Ben's Lens: An Interview with Like Minded Glass

Ben's Lens: An Interview with Like Minded Glass

May 27, 2020

I think I first caught wind of Ryan Irish @likemindedglass through his collaborations with Marcel and the Starship. At the time they were some of the only borosilicate crucible made cups I knew of besides Jason Gordon @gordons_glassware.

We connected over instagram and after a while of getting to know each other, Ryan sent me a box of mostly soft glass stemless tumblers. Those were one of the best selling products I have ever listed on the site, but it seems like the next batch might be borosilicate. Ryan, you have been working on shifting the soft glass designs to boro during quarantine, and I can’t wait until they get dialed in and sent my way!

Back in October, I flew to San Francisco, then drove up to Bellingham before flying home from Seattle. We had not met at the time, but you invited me to your home so we could sesh and get to know each other. Your wonderful partner Jordan did some thai massage on my shoulder that alleviated my chronic pains and made the following weeks much less painful for me. I am so grateful that she was able to work on me, and even more so that we were able to trade for some cups I made. When I mentioned to True @truekrunk that I was coming up to see you in Portland after spending a few weeks with her family in Eugene, she got so excited and told me how great you and Jordan are. She was of course correct!

You have an incredible story that I have picked up through our conversations and work together. We have been chatting a lot in the DM but now I am excited to share your story with our audience. Thank you for making the time to create this interview with me.

BB: So Brain Man - tell us about how we ended up here. What lead to you and I getting connected?

Ryan: We ended up here and connected from our mutual love of making glass vessels #cuplife

My Mom told me I have always been a pyro. Apparently I used to play in the fireplace when I was 2 so much so that she had to make a deal with me so I wouldn’t burn the house down. I could burn whatever I wanted as long as It was in the fireplace so I did. I started making candles, and collecting Zippo lighters & miniature seasonal teapot sets by the time I was five.

Wild child! You told me that you got your medical marijuana card in Oregon at age 11. We’ve got to know more about that. Alsoif you don’t mind sharing, what year was that?

Yes pretty crazy but true. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue when I was 10 which is a whole other topic. It led to me to becoming anti-prescription drugs & pro medical marijuana. Anyways I ended up getting my Oregon Medical Marijuana card in 1996 or 1997 when I was 11 or 12 with my mom from doctor Phillip Leveque. He told me to “Never smoke in the rain” and sent me on my way to grow and smoke weed legally! At 15 my mom asked me what I wanted to do as a job that wouldn’t feel like I was working. I responded glassblowing so she bought me a glassblowing class as “Art Therapy” for my 16th birthday in 2001 from the owners of “Elements Glass” Ian Gilula & Aaron Frankel. This quickly lead to me getting addicted to glassblowing from the very first gather I took out of a 600 pound gas soft glass furnace on a windy day! This meant when the wind would hit the "Flue” which is basically a chimney outside it would have a chance of shooting the flame out of furnace door at us. It was roaring out flames when the teachers asked the class who wants to gather first…… I quickly volunteered and jumped up and burnt the shit out of my hand and that was it; I was hooked on glassblowing. We made paperweights, but little did my mom or anyone else know I wanted to make bongs.

That sounds like an experience unlike any other. You have a background in both the hot shop and behind a torch, which has become more than common among the cup makers I have featured on the blog recently. How do you split your time?

I currently can’t rent soft glass studio time because of this covid-19 virus, but I have a home studio for borosilicate so I have been just spending my time adapting my soft glass style cups into borosilicate style cups. I normally just jump back and forth as needed for orders and to keep stuff fun & fresh.

And what are some of the differences between borosilicate and soft glass?

Soft glass gets hot quickly and holds heat a lot longer but is more likely to break if it cools down too quickly. Borosilicate is more stiff and takes longer to heat up but will have more of a resistance to shock if it cools down quickly and most likely won’t break like soft glass.

You’ve spent quite a bit of your time teaching. What has that experience been like?

I love teaching glass blowing. It is one of the best experiences. I got thrown into teaching when I was 19 at Elements Glass in Portland Oregon where I taught for 8 years full time 7 days a week at times. They needed an extra teacher and at the point I started teaching I was already shadowing their classes and I had become their apprentice. I was working there during the day and teaching at night. Best part was meeting people from all walks of life and careers but it also made me a better glassblower because I saw so many things that I wouldn’t have done or thought of happening from mistakes to just stuff I wouldn’t do normally like weird color patterns or a body posture someone had when they made a perfect shape that seem to work better. 

