Ben's Lens: An Interview with Surfrat Glass

Ben's Lens: An Interview with Surfrat Glass

April 01, 2020

When I was growing up a few of my friend’s grandparents had RV’s they would travel the country in. I thought they were the coolest grandparents I ever met. I remember yearning for the road even as a young child.

Carving a fresh line of powder on my snowboard is a similar feeling, with a much greater intensity. The possibilities are endless, and the freedom is unlimited. I’ve long suspected that Bryan Ratcliffe (@surfratglass) and I would get along given our common passions for glass, boarding, and the road. I was not wrong.
I graduated high school a semester early, after a battle with the school. High School was a cage I did not fit into and I needed out. Thanks to some help from my mom and my early admission to Indiana University, I was able to leave in January of my senior year. I planned a road trip with a friend from Chicago to California and up the PCH. I was seventeen and my friend eighteen. I had a lot of firsts on that trip, but mainly it was my first taste of freedom and independence. We woke up and did whatever we felt like. We stayed with friends and family along the way, some of whom we had never met before. My friend got a medical marijuana card in Venice Beach as a recovered cancer patient. We stayed on a pot farm near Humboldt. We lived in a Prius and whatever guest room or couch we had access to. The three month trip would serve as a model for future trips, including the few years I lived on the road as a vagabond roaming around the country from glass studio to studio.

There’s something refreshing about being out there, on the road. It’s a feeling you know if you’ve ever just wandered around in a car. There are loose deadlines, places to be, people to see. Ultimately plans change, and things come up. That’s part of the adventure.

Bryan has developed a body of work centering around being on the road. His scenes are made using a variety of techniques, often featuring millies to create elements of each road trip. No two trips are the same, as we all know in life and each of Bryan’s trip scenes are completely unique. 

BB: Finally, after years of trying to connect, you made it to Minturn to throw down in the studio and get some laps in on the hill!
BR: It was an epic trip, glad we made it happen. 

Tell us a little bit about who you are and how you got into glass.
I grew up in Evergreen, Colorado, my dad had a company that made all-terrain vehicles and snowcats, and my mom is fine art painter and graphic designer. I’ve been sculpting from a very young age. I went to Western State College in Gunnison to get my BFA in Ceramics. In my sophomore year I started searching out spots to learn how to blow glass. I found a local pipe maker/Western State artist alumni Berserker Glass and it all started there. That was 1998. From there I graduated from school and then traveled for about eight years, mainly staying based out of Vancouver BC. Moved back down to Colorado in 2008 and I’ve been making waves here in Colorado ever since. 

What kind of torch do you run? What’s your favorite tool?
I’m a torch collector. I’ve never sold a torch. Still have the Carlisle CC+ that I learned on. I also have a GTT Mirage, and my favorite torch (my daily driver) is the Herbert Arnold 40mm. Favorite tool is the cross lock jeweler's tweezers.

Did you actually make that cup holder we saw on Tim Drier’s page and are you making me one?
My brother has a metal fabrication hobby shop, we are working on a prototype. I’m super thankful for his help. He also helped with some of the prototyping on the first versions of Das Pedal (a pedal I make for the Herbert Arnold). And yes, you get first dibs when more are available. 

How many days do you have on the hill this year? You said you hadn’t been to a resort in two years but you prefer to ride back country mostly. What kind of setup are you on (for the gear heads)?
Took a big trip to South America for the majority of January this year, so it really put a dent in the amount of days I’ve gotten on the mountain. So far I’m at around 6 days on Cameron pass, and one day at a resort. 

I ride a K2 Panorama 168 splitboard with Spark bindings. 

Resort board is a loaded 160w with Burton Cartel bindings, and Burton Driver boots. 

How would you rate our day at Vail?
Best resort day all year! Lol so fun, looking forward to more.


Your work is about road trips. I spent years living on the road myself. Any trips stand out in your mind that inspired the series? How long has this series been a thing?
So many trips, its hard to pick just one. This series/theme started about ten years ago. I wanted to specialize my brand, and build an artistic vocabulary that connects with my audience.  I’ve always loved drawing vantage point scenes, and for a long time, wanted to re-create something like that in glass.

At first I was just making that image on pipes. But then one of my collectors stopped by the shop and saw a piece that he really wanted created into a pendant. At that point the domestic pipe making scene was going through some major changes. This was great motivation to diversify. For the last five years I’ve exclusively been making a road trip themed pendants and products. It’s a really fun direction, with many different avenues to explore! Massive thanks to Frank Ferlo for the Motivation to keep driving “the road trip series.” 

Who is your favorite cup maker?
This is one of the hardest questions... can’t pick just one. 

What’s your favorite cup in the personal collection? My personal collection? Really love the collab that I made in Murano with the Balentini brothers. If we are talking about your collection, I’m a big fan of the SALT collab mugs.

Do you have a favorite cup on the website?
Salt x AKM Dark Arts mug

Do you have a favorite cup we made together?
I’m a fan of all the pieces we made. So hard to pick a favorite!


Same here dude really love what we came up with! When are you coming back to jam?
I guess it’s going to depend on quarantines and such, but I would love to come up and melt some glass. Also really want to come up this summer to do some camping, mountain biking, and make some more cups! 

We talked about some affordable solo cups you want to produce while you visited Vail. Anything we might expect to see soon on the solo side of cups from you?
I need to finish making that cup grabbing tool we talked about, and also send my GTT in for a refurbish! Once that’s accomplished I’ll be ready to start making some cups!


I definitely look forward to getting down with Bryan again this summer once we get through this virus and can socialize again. Too bad we’ll have to wait for next year to get back on our snowboards! Also want to shoutout Bryan for the banana split, which has been delicious!

Thanks for tuning in!

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