On Sundays I reflect.
I did not drink alcohol this week. Last week I had a few beers at my brother’s childhood friend’s wedding. The less I drink the better.
My parents have been visiting me for a few weeks, and my brother came out for a few days with his wife for the wedding of our friends. We only had a few minutes together because Jon was busy with his groomsman duties. It was very special to get to see Jon and his wife Pri, along with all of his closest childhood friends. I got to spend part of the day with my Mom on her birthday. Now we get to spend part of Father’s Day together today before they return home. My Father’s best friend drove up from Santa Fe yesterday to also spend a few days with us. It has become somewhat of an annual tradition for Bruce to meet us in Vail during the Summer to spend time together.
I have been blowing glass every day. This is pretty rare for me to be able to make this much time to be on the torch. I have been collaborating with friends getting ready for the Vail Cup Collector’s Club which will take place at my studio in Minturn next Saturday. I can confidently say that I am making the nicest work of my career, which I have been telling friends and clients since the beginning of this year. I have finally begun to find some balance between Ben the Artist, and Broker Ben.
Marta spent the week with her family at a reunion, which left me struggling to stay alive. The pressure added to my week when my car needed to go to the shop over and over again for service. So far I have gotten a new radiator, replaced a tire valve to prevent the leak that had happened, and I am preparing to purchase a new alternator to keep Red Rover rolling. This gives me an opportunity to introduce another new member of the DV Team.
Rusty saved my ass this week, and I bet none of you know who Rusty is. I have not had a chance to write about my new apprentice yet. Work has been non-stop. I can’t remember a morning I wasn’t working by 8 a.m. and the earliest I have been in bed this week was 9 p.m. It’s nearly impossible to get by where I live without a car. Rusty has been able to give me rides to and from work and the car shop. One day that he was supposed to be at my studio practicing on the torch with me we spent two or three hours running errands in the morning and more in the afternoon. I made sure we got to the studio for at least a few hours so that he could practice chillums on the large lathe. I felt bad, but Rusty assured me that he was happy to help me with anything needed to keep things going. He and Marta just called me at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning to inform me that they are both at my studio getting things ready for Rusty to go secure our campsite for the VCCC. I’m still waking up and trying to get this blog written so I can have brunch with my family before getting to the studio for Sunday Specials.
If you run a small business or you are self employed then you know how essential help is. It took me a long time, but I finally found the help that I need. Marta has kept me alive for the last two years and helps me stay on top of the mountain of work that comes my way on a daily basis. Because of Marta we are able to stay on top of packing and shipping the work as well as receiving all the drinkware sent to us from artists around the country. She keeps the studio clean enough that you could sit on the floor or kiss the toilet seat. She makes sure every person who comes through my studio is fed and has a glass of water or tea when they walk in the door. She also makes sure that everyone who comes through my studio knows that she or I will do anything a guest can come up with to make sure they feel at home. If you have ever been to the studio, or interacted with me or my company then you probably know how much Marta has done to make sure that your experience was the best that it could be. She is one of the most important people in the cup community and most of the time she’s behind the scenes working to make sure that everyone else can have what they need. We all have Marta to thank for helping to keep this business on track, even though she would never take credit for what we have accomplished and would say “I am just doing my job but thanks”.
Rusty came out of left field. I needed a ride from the car shop a few weeks ago when I was getting an oil change. I posted online in our local classifieds asking for a ride around 8 a.m. and Rusty responded almost immediately offering to help. We chatted for ten minutes on the ride over and then I invited him in to see what’s going on at Bat Country Studios. I paid him $20 for the ride, and then he decided he wanted to become my apprentice despite the warnings from Marta and I about what he was getting into. Since that day Rusty has been at the studio 3 days a week putting in the practice to learn how to make chillums. Some of his first pipes are already on the shelves in local head shops, and he has made himself extremely helpful around the studio in this short time. Since his first day he has gotten to watch me collaborate with Matty B, Bard, Blitzkriega, and Dux. He has seen me fail. He has seen pieces crack. He has watched us fix these pieces and put forth the determination that only a glass artist could knowing their piece could crack at any moment including once complete and in the kiln. After Rusty made some progress on the chillums and thought he had the constriction down one day he expected to walk in the next day and crank them out. He was in for a rude awakening when only 1 of his 10 constrictions was successful. I remember that feeling. I remember considering giving up on days when things went wrong early on. The next day Rusty showed up ready to try again. After a few demonstrations from me he was able to get it down again reminding him that he CAN do this. We talked about my own failures from that week, a pair of bubble trap twisters that I was making for a cousin of mine and both came out uneven and 2nd quality. Rusty did not let his failures intimidate him. Many people don’t have the patience to accept failure as a part of learning. This is key to being a glass artist.
