Sunday Reflections: Sabbatical Part II

Sunday Reflections: Sabbatical Part II

October 20, 2019

On Sundays I reflect.

The Trip Continues

I did not drink alcohol this week. It was offered a few times on my trip and I politely declined. I’ve been listening to “Gun Fight” by Boy Eats Drum Machine on repeat for most of this trip, after discovering it on Spotify.

So this has been one hell of a week for me. On Monday I left Jared Delong and his family in Humboldt county for Eugene. My time there was magical, as always. It’s one of those places I’ll always feel safe to shut myself off to society and look inside. I’m grateful to Jared for that.

First stop Crescent City, for lunch with my collector Gunnar “Funk Master” Gustafson. I met Gunnar at my show last February in Vail, and he’s been on my radar ever since. It’s almost daily that we get a message from him just sending positivity our way, and it doesn’t go unnoticed.

Ben and GunnarBen and Gunnar

On my way up the coast from there I stopped by Coo’s Bay to see Kevin Nail. Our time was short, but it was really nice of him to fuel me up with some coffee on the road and I always enjoy my time chatting with him. He just might have the cup itch and I’m here for him when he decides to scratch.

Kastle de la Krunk

From there I was on to the Krunk Kastle in Eugene Oregon. AK and I got connected a few years ago, in part because of his passion for boro drinkware. I’ve been getting to know him for the last week as a guest in his home studio. There will be a blog post coming soon featuring one of his first public interviews. This is by far the most interesting story I’ve covered in my life.

AK and AK and Voja

We got the privilege of visiting a retrospective exhibit of Ralph Steadman at the Jordan Schnitzer Art Museum on the University of Oregon campus. I’ve been moved by Ralph’s work since I discovered him through Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, like so many others. Learning about the spectrum of his work over his career was enlightening to say the least.

It was his 35 year collaboration with Hunter S. Thompson that drew me in, but the more I learn about Ralph the more I understand his role in it all. These men had unpopular opinions and they were not afraid to embody them. Their political commentary had a real impact on the world we live in today. I've always identified as a gonzo journalist, whether I knew it or not. 

On Being A Broker

I’ve struggled greatly to dance between my roles in life and every time I focus on one there are others that are disregarded. I balance my roles as an artist and as a broker delicately. I’m hyper critical of my own art work, holding myself to such a high standard that sometimes I’m intimidated to even turn on my torch. I put myself in the role of a broker because that is where my natural talents lie. I don’t like the pressure created by the need to sell my own art work, as I feel it takes away from my process and personal well being. Selling other artist’s work is much more natural for me because I feel somewhat objective.

So one of my realizations from this trip is that I’ll no longer be taking custom orders. I tried doing that in times when I needed the money. It never went well for me.

I do recognize that I need to make more of my own body of work available, letting go of the fear and vulnerability that creates for me. What if it doesn’t sell? What if the client isn’t happy? What if they tell me it’s not as nice as the other work I represent? What if the artist’s I represent aren’t impressed? These are the kinds of questions I ask myself. But during all of this self doubt, I come to some realizations about what I bring to the table as a broker. Here is a little story that helped illustrate my own value on this trip and reminded me why I’m filling this role.

I messaged Rone before my trip making sure he knew I was coming to Eugene and wanted to connect. A few days ago AK and I rolled over to Cowboy’s shop where Rone works. I’ve admired Cowboy’s work since very early in my career, and we’ve gotten to meet on a number of occasions. In the past I’ve always made sure to reintroduce myself to people like that, because I know they meet a lot of people and don’t want them to feel uncomfortable for not remembering my name or who I am. 

As I chatted with Rone about how much I appreciate his cups, he mentioned that he wanted to make one with Cowboy since I was in town. My friend The Little Glass Gallery bought their first cup collaboration and the second got destroyed during the coldworking process. I walked across the room to join Cowboy, AK and other guys smoking a bowl. Before I could even introduce myself Cowboy said “Hey Ben thanks for coming by. I think I’m going to make a cup with Rone while you’re here.”

AK told me we all have magic powers. One of mine is the ability to cause objects to be created that might otherwise not exist. Another is my ability to bring people together.

During my time at Krunk Studios, I’ve been able to make two collaborations with Justin’s prep despite his hiatus from glass. Both of these sold before being completed. I got one in with True, and she made a gorgeous shot glass which will be the first piece of her work I’m able to release. I also got one in with Colton, who assisted with cold work on the other three and is an integral part of the Krunk team. It felt good to be back on the torch for the sake of making art. I’ve been missing that.

The Starship

I took AK over to Marcel’s Starship one afternoon. He showed us his new Millie polishing innovation which will change the entire landscape of glass art moving forward. For those unfamiliar with the work behind cutting and polishing millies, let me quote AK. “Two things in life have caused me more troubles than anything else. Obtaining a bag of weed, and polishing millies.”

Ben and MarcelBen and Marcel Braun

At Marcel’s we met a man who goes by Cowboy, a world renowned photographer and Eugene local. He rode in a wheelchair around the shop, and snapped some pictures in a most unobtrusive way. I was not comfortable asking about the wheelchair, as sometimes you come across them in glass studios as just another chair. Eventually he told me he had MS. He lost the use of his legs. Every morning Marcel picks Cowboy up and drives him to the Starship. Every night he drives him home. 

He didn’t know who I was, and when I mentioned my philanthropy project supporting the National MS Society he thanked me. It was a privilege getting to hear his stories, and knowing that he photographed me. The real honor came the next morning when I received a message from him online.

He apologized for not knowing “who I was” and told me he wants to make goblets. He’s got equipment on the way, and people willing to guide him. His arms and hands will stop working just as his legs did and all he wants to do before that day is make cups and glasses. You better believe that I’ll be carrying his cups the minute they’re available until the day he can’t make them any more. Standing on the other side of his camera, I could feel it penetrating me down to my truest self. I’ll share those images when he gets them to me, but without seeing them I know they’ll be some of the most accurate photos to ever capture my true self. You can see his work on Instagram.

The internet is a weird place, where we fulfill certain roles or personas. For those of us representing our brands out there, we have to always be conscious of the messages we’re sending out. If I show that I’m driving the cheap rental car I fear being judged in a way different from when I drive a Porsche. It doesn’t mean I’m lying when I show myself driving fancy cars, but it does mean that the information I choose to share is selective in order to create a brand identity that fosters success. Sometimes the pressure to present success is detrimental to us and restricts our ability to be our authentic selves for fear of judgement.

Shit, that felt like a lot of rambling today. Sorry if the flow is weird. I got overwhelmed with wanting to touch on so many things that I’m not sure I went deep enough with any of them. Sometimes that’s how it goes.

Where to Next

I’ll be heading to Portland tomorrow to see Gasp, Northern Waters, Frit, Like Minded Glass and others in a jam packed two days.

Seattle and Bellingham are my last two stops. I’ll be sitting down with Quave and Stormin Norman to talk about their recent explorations in drinkware. I’ll be meeting Davin Titland for the first time after years of doing business online and I’ll be linking with Annie Sagan, and Dosa as well, in an effort to connect with some more artists I haven’t had the chance to sit down with in person outside the hectic shows or events at which we’ve crossed paths.

Thanks for following me on this journey. It’s a wild ride most of the time, and I’m glad I can share it with you.


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