From scientifically engineered percolating machines to artistically crafted works of art, glass pipes have become the epicenter of several industries and subcultures. New borosilicate (boro) glass compounds have allowed glass artists and scientists to become extremely creative with their craft. Today’s glass is tougher and more heat resistant than ever, allowing glass workers to create intricate designs and features in their glass pipes without worrying about these piece breaking.
Glass pipes are almost always made from tough, heat resistant glass to withstand repeated exposure to flames and smoke. Originally used for manufacturing lab equipment such as scientific beakers and test tubes, borosilicate glass has become the industry standard in glass pipe making. The combination of silica and boron trioxide give this glass a low thermal expansion coefficient. Otto Schott, a German glassmaker, created the first form of borosilicate glass in the late 19th century. Since then DURAN, Corning Glass Works (Pyrex), and several other firms have created variations of the glass for cookware and other household items. New forms of borosilicate glass are shatter proof and often used for other industrial purposes.The most popular types of glass used for heady art today are Pyrex, Duran, and Kimble glass.
Heady Glass Art:
The resilient features of boro glass have allowed an entire subculture to develop around glass pipe-making, as engineers and craftsmen can combine form and function. Small, apparently fragile, percolators and designs can be integrated into fully functional, durable glass pipes. The end product is as much a useful smoking device as it is a decorated centerpiece.
The 2011 documentary, Degenerate Art, covers the art and culture around glass pipe making. In it, Bob Snodgrass discusses his innovations in the glass blowing world. He is often considered the “Godfather of artistic glass,” having invented several techniques and methods including “color-changing” and the use of new glass blowing tools. Beginning in the late 1970’s Snodgrass began traveling around the United States. He spread his knowledge of glass making to many students while increasing the public’s interests in glass pipes. His unique methods of melting metal into glass, effectively changing the color of the glass, sparked mass interest as people began collecting artistic glass pipes.
Snodgrass considers his work an extension of scientific glass making. Today he resides in Eugene, Oregon, considered the Mecca for artistic boro glass. Artists all around the world now work off of Snodgrass’ original designs, adding new styles and features the growing folk art.
Modern variations of glass pipes include: Spoon pipes, sherlock pipes, chillums, rigs, bongs, and gravity bongs. As smoking of legal oils and extracts has become more popular, percolators have become highly evolved to filter and cool smoke before inhalation. A full glossary of these variations and feature could be found in our encyclopedia.
The Glass-Making Industry:
Other than supporting the livelihood of many talented individual glass artists, the boom in heady glass culture has created a new space for business. High quality American glass blowers often come together to create high volume glass shops or factories that maintain their quality while increasing output. Teams of glass artists could work in small assembly lines to produce large quantities of glass without leaving out style and quality. Brands such as Sky Glass, Roor, Chameleon Glass, Grav Labs, and Empire Glassworks (to name a few) are well respected by the heady glass pipes community and are known for both their artistic and scientific applications of glass making.
Glass pipes are often sold in local smoke shops around the country and on online headshops. Snodgrass’ techniques like his color-changing, Dichroic innovation, are used by these companies freely and creatively. The industry is constantly evolving and improving as more innovative artists and scientific glass blowers join the scene. Glass pipes have become the preferred tool for smoking in many circles as smokers continue to keep their head in the clouds.