Sunday Reflections: Big Z, Little Glass Gallery & A. Rob

Sunday Reflections: Big Z, Little Glass Gallery & A. Rob

September 22, 2019

On Sundays I reflect.

I didn’t drink alcohol this week.

Bat Country Studios is the busiest it’s ever been. Jon Weiss has been working on his mandala series like a maniac this summer and finally debuted them at Piece Gallery in the Vail Village. We are all thankful to Eva for her continued support of the studio, as she is the only art gallery in Vail specializing in glass. It’s amazing to have support from our local community.

Mandala by Jon Weiss

Community has been a focus for us since the beginning, and now more than ever. I recently read a book called “This is not a T-shirt” by Bobby Kim of The Hundreds, one of my favorite streetwear brands. Among so many other insights, Bobby stressed the importance of community in building a brand. I reached out to Bobby, who somehow found the time to respond to my DM in his sea of messages from other entrepreneurs and fans. While he didn’t agree (yet) to a collaboration between our brands, he did agree to a trade that I’ll tell you more about next week. He confirmed receiving the cup I made him, now I’m just waiting on my package! 

Screenshot of Correspondence

Don’t be afraid to go for it. Cast a wide net. With quantity comes quality. Don’t be afraid to hear the word “no.” Rejection is ok.

So we started a weekly open house at the studio, which anyone can attend. Taco Tuesdays at Bat Country is a thing, and we have to thank our butcher Colorado Meat Company for sponsoring with ground beef and organic produce week after week. This is community.

Taco Tuesday

Zach Trying Flameworking For the First Time at Taco Tuesday

We’re getting close to establishing a Minturn Creative Arts District after months of meetings and work. Our working group is close to securing funding to connect the working artists and creatives in our town and provide more resources to each other. The Vail Art Guild hosts a monthly First Friday gallery show in Minturn, and some of the artists I’ve met in Minturn didn’t even know about it. We’re trying to connect the dots for this and so much more. Minturn is a special and quirky town, and we want to keep it that way.

We made time to visit another local artist, Armando studio in Vail. Armando has been involved in our art swap at the studio and is a regular at Taco Tuesday. He has a few laser engraving machines and we’re working on some collaborations that should be available on the website soon. I love visiting friends' studios and work spaces as a way to get to know a person. There is a feeling that is very important beyond words about the space where a creator creates. It’s the tools they use, the things that inspire them on a daily basis. It’s a feeling unique to each and everyone’s personal experience. Just over two years into my first personal studio I’m starting to understand just how important that space is.

Yesterday was a very special day I had been long awaiting as well. Big Z threw his annual house party in Denver. Before I talk about that, I want to share a little bit of my history with Zach.

We met in Madison, Wisconsin in a stairwell at a Glassroots trade show in the Monona Terrace. It was over five years ago but I can’t say when for sure. Definitely before I moved to Colorado, and probably when I was still working for my teacher Huffy. So Z and I talked for ten minutes during our walk from the parking to the convention hall, and I let him know how much I looked up to him and appreciated his work.

Fast forward to 2015 when I moved into Joel Halen’s studio in Fort Collins, next door to Big Z's shop. I had no confidence when I started over there. I was hardly a glass blower, but I was trying my hardest. One day I popped over to Zach’s shop in the morning to say hey before Joel got to his to let me in. I couldn’t believe Z remembered me from that conversation years before, but he did.

My year in Fort Collins was tough. I didn’t have friends up there, and Drinking Vessels was in its infancy. I was coming off the most challenging year of my life, trying to make it in NYC where I commuted five hours a day to get to the glass studio in Long Island, band rehearsal in Brooklyn, and whatever couch was available to me in Manhattan to catch some sleep and maybe shower.

Zach was always tough on me, or maybe just straight to the point. He criticized my work in a way that pushed me to do better. He’s that big brother who gives you shit, but it’s all love. I’m a better person for knowing Zach, and I’m grateful for the friendship we’ve developed over the years.

