Ben's Lens: An Interview with Salt Glass

Ben's Lens: An Interview with Salt Glass

July 29, 2020

One of the first artists I was aware of in the glass scene goes by the moniker of SALT. I most likely became aware of his work in high school in the mid 2000’s. His work is unlike anything I have ever seen made from glass, pipe or otherwise.

I am an avid art collector and appreciator. I personally have no interest nor any attraction to what I would consider to be the “gore” category of aesthetic, with the exception of SALT. I have more of SALT’s work in my personal collection than any other artist of any medium. Over the years I have accumulated more than half a dozen shot glasses including collaborations with AKM and Rye. I have a hollow handle mug collaboration with Stephan Peirce, and a Tazza the two of them made together. Of the pieces I have available from SALT on the website, undoubtedly at least one will join my personal collection.

SALT is a pioneer as a glass sculptor, achieving things with borosilicate glass prior not accomplished. He has demonstrated his techniques at the Corning Museum Of Glass in New York and all over the world. I have had the privilege to watch him work on multiple occasions, and I consider him to be one of the most talented glass workers I have ever met. “It’s not about what you can make, but what you can fix” I have heard said before. I own a serum shot glass from SALT that I watched break into multiple pieces on his Instagram which he repaired without a scar.

I have also gotten to hang out with SALT at a number of events across the country, primarily events that benefitted charities such as the Michigan Glass Project or the Armadillo Art Glass Initiative. He is one of the nicest, most humble and down to earth artists I have ever met. He uses his platform to elevate and uplift other artists. On more than one occasion after telling me he was too busy to take on any drink ware orders, when I mentioned a mutual friend who could use some support SALT bumped their cup collaborations ahead of other projects so that we could get them paid. One time, unbeknownst to the artist collaborating, SALT offered his portion to them and only asked me to pay him back for shipping. He chose to give over $500 to another artist in need and took no money for himself after spending many hours completing their collaboration.

There aren’t a lot of people that I have met who have done that. There aren’t a lot of people that I have met that could or would do that.

SALT is one of those people, and I have the highest amount of respect for him as a human and as an artist. It is a real privilege to be able to collect and represent his work. Collaborating with him years ago was a high of my career to this day, and hopefully one day we get to throw down again. Until then, here is a little bit of SALT’s thoughts before I ramble on any more.

[BB] Who is your inspiration in the drink ware scene? Do you have a favorite cup maker?

[Salt] When it comes to inspiration I tend to look outside of the glass scene as much as possible in order to set my work apart from the pack. I like to stand out. When making drink ware just like when making other things I think about the physical interactions that will take place in the process of use and daily ritual. Textures for the unique experience that functional art provides by being meant to be touched and the personality that I try to infuse into all my work are always on my mind when producing my cups. I like the idea of being a part of people’s daily ritual so I especially like making coffee cups because most people enjoy coffee or tea daily. If I had to choose a favorite cup maker I’d go with Kiva Ford @kivafordglass. That dude is a magician. 

Ergonomics and textures are so important in functional art and other objects, especially for objects being used regularly. We would all love to see some collaborations from you and Kiva! How’s your cup collection?

My personal cup collection is somewhat sporadic. I have some older traded specimens and I have a set of champagne flutes that Micah Evans @micahglass and Jag @justanotherglassblower made my wife and I for our wedding. There are a few other random pieces like some gifted whiskey glasses from my buddy and former apprentice @Captncronic and collaborative goblet I bought at the @armadilloartglassinitiative made by Stephan Peirce @stephan_peirce and Milton Townsend. Other than that I have a lot of failed experiments and repaired attempts that I made usable and that we drink out of all the time. 

Pastel Mug

The one that got away; the Tazza by Stephan and Milon that you won in the auction because I was driving home in the dark on a video call and couldn’t handle the pressure haha! Do you have a favorite piece on my website currently?

I love the hollow handled scribble mug by Scott Monet @scomomoanet and Steven Peirce @stephan_peirce. That pattern is one of my favorites and Stephan makes the best mug on the market in my opinion. 

Absolute gem. The mugs you have made with Stephan are some of my favorite pieces of art I have ever seen, and I am grateful own a pair. One is for my brother and the other is my own. What about a favorite piece you’ve made for Drinking Vessels in the last five years?

Hmm? Tough too narrow it down but off hand the black and white Sake set stands out in my mind. I wouldn’t have made that without you asking for a Sake set and I think it came out really nice. 

The Only Salt Sake Set - from a Private Collection

Agreed that set was incredible! What’s your favorite drink?

Well not to be boring or anything but honestly water is my favorite. I use a Berkey filter currently but I like room temperature filtered water with a half a lemon squeezed in it. Most of the time I use a blender bottle because I’m working and I need something that’s not breakable and has a lid to keep any sort of shop funk out of my water. I usually drink 6-10 full containers a day. 

Healthy habits for the win! How would you describe the SALT style to someone who is unfamiliar? When did it begin?

