Ben's Lens: An Interview with JOP Glass

Ben's Lens: An Interview with JOP Glass

April 22, 2020

Back when I was a young gun on the scene, my teacher Huffy (@huffyglass) took me all over the country to trade shows and events. Most of the shows we attended were in Vegas, and AGE was probably the biggest show of the year at the time. Instagram was relatively new so my exposure to glass artists prior to attending the shows had expanded quick. It was like the underground scene of the toke city days changed when Instagram hit and many people who had previously remained anonymous began to become more accessible. I think that era from 2010 - 2014 was one of exponential growth in the scene. Slinger’s documentary Degenerate Art left the door wide open for the scene. All of a sudden many more top pipe makers were teaching classes and offering demos. There were some artists who really pushed the boundaries during that era, and JOP was one that stood out to me consistently. 

At trade shows, JOP’s booth always had a certain level of professional presentation like an art gallery in a sea of wooks. I think I was most impressed by the scale of his work, along with his immaculate sculpting. To me he embodied the East Coast and mainly Philly vibe, elevating glass pipes into gallery and museum pieces through mainstream cultural imagery and bold bright colors in complimentary contrast to each other. From my perspective, he was one of the guys pioneering the incorporation of modern art into the glass pipe scene.



I remember having a beer and probably a few smokes with him at the circle bar, an iconic meeting place at the Hard Rock Hotel for after hours hangs that often went until 4am. I was stoked that he gave me the time of day, back when I was so early in my career that I was still afraid of spinning glass by hand. He asked me about my work and I didn’t really have any. I was so early in my exploration of glass and a full time college student. He was encouraging, and his love for the medium and the process was obvious. 

I acquired my first piece of JOP’s work a few years ago second hand, and it is one of the largest pieces in my personal collection. I was stoked when we got back in touch and discussed doing a Drinking Vessels release, and the box he sent was one of the most exciting for me to open not knowing what was inside. The work he sent dates back as early as 2012 and some pieces are as recent as 2020. The chicken series goblets he sent are some of my favorites on the website, and whoever gets to add the Eye of the Chicken Goblet to their collection will have a close match to the one from my personal collection.

How long have you been torching?
Nineteen years.

How did you get into it? Any artistic mediums for you before glass?
Before glass I was carving stone by hand using traditional methods for a few years and painted on the side. I was pretty broke and at that time I was hanging with JAG @justanotherglassblower and he introduced me to it. I was hooked after the first fifteen minutes of my first time blowing glass and immediately rented a garage, bought a small torch and started learning ‘trial and error’ style. At that time there were no formal classes and no internet info; it was still very outlaw.

You also produced a film years ago that you showed at the Alexis Park in Vegas one year which I got to attend. What was that process like?
I wouldn’t say I produced the movie "1050 Toronto." All filming, editing, and entire film process was done by one person - Max Tubman. I kinda had the idea at first but it was created from the efforts of Max. The whole experience was surreal-- being flown to another country, put up in a hotel, and actually paid just to be in a competition. I felt like I had already won before I was even in the competition. It was a great learning experience for me and sometimes when I look back at or the film I realize how unnecessarily serious I took glass and life. They are one and the same to me. In any case I truly feel max caught the emotion of the trip accurately and probably made it look cooler than it actually was. Just kidding, it was an epic journey with my brothers Kurt B, Chad G, and Max.



Any other current projects in your life that aren’t glass?
Outside of glass I like to restore classic cars, particularly from the '60’s. I had a project that I finished and sold and am now looking for my next one. I also love gardening (not just weed ya hippie). 

Who you calling hippie? Tell us a little bit about your setup. What kind of torch are you running and what are your favorite tools?
The torch I run is a four stud GTT Delta Elite. It’s the same torch I’ve ran for fifteen of my nineteen year career. I run a griffin double foot petal where the first stage controls the outer fire of the Delta, and the second pedal controls the on/off of my Bunsen burner. Just recently I’ve learned how valuable a Bunsen can be for glass blowers that turn glass by their hands. Besides being an almost perfect flame profile/temp for healing cracks, it saves time in reheating in the flame as opposed to popping it in a warm kiln to heat back up. I’m about that Bunsen tech for realz!

You still in Philadelphia? Is that where you grew up?
Philly is where I’m located and grew up. I lived in San Diego for five years beginning in 2009. In the future you can find me on a big piece of land chewing on hay, riding a tractor, with a shotgun on my back and a Nascar tat on my neck.

