A few years ago I noticed Jake C releasing cups here and there on his Instagram, typically in quick auctions. At the time, they were unfathomably expensive for my budget and most of my clientele. Looking back, I kick myself for not bidding higher and having access to pieces at far lower prices than any of his cups today.
It is amazing how much the market has evolved in just a few years.
I was able to get a few shot glasses from him online, the last of which recently left my personal collection and was available through Smoke ATX in Austin but may have found a home by now. I wasn’t planning to sell the shot glass, but ultimately it was replaced with Jake’s most recent solo pint.
Many years ago I met Jake at one of the Vegas trade shows when he showed the Team Japan Mothership Collab but I really just said hello while I admired the piece. Then I remember meeting Jake briefly on one of my escapades through the Pacific Northwest during a quick sesh at The Observatory when we got to chat for a few about cups. At the time neither of us were sure at what rate the cup market would grow.
Fast forward a bit and I’m flying to Bellingham to pick up both of Jake’s collaborative cups with Sagan and a Melitz collaboration along with a pair of solo pints. At the time, the Sagan collaboration was the most expensive cup I had sold once again setting a price precedent that has since been topped. To this day, both Sagan cups Jake made at that time are two of the most impressive cups I have ever held. I was definitely nervous handling them.
Since that trip I have been doing my best to keep up with what Jake has been putting out, each cup more impressive than the last. His encalmos are crispy and almost all of the colors he uses are custom layered tubing he makes himself. The attention to detail and the feel in the hand is almost unmatched in my opinion, and noticeably so.
When I first heard about Jake’s idea for Pints With Friends we got on the phone for a few hours to chat, a few times. There are so many things about this project that make it so special, and I am thrilled to be able to share more about that here in this interview.
It’s been a while since I have done one of these interviews so let’s just jump right in. You have got to be the biggest name in the cup game right now with your project. Why don’t you tell everyone what Pints with Friends is.
The main goal and inspiration behind the Pints With Friends project was to create a large group of work, showcasing the individual style and technique of today's top boro flame workers. I have always enjoyed the process of blowing large hollow work and I enjoy drinking beer. The size and shape of a pint glass lends itself perfectly to showing off pattern work. The more I considered the idea, the more I realized it would make an interesting book in addition to a final gallery showing of the collection.
I got to see your shelves when we were on a video call for this interview and WOW! I can’t wait to see them all. How long have you been blowing glass and how did you get started?
I started at 21 and I'm turning 40, so 19 years. You know it was a different time back then in the glass scene and people weren’t really opening their studios to teach newcomers. I had initially pursued glassblowing by trying to befriend headshop shop owners. I remember taking the bus out to a head shop where I would talk glass with the owner and try to get them to introduce me to artists, but nothing ever came of it. Then three years later, just after I turned 21 I got to talking to a guy in a bar when he mentioned he could make gauges for my ears out of glass. I told him I'd do anything if he’d let me come hang out while he worked. And just like that I had my in, if I’d bring a couple grams of weed or a six pack I was welcome anytime. He ultimately introduced me to the guy that gave me my first job working on the lathe making production bongs. and the journey began.
So you really sought it out. Now you currently work at your home studio but have been part of big group shops in the past. Do you think the home shop is the ideal setup?
You know ideally I would have both, they each have their pros and cons. After co-founding Mothership I spent eight years there where I was responsible for making the high end color line and coordinating the team of people assisting us on those projects. After leaving Mothership I was splitting time between the home studio and getting in a day here and there at The Observatory. Currently I’m just working out of my home studio here in Bellingham. I have found I really do enjoy being by myself. Anyone who has worked in a shop with other people knows how frustrating it is when you go to grab a tool and it's not there. There are also the distractions that come with having other people in the shop, every shop has the guy that is a slob or the guy that always has friends coming by. I also do think there are massive benefits to working with other people. Particularly in your first 10 years on the torch I think it's really important to work with other people. When you are by yourself, you’re fucking by yourself, you’re not tossing ideas around or seeing and learning from your friends. Sometimes having someone else’s perspective on things can really open doors.
I couldn’t agree more. How has the transition to working from home affected your work life balance?
