On Sundays I reflect.
Anyone who has ever worked with me knows that I can be eccentric and my ideas larger than life. I am often unable to bring my plans to reality by myself, and I’m especially bad with technology. For the last few years I’ve relied on Justin AKA J. Cost for all of my graphic design and digital imagery. He’s also grown accustomed to multi hour phone calls where I ramble about anything and everything wrapping up with “so you’ve got all that handled for me?” Despite the chaos, Justin has always come through for me and somehow continues to decipher my stream of conscious thought process.
I’ve been trying to get him to come onboard since the days when I was homeless, though having a studio to run the operation has to be slightly more enticing than not knowing where I would sleep or how I would get there. I’m shocked at how close he came to saying “fuck it” and joining me on the road.
BB: Who are you?
JC: I’m Justin or J. Cost. I’m a Filipino-American in my early dirty 30’s.
Where do you come from and what do you do?
I am a self-taught graphic designer/artist hailing from Anchorage, Alaska.
Photo Reda Ruokyte. Cup by Matty B. Minturn, CO
How did we meet?
We met in 2016, in Seattle at The Boro School, where I was working as a graphic designer. You contacted us looking for a space and a lathe to work on. It wasn’t too long until you asked me to take a few photos of some of your work. The exclusivity of making and distributing handmade drinkware intrigued me, and using it as a vehicle to generate funds to put back into programs to improve communities inspired me. I then realized that artists have a gift to create something from nothing, and can be used to generate funds in a monetary system or trades in barter systems. I was more than happy to contribute to the vision in any capacity.
How has DV evolved since we met?
We met when you were homeless traveling the country visiting studio to studio. In the last three years I’ve seen you go from a few hundred followers on Instagram to almost 12k, become a distributor of more than just your own cups that you made but other artists and non-glass artists as well, and build out a studio to accommodate space for glass and non-glass artists.
How do you want to see DV grow?
I’d like to see DV build a cup culture community and bring awareness to one simple fact: we drink liquids. Much like marijuana and glass pipe culture, certain liquids are synonymous with social interactions like coffee and alcohol and they respectively have a certain vessel they are consumed out of. Even at the sesh, a rare cup by Eusheen will be accessory to one of his 'cyclers in the Pelican case. Accessibility becomes key in that regard so I'd like the conversation to be about collecting cups that you acquire that brings you value because you have a connection to it, or the artist, or both. You'll protect the nature of the fragility of the cup and it won't end up being another red plastic cup in the ocean or a pool of plastic bottles found in the belly of a washed up whale. If everyone got on board with having reusable drink ware we could . Plus, who doesn't love a cool cup?
What kind of new merchandise do you plan to introduce?
I’d like to build a line of wearables and a zine series to assist the growth of cup culture but would also feature other art and articles. I’d also like to introduce a universe of anthropomorphized cups in comic format that would eventually be featured in said zines.
How would you describe Bat Country Studios?
Bat shit crazy but more bat shit chill and a great hub for glass artists and non-glass artists alike. Minturn is cute and mountains are great.
Which artists do you want to see new drinkware from?
Germ AKA Germmillionaire. Just a cool guy making fun art, always pushing the limits of his creativity, even beyond glass. In the last few years I've seen him get into painting, customize clothing and make 1,000 glass crane sculptures. I'd love to see him get creative with montage and optic sections on some cup ware.
Who is your favorite cup maker?
I recently discovered Tim Drier’s Instagram and was scrolling through his feed for a good twenty minutes. I was not only intrigued by ingenuity and design but also the fact that he was just experimenting for fun. I was excited to have met him at The Michigan Glass Project and watch him work.
Who are your inspirations as an artist?
Back home I take part in this small circle of creatives comprised of artists ranging from visual artists, musicians, poets, writers and videographers. Between the handful of individuals having their own solo projects we collaborate on music projects, comics, movies and more. I am inspired by these individuals and feel blessed to create anything with them.
Outside of this circle, I am inspired by any individual who creates on more than one level. Patrick Kindlon (Self Defense, Drug Church) not only fronts two of some of my favorite bands but also writes comics. Pertaining to glass, Nick Voorhees always stuck out in my head as he was one of the first glass artists I was introduced to, and what hooked me was his incline to street art and how his glass reflected that. As a visual artist it clicked in my head that I could do anything I wanted and didn’t have to pigeonhole myself into being a certain type of artist or had to only do one type of art.
