- Matthew Thorsen
The Third Annual Pipe Classic judges’ show was the culmination of a weeklong exhibition and celebration of functional glass sculpture spearheaded by Burlington’s Bern Gallery. Dozens of extraordinary glass artists, as well as journalists and fans, turned out for the event, heralded by organizers as the largest and most challenging competition of its kind.
The rules were deceptively simple: Each pipe was to be made from scratch in 12 hours at the Main Street studio, and had to be fully functional. “The glass itself is often the deciding factor on how these works are completed,” said Eusheen, an Oregon artist and Pipe Classic judge. “It’s a constant communication between the artist and the medium. Glass is very much alive, a liquid in solid form,” he added. “The fact that these pieces are also functional makes their conception that much more challenging.”
Constructed from borosilicate glass, the pieces on hand featured amazing combinations of organic form and kaleidoscopic color, each with its own blend of symmetry, delicate pattern work, reversals and overlays.
According to Slinger, a Philadelphia artist and event judge who is a luminary of the discipline, glass-pipe making is a growing, international subculture, anchored by disenfranchised artists much as graffiti was in the 1970s.
“In 15 years, pipe making has grown from the studios of a few small artists into a phenomenon,” Slinger said. “Events like this are moving it from the fringe into a realm of acceptance. It’s a competition, sure, but there are really no losers here.”
Glass-pipe trade publications are beginning to appear, and a documentary film and book about the art form’s history are in the works. Each will no doubt begin with its emblematic founder Bob Snodgrass, who displayed and sold his works for years while touring with the Grateful Dead.
Saturday’s winner was Seattle artist Pakoh, whose elaborate piece included an image of the Bern Gallery (where it will remain on display) fashioned on the glass itself. He was also awarded a 90-jet Delta Mag glass-blowing torch.