You know, I really like the whole working from home thing because I have kids. Not having to leave all day is huge. I feel like I missed a lot of the young baby years with my son, I don't want to do that again with my daughter. I love getting to hang out with my daughter all day, my wife works from home too so it's a great dynamic. I work all day, but at the same time I'm a dad all day. There is always something I have to run in and do or watch the kids while my wife runs errands, but it's great.
Let’s get a little personal - then we’ll get back to glass stuff. Got a favorite food or meal?
You know not so much, it really just depends on how hungry I am.
Nice - Got a favorite travel destination?
Honestly, I'm not really a big travel person. Growing up as a kid we took family trips to the Oregon coast. I have been out to Hawaii a couple times.
I haven’t been to Hawaii yet, but I've been to the Oregon Coast and it is gorgeous. Any hobbies or life outside glass, or do you eat, sleep, and torch?
I like the outdoors, I'm an avid archer and marksman. Mainly I really just enjoy hanging out with the family. Everything from baseball practice to soccer camp, family life takes up most of my ‘me time’ these days. Glass is also my hobby in addition to being my career.
Do you listen to music or podcasts when you’re on the torch?
I listen to a lot of music, I definitely enjoy an eclectic mix. I'm always the DJ in my shop and can be a stickler about my music. I’ll play a gunslinger ballad from Marty Robbins and then go straight into the most thug shit you ever heard, then to some Tool. I do also like podcasts sometimes and listening to people way smarter than me and hearing from people with a different perspective. I like history stuff too.
Who are your artistic influences?
I find influence from all art. I wasn't really raised going to art galleries or around fine art at all, but I have always appreciated all forms of art from movies to paintings and sculpture.
Who is your favorite cup maker?
I don't keep up with other people's work too much. If you look at someone else's stuff enough you can't help but start making things like that, at least to some small degree. I'm really just trying to focus on my own work.
Do you work in other mediums besides for glass or is glass your passion?
Well, I dabble in a bit of everything and I'm good at none of them. I really tried everything else and it didn't click with me. I did some drawing as a kid and some clay sculpting but I never felt I was good at it, and I would get discouraged. When I found glass I was really excited about it and things clicked enough at first that I felt like I had really found it. I always knew I wasn't going to work a job somewhere as a career, I knew I wanted to do something for myself. When I found glass there was a definite realization that I found it, and that it was time to really go hard. For my first decade on the torch I didn't hardly take a day off, I was pretty obsessed. Now almost another decade later, I'm covered in burns and my elbows hurt, glass sucks. I'm just kidding… but my elbows do hurt!
Tell us about your shop setup. I’m sure all the glass blowers out there would love to know what kind of torch and tools you use!
The lathe I use most is the Herbert Arnold 1080 with an 80mm bore. I also have a Litton WEL and an FU. I have a few different torches that I use; a 40mm Herbert Arnold that I work on most of the time as well as a GTT Mirage and a Delta Mag on the big lathe. I also have a variety of hand torches primarily relying on my GTT Cheetah and Lynx. I think with a lot of tools if you just buy them, even without intent and play with them that will often lead you to create a purpose. If you see a tool or hand torch that looks weird or cool, I say buy it you’ll figure out something cool to do with it.
I have been making my own paddles for the lathe lately, developing some new shapes that I'm excited about. It is basically a round surface for wide sections instead of a flat paddle which avoids drag. I anchor my arm on the bed of my machine and apply the tool from above or below a big section or multiple sections of glass in order to get really clean tapers for the cups especially.
Some tools I have to mention as a cup maker would be Jim Moore cup shears and jaw cutters which Taglia Tool makes the nice new ones but I mainly use my old shitty one to be honest.
Which cups from the Pints with Friends project are you most excited about?
I don't want to give too much away but some of the ones I'm excited about haven't happened yet so we’ll see what happens. I am really excited about everyone who is contributing to the project.
Fair enough. What’s the rough count currently?
There are about 50 finished, another 20 in the works (needing cold working for example) and there are still artists making prep for the project. I have at least one trip coming up in which I will be able to make a handful in one location with close by artists.
How exciting! What can you tell us about the release for the project? I know a bunch of us are ready to book flights and clear our calendars!
