In October of 2019, I was invited to spend a week with the Krunk Family in Eugene, Oregon. I planned a three week trip through the PNW around that invitation, beginning in San Francisco and ending in Seattle. I stopped in as many studios as I could while traveling North in a rental car.
Arik’s daughter True was gracious enough to host me at the Kastle, a delightful bnb she runs across town from her father’s home studio. After many years on the road in challenging accommodations, it felt nice to have such comfortable private quarters.
Every morning I met Arik for breakfast before nine. Most mornings we hit his regular spot, but one day he took me to a different waffle spot (local legend) to change it up. These breakfasts became more comfortable as we got to know each other over the week as this was our first time spending more than a few hours in each other’s company or at a show. We all know how it is at shows, which are definitely not the most conducive environment to going deep with another person amidst so many distractions.
After breakfast we would head to Krunk Studios for days filled with collaboration and an ongoing interview between trips to other shops and a museum at the University of Oregon campus featuring a Ralph Steadman retrospective.
Historically, Arik and the family have remained outside of the public eye for the most part. They’ve kept to themselves and have brokers handle their business. Over the last few years they’ve been emerging at shows and events, and after many years of my nagging Arik agreed to do this interview. I’m so glad he did, and to be able to share some of his story with you.
Some of the questions in this interview were crowd sourced during my trip to Eugene.
What year did you get on the torch? How did that happen?
AK: My first experience with liquid glass was a class on soft glass (soda lime) in '93, which ignited my passion for the medium. I had used a few clear glass steam-rollers as a young teenager, and was determined to find a way to make them myself. As a shakedown street hustler, I bought and sold a lot of Snodgrass family work trying to acquire the ultimate headpiece, but eventually decided that only I could manifest the creations I was envisioning. With the support of a small group of my friends, I bought my first torch in '94.
Tell us a bit about the early days living and working in the RV with your family.
Before this culture became mainstream we experienced some harsh discrimination for choosing our occupation, there were very few understanding landlords, which kept us moving around looking for a community where we could create art in peace. Early on in my career I realized that there was nobody who could dictate what I did inside an RV and it became a stable solution for us to maintain a shop without interference. It was a challenge home-schooling two children and running a glass studio out of our mobile environment, but we used the opportunity to see the country and take our kids to every park and festival that was within our reach on the road. There were good times where we were able to stay for weeks in the most luxurious resorts, and times we had to run on generators camped in the woods, or desert, or sometimes just rotate from truck stop to rest stop till a project was finished and we could afford to plug in again.
And what’s your current setup like?
We are very blessed to own a small home with a studio built in my garage, and are working on renovating a small Kastle into a gallery and Airbnb in Eugene, Oregon.
Family over everything is what you emphasized the entire time we hung out. Tell us about your kid’s drinkware so far, and what we might expect to see.
When they make cups, I see that passionate spark I had when I first fell in love with art glass. They are blessed to have an audience ready to support whatever effort they want to put into their art.
Cookies or Brownies?
I’ll trade you half my cookie for half your brownie? If we co-operate we can have both.
Tell us about your cup collection.
There are lots of collectors who keep the majority of their pipe/bong collection stored away and only use one or two “daily driver” pieces. I love art cups because they are truly FUNctional and all get the use and love the artists intended. I love drinking from boro. It just tastes better. I can taste soda lime, and leaded glass, ceramic and plastic... boro has no flavor letting you truly enjoy the contents of the cup. I collect from all artists, old and new. I enjoy sharing my whole cup collection with every guest, and they all get used very often. I don’t have any stemware, and prefer tumblers to mugs.
How many millies have you pulled?
They could be counted, someday it will happen.
What artists inspire you?
All original art inspires me, from sculpture to flat art, music to performance, all mediums and personalities. I am fond of uniqueness and ingenuity.
You’ve mentioned to me how much you value creativity and original artwork. Who do you see coming up that’s exceeding at this in the industry?
There are too many amazing artists bringing something unique to the game to list them... but every artists name I can remember has a style I recognize them for.
Do you have a favorite cup maker?
Hamm covers the full spectrum and are the most used cups in my house.
Do you have a favorite pipe maker?
Clinton Roman as a human and for the heart he has put into the medium over the years. A true pioneer.
Is this your first public interview? How am I doing?
I have done a couple over the years, but have preferred to let the work speak for itself most of my career, so I wouldn’t be the authority on interviews.
On one of our days together we visited the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon campus to see a retrospective exhibit of Ralph Steadman’s work. Which pieces stood out to you?
His children’s books. Not something you expect an artist of his projection to have accomplished.
Tell us a little about your non-glass art collection.
I collect only things that move my spirit. Some of my favorite artists are only known in their community. I love handmade things. Some of the artists I collect have had a moment in the spotlight, but I don’t see anything in my collection as having monetary value, as my collection is a black hole.
The mugs you made in the 2000's are iconic. There are very few of them, and it’s been over a decade. The real question blowing up my DM is, “Will we see a return of Krunk Cups?”
Its been awhile, it would be fun to make a few more.
*I should follow that up with the fact that I’m glad the one I had to pass on ended up with the Jaded Collective in Chicago.
Anything on my site that you’ve had your eyes on? Do you have some favorite pieces you’ve seen on my page over the years?
I like the unique decanters and flasks a lot.
How’s your bowling score?
Love to break 100. Have a few games in the 230's.
Favorite chip stack?
The collab with Contrabasso L.S.D.
They make the tube safer to use, clean, and transport. The gong and accessories are the first thing to take impact, and I prefer not to have to repair. Less negative space for stale smoke to get trapped in the internal aerodynamics.
How much acid?
Enough to weigh on a scale, not measure in hits... not recommended.
Why doesn’t he like other people doing chaos?
Bob Snodgrass, N8, Bird dog, and Contrabasso are some of my favorite artists for the chaos they do. Im not a fan of forgeries or knockoffs, but love to see original formulas of asymmetrical and chaotic designs.
It has the proper restrictive airflow, where 10mm clogs with flower too fast, and 14mm is too airy.
Year first milli pull?
How influential was Snoddy in his boro education?
I was heavily influenced and inspired by Snodgrass but never got to see him blow glass.
What do you think of the industry now and how do you see it progressing?
We are in the beginning of a renaissance era, our industry is blossoming a new economic opportunity for artists unique to this time, and medium. There will be much growth to come as we break through new barriers in social acceptance and become the nostalgic collectable as well as the cutting edge new art deco.
Arik’s personal cup collection is impressive and modest. It was a real privilege to drink from the cups he has collected during my time in Eugene and to learn the stories of each one. His personal fully worked cup served as my OJ cup many mornings and is the most expensive cup I’ve ever drank from. Some of his kids first attempts at cups, including a collaboration between True and Eusheen seem to have the most sentimental value to him. His collection of Ed Wolfe’s tumblers are awesome daily drivers that he scooped at the Saturday Market in Eugene. His cups from Hamm are simple and elegant, and consistent with Hamm’s work are some of the most ergonomically comfortable cups I’ve held. His collection spans at least a decade, and it’s awesome to connect with another cup collector with such an appreciation. I’m hoping to feature more collectors in a new series I’m working on called “A Collector’s Perspective” to share more about that side of our community in addition to artists.
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