I got to see your home studio setup on my trip last October when we first met in person. Tell our audience about what that looks like. What kind of torch are you running?

Well you got to see the ruins of my studio build lol! Now I would say it is 65% there but when you came it was like 25%. I use half an old glass blowing table from a local college that had a glassblowing program that shut down years ago and I was gifted the octagon table I only currently only use half of. I run a GTT Mirage with a hip pedal, a national with a mini torch adapter, and 2 bunsens; 1 blast shield & 1 carlisle with a Skutt Scarub as my go to kiln.

Favorite tools? Flame working and hot shop.

Flame Working = Matt Eskuche Grabbers

Soft Glass = old school pair of Jim Moore Cup Jacks

Tell us about the brain stamp.

My Company Is Like Minded Glass so I thought the brain stamp would be a good brand for the like minded folks.

I myself, along with a lot of the glass artists I have met and interviewed also play instruments. Do you?

I don’t currently play any instruments.

Any other artistic mediums you enjoy? How’s your drawing?

I enjoy cooking & my drawing is meh but I still enjoy it. I normally draw out the projects im working on before making them.

Sushi or Tacos? Do not try to talk me into a sushi burrito…

Tacos on Tuesdays and Sushi always!

Coffee or Tea?

Both, maybe even at the same time! I enjoy a nice dark roast coffee with some rose and tulsi loose leaf mixed tea with some honey in two different cups at the same time.

What kind of tunes are you jamming while you work? What about when you’re not working?

I like it all honestly and I switch it up all the time. My favorite MC is R.A. the Rugged Man. I've been jamming lately Viagra boys, Aphex Twin, Run The Jewels, Air, Spark Master Tape, Herbie Hancock, Richard Cheese, Snak the Ripper, Merkules, Hippie Sabotage, Locksmith, Altin Gun, and Tame Impala to name a few.

Tell us about a day in the life. What is your routine like?

First thing I let my dogs out and feed them and my cat. Then coffee and normally a 2 egg & cheese sandwich with A1 and either an orange, a banana, or an apple some kind of fruit. Otherwise, just a straight up smoothie with one banana, frozen strawberries, frozen blueberries , apple juice, peanut butter, and half a lemon. Then I smoke flower for a couple hours collect my creative thoughts and I don’t eat again until around 5 p.m. I tend to work at night and reserve the day for shipping & relaxing while saving my energy to get into a positive creative flow state easier. I find when I try to fit my glassblowing in during the day versus just making time for it at night I break stuff.

I know the feeling! What is the greatest lesson that glass has taught you?

The greatest lesson glass has taught me is to stay in the moment as much as possible. I can have a plan for a piece not work out and as long as I am calm & willing to change and adapt I am generally fine. That and patience is extremely important!

Kind of a forced “Be Here Now’ if you will. Who are your favorite cup makers?

A couple of my favorite cup makes are Ian Gilula and Aaron Frankel @elementsglass Andy Paiko @andypaikoglass Lynn Everett Read @vitreluxe Eric Pauli @pauliglassworks Cheyenne Malcolm @cannedheat1 and Brandyn Callahan @brandyn_callahan

Which artists inspire you?

Honestly I try not to look to other artist for inspiration, I am inspired when I play around with glass and something is fun and also a challenge.

Awesome answer! Do you have a favorite piece on the site? Maybe one you’ve seen in the past that has since found a home?

I have been digging the Matty B @mattybglass cups and anything from @diggerglass

How’s your cup collection?

My cup collection is mainly full of cups I have made and kept over the years of teaching and making orders. I do have a few other cups from friends that I have been lucky to get.

I am grateful to have one you gifted me when we met in my personal collection! Anybody fresh on your radar? I’m always looking for up and comers!

I have been digging Totem @totemglass His work looks clean.

I just got my first batch from him and one of the two already found a home! Do you collect any art besides glass? Which non glass artists are you into?

Nathan Turner @robot85kills

Say @sayartist

Ben Berry @thehouseoftattoo

Any collaborations on the agenda? I know times are weird for in person collaboration right now.

Nothing planned 100% but have talked to Frank @oatsglass about doing some collaborations in the near future, and eventually I will get a piece in with Kyle @kajaglass

Kyle is the man! Anything else we should know about you?

I'm a Real life Goonie, I grew up in Astoria where "The Goonies" was filmed.

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