This was the days before mass production, so today’s five dollar pipe probably cost around six times that. Not that he was in it for the money. “I just wanted to make artistic pieces.” So when the ability to churn pipes out quickly and inexpensively became possible, he remained committed to his one offs and his art.
These days, years later, the shop is long gone but he is even more into his glass blowing than ever. The pipes themselves are mind blowing. Unlike most commercial pipes, his don’t have flat bottoms, which clog easily and draw poorly. To prevent the pipes from tipping over, he started adding a glass marble to the design for stability. And then, because he’s been a lifelong fan of miniature trains, landscapes, and micro art, he started putting objects in the marble such as palm trees, sailboats, and sunsets.
These little worlds, which are even better when seen through one of the magnifying glasses he buys by the gross, are modern day equivalents of those ships in a bottle, and are almost too beautiful to use.
While most of the pipes are meant to be used, others, like the “suicidal pipe” with its blue and white skull belong on the shelf. For pieces like that, he always includes a one-hitter, so the buyer understands they are collectible.
His best collector, however, is himself. He is, to put it mildly, a borderline hoarder, and has a difficult time letting go of his favorite pieces. When the problem gets too bad, he forces himself to sell a few. “But there are some,” he laughs, “that you’d have to pry from my dead hand.”
(Glass pipes are not the only kind of pipes Chris is well known for. He was the singer of the late lamented metal band Funhouse and the more current, even harder to categorize Ginger Merkin, which blends elements of metal and country into a sound all its own. But that’s another story.)