On Sundays I reflect.
I drank alcohol this week for the first time in a long time. It wasn’t until Friday night, so I’ll have to get back to that later.
I got my first haircut in a year this week. My friend Amy came over and put the barber chair at my studio to use cleaning me up for a date in LA.
Currently I’m sitting in my hotel room in Los Angeles, where I have been since Friday afternoon. Earlier this week Henry @thewiscokid_glass came back to the studio to blow glass and get some turns in at Vail. Last week he came up and made us some fresh cups, and we got to have some fun on the mountain together. Henry has blown glass in all fifty states, traveling around in his ambulance for years before settling down in Boulder recently at my old friend Kevin’s studio. It has been great having Henry settle into Colorado and spend time up at Bat Country Studios, and he even whipped up our first collab this weekend from some prep I gave him before leaving for California. I’ve only seen a video but I’m eager to get home and see what he came up with!
Another friend of mine, Whiskey Craig came to the mountains from New York this week. Some of you might remember a time when I was “homeless” in New York around 2014-2015. I was connected to Craig through a family friend and through a series of events he and his wife provided me with a place to live roughly half of each month while they were away and sometimes while Craig had the place to himself he would take me in as a roommate. At the time I was living on bananas and whatever the cheapest food I could find. Craig took me to some of the best restaurants in the city and insisted upon treating me to all kinds of foods I never even dreamed about. He used to share his 500 bottle whiskey collection with me, 4-5 pours at a time in order to teach me about flavors. I remember one night specifically, at Blue Ribbon Sushi where Craig spent more money on the meal than I made in a week or maybe even two. I am not a very adventurous eater and it was the first time I tried Uni (Sea Urchin). I was having the hardest year of my life, and Craig was there for me despite us being virtually strangers the day we met. That day I showed up to his apartment at the Ritz Plaza and he asked me where I lived and what I was doing. I told him I slept on a friend’s couch usually if I couldn’t find someone on Tinder to take me in. I had a few days left on a sublet I had found in Brooklyn. Craig told me at dinner that first night that I could stay at his place and did not need to worry about where I would sleep for a while. I can’t tell you how luxurious air conditioning and a shower were to me back then. Craig works nights so he would wake me when he got home in the morning from work with an espresso. He would drink whiskey while I had my coffee and then I would take the train to Long Island for work while he slept. He never asked me for anything. We hung out between our shifts and on his weeks off and became good friends. He did so much to support me back then and to this day. His cup collection is nowhere near the level of his whiskey and spirits collection, but he has accumulated some very special pieces over the years. This visit he added a few gems to the collection and he has spent quite a bit of time around the studio.
One of the reasons I love when Craig visits is because it reminds me of where I was. When NYC finally broke me I had been fired from the glass studio and the band broke up. I was delivering alcohol for Craig’s friend who owned a liquor store and I realized I was no longer on the track to be here now. I told Craig I had a lead on a lathe job in Colorado. He bought me a flight to Aspen and got us a ski-in lodge at Snowmass where he covered my lift tickets, bar tab and all my meals. We rode hard that week. I hadn’t been on my snowboard in years. I was scared, and broke, and had no idea what I was going to do after that trip but it didn’t matter. Craig let me just enjoy myself for a while there, at a time when I would run 5 miles to save $2.50 in subway fare.
So I’m grateful for that time again this week to ride with Craig and other friends and take a little break from work. I’ve been burnt out for a long time. I work every day, and I think about work every waking moment of my life. It’s because my work is my absolute life’s passion. This company has my full and entire energy put into it, and my art is the same. Like the Yin and the Yang my art and my business intertwine. Sometimes I spend more time and energy on one or the other aspect, but both come together to fulfill me. I have been making a conscious effort to make time for myself outside of my work/art. I achieve this when I snowboard and when I spend time with friends. I’m grateful for the friends who force me to take a step outside the routine.
I even made time for a Minturn Mile this week, and I was joined by my friend Seth and his 7 year old daughter. It’s a little side country run out the top of Vail that takes you down to the town where my studio is with unmatched views on a single track along a creek through the woods.
And why am I in LA?
A colleague of mine Steve hosted one of my first shows at his gallery roughly 4 years ago in Long Beach. Together we put on a beautiful show featuring green cups and wood art to raise money to plant trees. My friend hosted a beautiful ceremony to put our intentions into the room and the world. It was a very intimate gathering with small attendance. Virtually nothing sold. I felt like a failure. Steve assured me I had not failed, because of what we created together. We were too early back then, before Cup Culture had culminated to where we are now.
Fast forward a few years and I’ve just wrapped up my most successful show I’ve ever produced. A few weeks ago I heard from Steve and his partner Cody that their new gallery would be putting on a cup show. I offered to fly out and serve smoothies and support the show any other way I could. Their lineup included beginners up to OGs and even wrangled up some pipe makers I assumed to be too busy to make cups. I knew this show would be a turning point for cup culture - and exposing the art from the pipe community through a different form. I was not wrong.
The show almost entirely sold out.
Some people asked me if I thought this show was competing with my turf. Actually quite the opposite is true. I cannot single handedly promote Cup Culture by myself. I am just one person, who happens to have spent the last five years promoting this very specific niche. I am so relieved to see other galleries putting on cup shows, and selling out. I met collectors who are just discovering cups, and artists who have been making cups since before I even started blowing glass. This whole scene is growing and evolving and it is a real privilege to be a part of it.
I guess the reason this feels like such a turning point is that Cup Culture is no longer limited to just my brand and people who support it. More than anything I heard from artists at the show last night was “I love making cups” and I want there to be an outlet for them to pursue their passion. It used to be that if a pipe maker made a cup it was for their mom that doesn’t smoke weed or a wedding gift for friends. Today we are seeing a thriving cup market that is contributing to some of the most impressive cups that have ever been made. These will stand the test of time as special and important objects.
I remind myself that 5 years ago I was homeless and traveling around the country trying anything I could come up with in order to get to this point we’re at now. It has been an incredible journey, and I can’t imagine what we’ll see in the next five years.
And despite this trip to LA being a work trip, I have managed to see a few friends (socially distanced outside) and I produced a photo shoot with my dear friend Destiny @desstinyhope at the hotel. I enjoyed a few cocktails while we shot at the Freehand Hotel’s rooftop bar because for some reason that felt like a way to really make this work trip a bit of a vacation. After the shoot, the model and Destiny joined my friend Sarah and I for dinner in Santa Monica where I had my first IPA in a few years. I love hoppy beer, and can’t even remember which one I had. After dinner I ended up at a friend’s in Beverly Hills, where I made the wise decision to not continue drinking. Yesterday’s hangover wasn’t terrible, but it’s certainly something I don’t miss from when I drank. I rolled out of bed and walked two blocks to pickup steak and egg fried rice before getting back in bed to nap.
Today I’ll have brunch with my cousin, who has always made time for me when I come to LA. He is someone I admire greatly, and I’m so appreciative that he takes the time to see me with how busy he is. This afternoon I have a few more friends to see and then I’ll hope to spend a few hours at the Venice Beach Drum Circle with a friend this evening before my flight early tomorrow morning.
This trip has been refreshing. I’m ready to get back into my process this week at home. Exciting things are on the horizon.
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