vertical when the pipe is brought to the mouth, the tobacco does not fall out if it is packed tightly tobacco is usually sticky when packed.
In our Brooklyn smoke shop we make sure we carry quality glass pipes and glass bats. We have an assortment of quality smoking products from cheap colorful one hitters to ultra thick heavily fumed heady glass pipes. We do our best to have a wide variety of attractive glass pieces at competitive prices so you can find that piece that calls out to you.