One time he gave me some space prep for a collab, and I carried it around the country for at least six months before I had the confidence to make it into a cup. I’ll never forget warming up that two inch ball in the kiln and making our first collab in Austin, TX. I still have the cup on my shelf, and it’s one of my most cherished. I even signed it twice (by mistake).

Our second collab was a stemmed goblet that sold in an auction. We had a fun afternoon, and Zach helped me out with some tips on coil potting color, a fundamental skill I was learning over five years into my glass career. I remember a feeling back then, being so afraid to fail that I let fear paralyze me and kept me from trying many things. Zach saw this and pushed me along with many others to get where I am now.

In 2017 I bought a pair of cups from Zach. One sold and the other is my personal (lemon drop and space tech) and sits next to our first collab on my shelf. I break it out on special occasions, like yesterday’s party.

Ben Drinking Out of Big Z Cup

So Rob, J. Cost and I drove to Denver early yesterday morning to meet up with a few collectors who came in for Zach’s Show. What I mean by a few collectors, is that two of the people who are responsible for Drinking Vessels making it to this day are also two of the biggest Z collectors and I’ve noticed that Z collectors are unique in a lot of ways from the rest of the glass community. I can’t put it into words, but this is a very special group of people.

The Little Glass Gallery is my closest contemporary in cup collecting, and in many ways we’ve been collecting together over the last few years. I recently got to visit his personal collection in California, and I’ve never seen anything comparable. His personal collection rivals the collection of Drinking Vessels entire selection of available work in stock. He was the first guest to pull up to Denver Biscuit Company yesterday morning, straight from the airport. He’s probably my favorite person to talk cups with, no offense to everyone else (sorry!)

Shortly after that our dear friend Alex (A. Rob) pulled up (in a Tesla of course) and for the first time these two legends got to meet face to face. We took a table on the patio, but not before I grabbed cups and mugs from the car to dine with. A. Rob is currently on his way up to Vail to spend the day with us before continuing on his travels. He’s currently living in Mexico, but the Vail Cup Collectors Club, the Big Z show and a few other events bring him back to the states every few months. Years ago Alex booked my flights and accommodations for the Michigan Glass Project in exchange for a Kevin Howell's Heady Hydrator so that I could attend the event, volunteer, and contribute. We’ve maintained a friendship since meeting in Manhattan before that, and he’s one of the people I speak with weekly as a friend and for business advice with DV.

Ben and A. Rob
Ben & A. Rob Post VCCC '19

These two guys have kept Drinking Vessels going with their support over the years in times when it felt like I could go weeks without selling cups. These guys have helped to bring some of the biggest drops to this website, by committing to purchase work before it got released so that I knew I could afford to pick up a bigger variety from artists I wanted to share with all of you. These guys have flown me around the country for events and glass deliveries when I could hardly afford ramen noodles. The Little Glass Gallery rented me a Porsche in LA when I delivered his cups, at a time when I couldn’t even afford the cheapest economy car on the lot. I’m eternally grateful to these two collectors, who have both become very dear friends of mine. It was such a joy for me to spend brunch with them, as well as J. Cost and Rob from the shop.

Lastly, but definitely not least, we went over to the Big Z house party for the afternoon. Some of you know how infrequently I dab, but yesterday was a day to indulge. Shoutout to Regal Rosin for sponsoring, and supplying us with killer flavors all afternoon. What a collection of such an incredible body of work. There were tables full of Z solo and collaborative work that everyone brought out, and the new releases were certainly some of his most impressive work. Among everything, my favorite piece was a dry sherlock for flower that Zach and Voorhees made; space tech between Lotus White, with a Voorhees face for the can. This was a beautiful specimen, though I’m not currently shopping for my personal collection so I couldn’t scoop it. We had a great time getting to know everyone, and spending time with close friends. My old boss Joel Halen even showed up and I joked with him about how I was his favorite employee! 

P.S. I’m a terrible employee.

So now it’s time to go meet A. Rob at the studio so we can have one last adventure before he leaves town. I’m thinking off-roading Shrine Pass, so tune into the Instagram story!

Enjoy your Sunday!

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