Ben's Lens: An Interview with Ed & Betty Wolfe

Ben's Lens: An Interview with Ed & Betty Wolfe

April 15, 2020

I met Ed and Betty Wolfe in Vegas years ago at the trade show circuit. This was before I had created Drinking Vessels, and alongside their fully worked wrap and rake bongs were similar decanters and cups. Their work stood out to me then, while I was still making pipes for other artists like Huffy, Long Island Glass, and Joel Halen. I placed one of my first wholesale orders with them a few years later when my brand was just taking off, at an AGE show in January in Vegas. That was around the same time that I set up many of the early collaborations that would become a foundation for this brand and my philanthropy project. Im sure that EWGG was one of the first artists I carried beyond my own work and collaborations.

The first two artists that I represented by placing wholesale orders to resell were Rashan Jones (@jonesofig) and Jason Gordon (@gordons_glassware) who had been friends of mine prior to starting this business. When I purchased the order from Betty Wolfe at that trade show it was the first time I would purchase work from someone I hardly knew. It was quite the gamble as I was spending money I did not have in hopes that I could at least break even by selling a few pieces. I remember I also bought a mug from Hamm (@hammswaterworks) at that show for a few hundred dollars which at the time was the most expensive piece I had bought. I knew I needed variety, and while those pieces sat for a while as I got the business going from my friend’s basement in the Vail Valley I rarely have EWGG cups sitting any more!

Over the last two years I’ve sold more of their cups than any other artist I represent. I’ve also added a few to my personal collection. The Blue Fadez they make are some of my favorite cups available on the market. My next order with them will have pint sized 16 oz. tumblers in addition to their 10 oz. tumblers and mugs. I saw one at their house back in October and knew I would need to bring them to the site.


On my recent trip to Oregon I got to spend a morning with Ed, Betty, Mr. Able, and their fourth shop mate in their humble home studio. When I say modest studio it couldn’t have been more than a few hundred square feet in a shed behind their house, and the only space to stand was at a bench. The whole place was full of equipment, prep, raw materials and the four of them. I spent an hour watching Mr. Able create his wrap and rakes on their Litton lathe with a cradle burner and a national hand torch. I was mesmerized. I have very little experience with cradle burners, which are mounted multi head torches that all fire in a ring of fire. I have one hand torch called a Nortel Unitorch that has six fine heads arranged in a crescent facing each other to achieve the crossfire effect but its a fine single tip flame. Mr. Able used a very aggressive multi port cradle burner that gets 75x5 mm tubing hot like nothing, and its hands free. 

Ed told me he got into glass in LA decades ago while working in a factory. He would work the day job and then learn to blow glass at night, keeping both jobs until his pipes were selling. Once he quit the factory job it was years of production pipes that supported their family, through times when pipe making was illegal. They took on the risk and rode through Operation Pipe Dreams to get to where we are today. Most of their wholesale accounts have been with them for over a decade and I have seen their easily identifiable production around the country on my travels. From glass studios to head shops to living rooms around the country, I have bumped into more than a few of their tubes on my trips.

They still do one or two trade shows a year and take enough wholesale orders to keep them busy for the year. They prefer it that way, supplying head shops all over the country.

Betty showed me their personal collection of glass trinkets in the house where I met their Parrot. The parrot isn’t the most friendly, but he is a beautiful creature they inherited from Ed’s mother. She also showed me her cabinet full of handmade cups and served me coffee in her favorite mug from Mr. Able. If you’re lucky enough to catch them at the Saturday Eugene Market you might even get your hands on one for $20!

It was amazing how many artists on my trip had Ed Wolfe’s cups in their cabinets, especially in Oregon. They’re like a staple in heady homes along the road. AK had a few in his personal collection which you may have caught in the group shot in his recent blog interview.

Before I left, Ed gifted me a jar he made with some of the best homegrown I found along my journey. It came in a jar he made himself, which I gifted down the road to someone else. It was so nice to spend a morning with such lovely people. I think I’ve overwhelmed them with orders a bit but they tell me to keep 'em coming!