Stay tuned to Instagram and Jakecglass.org for updates. Before I announce the location and confirm a date for the show I want to have more of a grasp on the unfinished pieces. Working with this many artists and coordinating with their schedules is a challenge and I don’t want to make anything official too early. I’m sure you will also let people know here as well when my announcement goes live.
Absolutely! And there will also be a book? Who have you been working with to document all of these cups?
There will be a book to document the series. It will be a coffee table style book, focused on showcasing the modern styles of borosilicate pattern work through the cup collaborations. I hope it will really highlight the artists unique styles and patterns they have developed, the cup serves as the perfect canvas for that. I like the idea of creating a book and the accessibility that it offers to the art. The number of cups will be limited but the book will allow more people to own a part of the project. The book will be released when the project is completed. I’ve been working with Tree House Glass to document the series and his photographs will be featured in the book.
Obviously some of my cups are available through Drinking Vessels, and there might still be one or two at E Vapor Smoke Shop in Minneapolis. A few other shops around the country have a piece or two here and there but mostly the work is already in private collections. While working on this project I haven’t been releasing new pipes but I have been spending time prototyping on the side for some new designs I want to release after this project.
And thanks for working with us! I am thrilled to have added your most recent solo cup to my personal collection. Are there any color companies or other partners supporting this project?
Thanks to Glass Alchemy for providing some color for this project and to High Volume Oxygen for setting me up with the oxygen system running the torches. Also, thank you so much to the artists who have contributed to this project making it possible.
Amazing. Willing to tell us any of your favorite color combos and a bit of your tech for creating the gorgeous new palette being offered?
One of my favorites that I have done on a couple is I will use Steel Wool drill mixed with a lot of clear. I run one stripe of Steel Wool down a 4” chunk of 32mm rod and drill mix it, sleeve that, then sleeve that over Royal Jelly or Telamagenta. You can really sleeve that over anything, it's as transparent as clear and then you put a light on it and it's just a crazy sparkle. When you thin it out it almost becomes even more sparkly, it really goes well over anything and gives it a safe stable sparkle.
For someone as successful as you selling pipes at the prices you are, what made you decide to spend basically an entire year making cups?
Honestly, when I had the idea for the project it just sounded like fun. I wanted to work with others after mostly being alone in my home studio and this would be an opportunity to collaborate with and allow me to showcase the work of other artists, I think cups offer a great platform for that. Cups are cool because they are so old, you know. It's like one of the first objects probably to be documented and preserved in history. I guess those weren’t made out of glass but probably a fucking skull or something.
Cup Life! What has contributed to influencing your designs for this project and these cups?
The shapes I’m going after come from when I'm sitting in a restaurant or bar and they hand me a pint of beer and it's just this simple heavy functional shape. That to me is the thing you don't see from glass blowers. I try to use subtle shapes to distinguish my cups from what I see in the borosilicate flame worked market. While the subtle shapes are seemingly simple, it is that simplicity that conceals the real challenge. With simple shapes there is nowhere for mistakes to hide, no forgiveness for errors, that is where their true difficulty lies and why other shapes are more common. It’s easy to blow a couple marias and shape something out but it doesn't require the same finesse as it does to make a crispy 80mm to 60mm taper out of sections that move at different rates.
I really want these cups to feel good in the hand and the solid puck I am adding at the bottom adds a nice weight and gives them that real solid feel. Many artists cut open their lips and flame polish them but i prefer to flame cut most of mine which makes for a more ergonomic shape for drinking, rather than a hard edge. Any glass artist can make a hollow vessel and its a cup, that's what's motivated me to design a body of work that demonstrates what can be achieved with the material. As lame as this sounds, it's also about function. A lot of the cups I have seen feature shaping that glugs or splashes when you drink from it. Yes a cup is a simpler shape, but it still must function.
Are there any artists whose work you are really excited about right now?
Honestly I am really excited about the work of all the artists I have collaborated with for the project.
Where can people stay updated about your project and learn about obtaining some of these Pints with Friends?
Give me a follow on Instagram @jake_c_glass and check out my website at jakecglass.org.
All pictures from Tree House Glass and Colin "Skinny" Hagan
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