I can definitely picture that neck tattoo. Maybe Ricky Bobby’s face or something! When we reconnected recently you asked why I was in your phone as “Shloben,” a nickname from early in my glass career. We must have met around eight years ago when I started out on the trade show circuit. I was quite the fanboy back then, and your work always stood out to me. Chickens and Syringes. Care to elaborate on those series?
Thanks man that means a lot! Never considered you a fanboy but still I appreciate that! The chickens come from a reflection of my view as of how absurd life can be sometimes. How does one personify that absurdity? By making fucking glass chickens, that’s how. As for the syringes it comes from two different places. For one, I started making them while I was having severe medical issues where I had to have syringes injected into me often. On the other hand, I live in Kensington which is ground zero for the heroin/opioid epidemic in Philly. It is a daily occurrence to watch where you step to avoid discarded dirty syringes. On a weekly basis I have to pull needles from my planter on the street side of my house. So why syringes? Because I see them every god damn day. 



I cherish my blue chicken foot goblet from 2015 that I got second hand. It coincidentally matches the new "Eye Of The Chicken Goblet" you sent me. These things are a pretty hefty amount of glass. Any idea roughly how many you’ve done in this style?
I’ve probably only made five or six cups like that. I agree there’s a hefty amount of glass on each one especially with the claw foot having almost one inch thick toes. I love them. They’re funky and unique but still very much functional as a goblet.



Agreed. Who is your favorite cup maker? Who inspires you in the world of drink ware?
Favorite cup maker is Dante Marioni. His color use is spot on, and the symmetry and proportions are on point. His style is a world away from mine but for some reason I gravitate towards his cups.

Dante is also forever my favorite. I am obsessed with his Venetian Trio Series. It is a dream of mine to replicate his designs in boro on a smaller scale, but I am not sure we can ever truly match his color palette. Do you have a favorite piece on the site? Any cups from over the years that stand out in your mind from friends or other artists?
The Salt x Stephan Peirce CFL Tazza cup is one of my favorites on the site. 



Me too. I have been fantasizing about adding that one to my personal collection since the day I got it. How’s your cup collection?
My cup collection is strong but could always be better. My issue now is not having a place to display the items I own. I feel it’s disrespectful if you have a piece in your collection that lives in a box.

I am definitely running out of space myself. Do you collect art that isn’t glass? What is your taste like in regards to non-glass art?
I don’t really collect too many other things other than glass. I mean, I have paintings and such but I am not actively pursuing purchasing or collecting things other than glass. I do however, have a few sculptures by the artist Karen Schapiro. She’s a fantastic person from Northern California that crafts ceramic large scale real life replicas of '50's objects. 50's objects aren’t my thing, so I traded her a glass chicken for a ceramic large scale custom Spray Paint Can. It’s bad ass and looks exactly like a Krylon can and it’s got to be fifteen pounds and three feet tall.

Have you made any cup collaborations?
I made a drinking vessel collaboration with JAG in 2006 or 2007. It was rad and very large and also was a drinking hookah. By that I mean two people drank at the same time out of the vessel. It’s in the property of a local hospital here in Philadelphia.

Amazing! What do you like to drink?
I am a beer and a shot of whiskey type of person. Often at the same time. Often several at the same time more precisely.

The old El Bar Special! While we’re at it, what is your favorite food?
If you got to ask, my favorite food is pickles.

What is a typical day in the life of JOP?
A typical day in the life of JOP. I get up hella early because I usually can’t sleep much. I hit the stationary bicycle for a few as I’m now forty and that’s the shit you have to do when you turn forty. After that I walk my dogs and head into the studio. My first hours awake are my most productive so I’m antsy to get into the studio as soon as possible. I will usually crush out a ten to twelve hour work sesh with a little food sprinkled in there somewhere. After that it’s home to make dinner with my girlfriend and chill with the dogs some more. If all goes well I hope that’s what I’ll be doing for the next forty years.



Who would you like to read an interview with here on the blog?
I’d like to read an interview with Eric from AGE.

Whoa, I don’t know if he would do an interview with me after their most recent fiasco! Any up and comers got your attention in the glass scene?
My block here in Philly has a lot of glass blowers especially up and comers. I’d like to especially point out my shop mate Cole (@notapipemaker) and also local block youngster Casta (@castaglass).

What kind of music do you like to listen to? Do you listen to tunes while you melt glass?
I listen to music the whole time I’m blowing glass and the gamut runs from everything from ignorant hip-hop rap to Beethoven.

How has your routine changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic?
COVID-19 pandemic has not really changed my routine. I was normally a pretty alone person spending most of my time with just my girlfriend and my dogs. I normally would just go to the studio come home and repeat so after this pandemic not much has changed for me. Again I’m forty so I’m not at the bar all the time anyway so it’s all good.

Anything else we should know about you?
Something you should know about me. I feel really fortunate to have been living this life as far as I have. Glass art and art in general is always a roller coaster of emotions and finances. If you can ride those ups and downs this can be the perfect life. It may already be.



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