Blowing minds: The art of blown glass

A Brief History of Blown Glass

Glass blowing is an art that can be traced back to as far as the first century B.C., with other forms of glass art both functional and aesthetic predating that by many, many centuries. It is an ancient and beautiful form of art. Some pieces and fragments found by archaeologists have even been dated all the way back to ancient Egypt. However, it wasn’t until much later, right around the year 1971 to be exact, that it really began turning into the art form we know it as today, with beautiful and intricate blown glass pipes finally beginning to take off.

This can mostly be traced back to a man named Bob Snodgrass, now a folk icon who is widely known as the godfather of modern blown glass pipes and art. Snodgrass got his start following The Grateful Dead, where he would make his pipes and sell them at each stop of the tour. Truly unique and beautiful pieces, especially for their time, Deadheads came in swarms to claim a Snodgrass pipe of their own. Already he was becoming something of a legend for his work. Bob would keep this up for many years, traveling and selling pipes at each stop along the way, until eventually, in 1990, a friend would convince him to settle down in Oregon. There, at his workshop in Eugene, he’d take on the same man as his first apprentice glass blower.

Hugh Salkind, the newfound Snodgrass apprentice, and Bob would travel once again across the country, selling pieces and teaching their techniques to new and aspiring glassblowers across the nation as they’d go. The duo’s work would soon become legend, with Bob now being considered a master of his craft and truly a pioneer in the still advancing and growing art of glassblowing and blown glass pipes.

Salkind himself would later go on to open his own studio and, carrying over the experience of learning under a master craftsman like Snodgrass, he’d go on to continue creating and innovating the art of glass pipes, as well as teaching others the craft. Through lessons taught at glassblowing schools across Eugene as well as in personal studios, he passes down the techniques taught to him by Bob and ensure that the art would thrive for generations to come.

Soon after Snodgrass and Salkind had paved the way, actor and comedian Tommy Chong, famous for his role in the classic Cheech & Chong films, stepped into the glassblowing game with his own line of pipes and bongs, and with his celebrity came, even more, attention to the growing medium. It can be argued that this kind of mainstream exposure helped make the industry what it is today.

Quickly, festivals and conventions for the art form began to pop up across the country. It grew more rapidly than anyone could have ever expected, making leaps and bounds with new and skilled craftsmen taking up the torch. Seemingly in the blink of an eye, it turned from simple glass pipes to breathtaking, functional sculptures that collectors would gladly pay thousands upon thousands of dollars to have for their collections.