Another person keeping this thing going is Jeremy OLDGREED. My dude Willie The Pimp sent OLDGREED to my studio in 2017 to paint a mural. We became friends pretty quickly, but the two hours between us on the I70 corridor made it hard for us to hang out and work together. Lately OLDGREED has taken over all digital and graphic design for me, in addition to putting in time on the torch and etching glass at home. OLDGREED has been the captain of DV merchandise, running the embroidery machine down in Denver for our sweaters and tie dye shirts from our dude Tater’s Twisted Tees. This guy makes our flyers and graphics. He takes a call from me almost every day in which we address projects on deck and he also helps me make sure that I don’t go off the deep end with the never ending list of responsibilities that come my way. Sometimes we laugh about a day in the future where we both have time to “chill”. For now it’s non-stop hustle mania. We’ll sleep when we’re dead.
For those people that think Drinking Vessels is a big company with departments and employees, I guess we must be doing a good job. We are a few people in a warehouse who mostly have to have other jobs to support ourselves. Anyone involved is there because they want to be there. I don’t get paid, and I spend every dollar we make trying to help my team and the artists we represent to grow while providing them a stable and reliable situation in a world where most people can’t afford to pursue their artistic dreams.
I am beyond grateful to the team that has decided to help me follow my dream. We are all struggling in our own ways, and we are also all there for each other. It is a very special thing happening at Bat Country Studios. It is a microcosm of people who have come together to support each other and I cherish that.
When I wake up in the morning and check my phone I find myself wanting to post passive aggressively on the internet. Lately I have been trying to instead focus on what behavior that another person exhibited towards me has incited that feeling in me. I try to put myself in the shoes of the person who has me frustrated and I try to teach myself from the experience. This week a handful of people reached out to me offering financial support in response to my post about needing help with the car problems I encountered. One of those people asked me to show them specific types of glasses that they might want to buy, telling me that they wanted to help me with the unforeseen costs that came my way. After a day or two the person followed up with “Ben, I did not find anything that appealed to me” which made me feel pretty shitty. I did thank the person for letting me know instead of just leaving me wondering if they were going to make a purchase. This experience reminded me that every time I reach out to an artist and take up their time asking about their work without purchasing anything I am putting others in the uncomfortable position that people have put me in. It has helped me to consider how I will engage in those situations when I am on the inquiring side instead of the sales side. My first instinct was to be upset and offended by this person’s behavior. Instead, I reminded myself this could be a learning experience and now I am aware of how these kinds of actions affect others. A past me would have just been upset and probably posted something passive aggressive about the situation. This to me feels like growth.
My relationship with my family has always been full of love and also tension. I have been trying to not let myself get frustrated as easily when engaging with my folks. There has definitely been some tension, but yesterday my mom came up to my house to help me clean my room. We hardly argued, and it was nice spending time together. We were also highly productive, as I can now see my couch which had been previously covered in a pile of clothes for at least a few months.
I am now receiving texts from my father asking why I’m not down the hill for Father’s Day Brunch which means I need to wrap this up. Lots of rambling today, and lots I didn’t get to address but thanks for tuning in and thanks for your support! Today after brunch I will be at the studio for the last edition of Sunday Specials before next weekend’s Vail Cup Collectors Club. I can’t wait to share the fresh work with you and want to say thanks in advance to anyone who makes a purchase today. I have been trying to prioritize family time over work this past week and its only possible because of your support!
Enjoy your Sunday,
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