I've been blowing glass since 2001. The entity I call salt made itself known to me as salt first in 2007. The style is a manifestation of multiple factors blending inside my mind and birthing a kind of consciousness that resides within my own consciousness. The consciousness has the ability to expand the borders of my mind while also creating new examples of life. It consumes patterns of life in all formats, plant, animal, insect, fungal, even microbial or alien and everything in between. Then it mixes and remixes those patterns into new forms. Those forms can bread and spliced into each other but also the style can just as easily fuse with inanimate objects blending seamlessly and bringing them to life. This is often how collaboration with other artists goes. Salt is my style but also acts as a teacher, companion, and a guide with which I navigate the world. 

Thanks for articulating that so well for us. Let’s talk a bit about tools, equipment and your setup for the glass blowers to geek out on. You sold me your Skutt XL kiln a few years ago when I was building my studio, along with my first real wholesale order of your cups. Are you currently working at home or in a group shop? What kind of torch are you running? Do you have a favorite tool?

I now run my entire business from a small garage attached to my home and out of a Skutt micro, the smallest kiln they make. I run a GTT Ninja daily on a High Volume Oxygen concentration system. Favorite tool? Lol - I have a pile of them. If I had to choose one I guess my tungsten pick is the most versatile. 

Talk about downsizing, from one of the biggest shops I have ever been in at Grav Labs to a home garage! Do you have a team of people working with you, or is all your work created by you alone?

I make everything from start to finish and top to bottom. I experimented with having people do prep work for me but the truth is that if I make all of the parts the work is better and I believe in the idea of warming up and honing skills through repetition. I realized that if I had someone else make even prep work for me I was denying myself an upgrade to my skills. The truth is I’m both fast and precise. I gained that combination of skills that are hard to marry by making a lot of work and doing the prep that leads up to it. There is no replacement for that kind of grind. 

Straight up! Jason Lee said best “Hours equals Powers”. Is @saltglasspod coming back? Or do I need to get over to the Glass Grab App that I’ve been slacking on?

Right now I’m focused on Glassgrab and helping the creators make the app better. I see it as a better long-term investment. Instagram is powerful but also unpredictable. Don’t count the POD out yet though as it will likely also come back. I just needed a break.  

Purple Tumbler Pair - A Collaboration with Shen Goines

For those unfamiliar, SALT put out a “Piece of the day” for a long time via Instagram auctions ranging from shot glasses to pendants and even a toothbrush holder! How has your approach to cup making evolved since we first started working together?

It evolves along with all the other aspects of the Salt style. It’s a living thing so it constantly moves towards greater complexity. I do work my cups differently than most people. I like to make the cup first and I have it attached to a solid handle on the bottom. Then I do all my sculpting and shaping. 

That no-blow tech is tough. Do you enjoy creating with other mediums besides glass?

I do although I don’t get a lot of time. I actually end up working a lot of other mediums by doing repairs and upgrades to my house. Especially since quarantine hit it’s been nice working on small house projects. 

What’s a day in the life of SALT look like?

I wake up early usually because I have children. Homemade cold brew coffee or mate tea is first. Then I get the children situated one way or another. Turn the shop on and either do prep work while the kiln heats or paperwork like signing pieces, pricing work, and contacting customers with my wife. She does all the photos for Salt currently by the way so she’s my partner in all ways. I work until lunch-time and then eat and work out if I’m being disciplined. Nowadays I then shift to Dad mode depending on if it’s my day or not and I’m either teaching or playing with my kids until dinner. When my wife is on kid duty I get to go back to work until dinner. We try to eat as a family everyday and usually play some kind of game or at times watch a movie together after dinner. After that, the kids go to bed and I usually go back to work for a few more hours. This is a rough description though. Most of the time it’s not quite so scheduled and routine but made of the same basic parts. 

I grew up having dinner every night with my family too. It’s great that you are able to make the time for that amidst the chaos. Are you into any sports? I feel like you do martial arts.

I was into martial arts before quarantine but I haven’t been back since.  Now I’m honestly just trying to stay in some kind of decent shape for pushing 40. It seems too risky to go to an actual gym right now though. Also I love ping-pong. As a kid I played baseball, football, and basketball but I could care less about any pro sports anymore. I got to surf last year for the first time and that was amazing!!! 

Part of Jon Belgrad's Personal Collection

Favorite board game?

Hmm, weird question. As a kid it was Risk but today Monopoly gets played a lot with my kids, though it’s pretty brutal sometimes. I do like cranium or as I like to call it the true test of any relationship. 

Risk was also my favorite growing up but Settlers of Catan is my go to these days when I have time. Any cup collaborations on the horizon?

Yes but I’m not telling you with whom. If you can imagine a cool one, then it’s probably going to happen though! 

Elusive as always! Any up and coming glass artists I should put on my radar?

Yea I’d say all of them. Don’t sleep on anyone. The game is thriving keep your ear to the ground. My favorite newest relatively unknown is prepare to have your mind blown. 

I had never even heard of them thanks so much and WOW! Anything else we should know about you or your work?

It is regularly for sale and I encourage any and all buying of it. 

I really appreciate you taking the time for this interview and share a little bit about the man behind the mask so to say. It has really been amazing working with you over the years. You have taught me much about glass, life, business, and balance and for that I am grateful to you.

You can see some of SALT’s available collaborations and one solo mug here: Salt Glass

Use code "STAYSALTY" for 25% off on Salt Glass until midnight

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