Artist Feature: Vela G
Vela G brings California heady glass culture to the Northeast. Our Art of Glass campaign highlights glass blowers and artists in relation to the cannabis industry.
Artist Feature: Vela G
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By Calyx Containers in Art of Glass
Vela G is Calyx Containers’ Resident Artist, working out of Almost Perfect Glass in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Originally from Humboldt County, Vela G has brought California heady glass culture to the Northeast. Vela G’s expertise in lamp working, network of acclaimed artists in the glass space, and his passion for photography shaped the Art of Glass vision. As an artist and a friend of Calyx, Vela G has brought experience in the glass industry to the project and has inspired our team to delve into the world of heady glass as an extension of our involvement in the cannabis community.
Photography by Harrison Searle
How did you originally get into pipe-making and heady glass art?
Vela G: Not to be cliché but it was one of those love at first sight moments. I was 18 and walked into this shady headshop in Vista, California. They made all their glass in-house and I had never seen anything like it before. Their back door was open and you could see the flame from someone working and the glow of the kiln. They shut the door and hurried us out after selling my friend and I a small hand pipe.
Later, I found this great film by Gateson called “Taboo Glass”. It has crazy pieces by Marcel, Clinton, Deppe. It blew me away. I immediately knew it was something I wanted to do. My goal was to just put myself out there. I literally looked up glass galleries and shops in the Yellow Pages, and would just show up asking for a job. Thats when I met Jared Delong, and he connected me with Piper Dan, who gave me my first break in the glass community. We started the first pipe making school in the country, and the rest is history.
What is it about glass as a medium that keeps you coming back?
I never really had higher education as option growing up. I thought I was just going to be an electrician or get into Sales or Marketing of some kind. Once I got well into glass, I kinda felt like it was all or nothing. What choice did I have but to succeed? It's one of those things that's always been there for me and pushed me in so many immeasurable ways. Blowing glass is just one side of it. You have to hone in on a lot of skills, be really immersed in the community in order to make it as a glass artist. It's the hardest and most rewarding thing I've ever done outside of being a father and husband.
When selecting a glass company to work with, what are you looking for? What qualities are you looking for in your raw materials? How do you know when glass is of good quality?
Glass is great because it's so new as far as an industry goes. You know all the players and work with who you want. I have access to anything from anyone but I usually work with people I personally enjoy watching succeed. That's how you build a solid community in glass, from who I get my raw materials from, to who I collaborate with, or sell my glass to.
Basically, you really want clean glass to start off. It's like building a house. You need to have a good foundation to build up from. It's easy to cut corners or use cheap materials, but when you start with quality products from quality people, it makes the job a lot easier and produces better results!
Photography by Harrison Searle
What is the difference between a production piece and a one-off piece?
Most glass artists, even the best ones, work within a production piece mindset and make small adjustments to keep things fresh. A production piece is basically a familiar 3D canvas that can be redecorated in new and exciting ways. These can be super intricate, and the artist can spend weeks or even months on one if they want. The artist knows the basis of the piece really well, they know the process, and the necessary steps to complete it.
When you're working on a one-off piece, it's all made from scratch. You learn as you go, sometimes taking big steps back to move forward and accomplish your vision. An artist who works on one-offs are especially brave and daring. It's always celebrated when you see another artist push their boundaries and create something truly unique and beautiful.
From your perspective, why is glass so important to the cannabis community?
Glass is a cog in the cannabis community. This community used to be this secret subculture, or a "brotherhood" as my dad used to say. You can bond and share life experiences, stories of personal growth over a bowl.
Almost everyone I know in the cannabis community has a glass pipe collection of some kind. Same with all collections, each piece has its own value and story. Pulling out a special piece can commemorate memorable occasions such as accomplishments, or to sesh with an old friend you haven't seen in a while. The more intricate the piece, the more symbolic of success it is. Glass pieces have intrinsic value and can also act as trophies or serve as monetary compensation. They can be used to barter and trade, especially back when the black market was more prevalent.
Who or what is your biggest lamp-working inspiration?
My biggest inspiration is seeing what I am personally capable of. The bar is always rising in the heady glass space, and the feeling of pushing yourself into new territory as an artist is always the goal. I've spent months practicing and refining techniques before implementing them into finished works.
I also look up to the people raising that bar. Previously in my career, I wanted to make work like Dante Marioni, Cesare Toffolo, or be as well rounded as Micha Evans. Although these glass artists are still great inspirations, you should always look at yourself as your own greatest motivator. When the standard I wanted to achieve was in fact, the very best version of myself, thats when I got good at glass and truly fell in love with it.
Check Out Episode 01 of Art of Glass.