Tell us a little more about your art. What are some past projects you want to highlight and what are you working on currently independent of Drinking Vessels? I would love to hear your take on your same face, and maybe a description of your style and preferred materials.
I'm all over the place as far as content and materials. I've moved a lot in the past few years so my preferred materials have downsized to pen and ink, transparent mediums like watercolor and alcohol based markers, and small scale block printmaking. I am a fan of black and white design so that doesn't really call for a whole lot of materials.
My most ambitious project is my nudie project. A couple years ago I was stranded in Texas and was given time to work on art. I wanted to work on human form and practice hands but wasn't really in touch with my local art community so I put a call out for nudes on social media. The deal was everyone who submitted got the original artwork. The format was 4.5x4.5" black and white, stippled ink drawings. I was surprised (but not really) at the amount of entries sliding through the DM. I had to cut it off at 101 entries and even after last call I was still receiving entries. On some occasions, just because. Initially, entries included a mailing address to send the art work to when finished. About halfway through, mailing addresses weren't shared and at that point I realized people didn't even know about the initial deal and they just wanted to be a part of the project.
The project quickly developed from a study in life drawing to a commentary on self esteem and how we view ours and others' bodies, how those views are connected and projected, and how technology effect these views. I had a silly thought in my head about how in the olden days, if a dude wanted to send a dick pic, they used a film camera so they'd never be able to view the picture until they were developed, and then snail mail it to the poor victim who gets to open that envelope.
A brief history on the "same" face, or Sam E. as I recently gave it a name (I got tired of calling it the same face): it started out as a doodle. A pair of squinty eyes with a long face, a "mood" if you will. I drew it, stared at it for a minute and thought, "yah, same," as it reflected my mood at that time. I started drawing clusters of them. They were all the same, connected through a mood. This fit into my ethos of everyone being connected.
All faces in the drawings are replaced with a same face. Many great conversations were sparked during the three months of working on the project. I became very empathetic with those who shared their deepest insecurities with me, as I shared similar experiences.
Through these conversations it was made clear that my project was more than just a study in life drawing and a commentary on programmed self-esteem, but rather a catalyst to bring awareness to the fact that everyone is different, and everyone is the same, and everyone has their own idea of beauty, and sometimes those ideas are influenced by environment like modern media, the opinions of family and friends, and so forth. This project allows everyone to see themselves through one artist's uniformed body of work.
My plans to develop this project further have been nothing less of intimidating. I want to compile all 100+ drawings into a book and have a release show with all drawings displayed in a gallery, in chronological order, to see the evolution of practice. I've been sitting on the project for two years now and I am ready to move forward with these plans!
Please share your experience with glass and elaborate on describing The Boro School. I’m curious what you want to make with glass.
At the time The Boro School was the only publicly open glass facility that taught pipe making, but even as a graphic designer/artist at the facility my experience with melting glass is relatively novice. I've gone as far as making a clear spoon pipe however I am only familiar with the process of constructing elaborate water pipes. I honestly don't see myself making tubes or rigs because I am more intrigued by non-functional leaning work like marbles, pendants, and disk flips. I am also a fan of coldworked glass. I'm not opposed to making functional pipes but making cups may be the extent of functional work I can see myself making.
One of my favorite pieces is the three piece set you made for my Earth Day show a few years ago that hangs in my office. I love the colors, as well as the social commentary on the effects of industry on the earth.
Those were a lot of fun to make. They were done around a time I was obsessed with drawing hands because they were a challenge for me. The development of our hands plays a big role in our evolution because of it's correlation with tool use. We create beautiful things with our hands but we also have a lot blood on our hands due to our destructive nature.
It’s been a long hard road to get here, and it’s my greatest pleasure to admit that the business has grown beyond the capacity of what I can handle myself. It’s scary to take this jump and trust J. Cost with everything I’ve built over the last five years, but he’s been the right person for the job since we met, and I’m so honored to have him on board.
As the transition continues, he will be helping manage our social media and allowing me to focus my time on torch and on bringing you the best drinkware that is being created. I’ll spend more time visiting artists, galleries, and shows along with having more time to be creative in my studio.
If you regularly chat with me on Instagram DM, please shoot a message over to us to introduce yourself to J. Cost and let him know anything you need.
IG / TWTR / FB / SC: @planetjcost
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Alex Kim Robbins
August 10, 2019
Can’t wait to see what you guys have in store. Ad Astra!