---

BB: Do you use your own drinkware at home?
EWGG: Yes, it is all we use.

What’s your personal glass collection like?
Our collection consist of a mix of vintage and modern. We have some nice pieces of 'American Brilliant' leaded cut glass. We have a few pieces of vintage ‘Bohemian’ glass. We have a small ‘Glass Eye Studio’ collection. My modern glass collection is a variety of many different artists.

Tell us about the techniques you’re using in the drink ware line, and anything you want to share about your process. What kind of lathes, torches and tools are you using?
Our line of drink ware is made on the lathe. Our lathe is a heavy duty lathe originally constructed to pull fiber optic cable for AT&T. We use a 14 head-21 port Litton burner and a hand torch. Our lead lathe artist is “Mr. Able.” Mr. Able is known for his Wrap and Rake patterns. His work is easily recognizable by the perfectly spaced, tight wrapped feather pattern, and eye for color.

Do you have a favorite tool or piece of equipment?
The New Bethlehem ‘Sharp Flame’ hand torch is Ed’s new baby.

Do y’all work seven days a week?
We don’t work on Sundays unless we have to. Ed sometimes misses a day to run things. He does all the shipping.

What other items do you produce besides cups and pipes?
We do some marbles and pendants.

Tell us about your painting Betty.
I work with acrylic paint on canvas. The paintings are my latest creative outlet. I like surrealism, no rules. I am not good at following the “rules” of art. I like to use big bold colors. Most of my paintings have some kind of happy creature in them. I want my art to make people smile. 

What’s your favorite drink?
Coffee.

What kind of music do you listen to in the studio mostly?
Anything from jazz to rap. The public radio show on Saturday that is old jazz, everybody likes that a lot. You never know what to expect in our shop!

Tell us about a day in the life.
Ed goes out to the shop around 8am. By 8:30 there is a “safety meeting” during which Betty tells Ed what orders need to be worked on. Everybody blows glass until around 11:00am when we have another “safety meeting.” Then everybody finishes their pieces and leave around 4pm. Not a very exciting day since we do production. It is much like any other job (with a few more “safety breaks”).

What’s your favorite cup on our website? It’s ok if it’s one that you saw before that sold, or something current.
Crushed Opal Mug by Matty B.

What would you like to see more of from us?
I think you are doing awesome, keep it up!

Do you ever collaborate with other artists? I would love to see that in the future!
We do not do collabs at the moment, but maybe one day.

---

Some of the artists I meet have a lot more to say in person than I get from these email interviews. Hopefully these give you a little bit of insight into the artists were representing here at Drinking Vessels. One thing I think is worth noting is that most of the people featured in this blog have little to no experience writing about their work. As an artist I can tell you that while I excel in creative areas, I am lacking in many other areas. I want you to recognize that most of the people you read about here blow glass seven days a week, every day of the year. The only things that some of these folks do besides blowing glass is selling glass, eating and sleeping. As artists we sacrifice many things to follow our artistic pursuits, and often that forces us to submit ourselves fully to our work.

I so cherish the time and relationships that I have formed with so many artists through this project and over the years. These interactions give me a great sense of fulfillment and I am doing my best to share them with you. I wish I could bring you into each studio, and gallery, and sesh that I get to spend with these people but this is the closest I can get. Maybe one day somebody will help me get a podcast going, but for now I appreciate you tuning into the blog. 

We have a great batch of mugs and tumblers available from EWGG right now and I will do my best to keep them in stock as frequently as they’ll take my orders.



Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in The Watering Hole

Sunday 1/22/23
Sunday 1/22/23

January 22, 2023

Read More

An Interview with Jake C
An Interview with Jake C

September 01, 2022

Read More

Ben's Lens: An Interview with Marta Litwiller
Ben's Lens: An Interview with Marta Litwiller

December 06, 2020

Read More

Stay up to date with new releases and exclusive website content.