A new piece of glass isn’t just the mere acquisition of a new piece to smoke from, it is, without sounding poetic, inviting a new sidekick into your life. It’s a beautiful tool that will be with you for as long as you are able to keep it safe. It will go with you on road trips, to events, and in some cases, it’ll even take on a character unto itself.
One of the first pieces that I ever acquired was with my friends the summer after we graduated high school. My friends and I chipped in on one smoking device that was pretty luxurious. An instance of decadence that had previously eluded us due to fiscal circumstances. So, when we got our new best friend for the summer — a three chambered water pipe that looked like something from Greek Mythology — it seemed only natural to name this device ‘Percules.’
This, however, was over a decade ago. It has become clear since then that it’s not enough just to make a tool that’s functional anymore, it’s also about cultivating one’s voice through glass art, combined with the inspiration that the artist draws from their relationship to the community. Humboldt County has many options for places to acquire such pieces, but many of the stores around our delightful corner of the world only keep local artists to small corners of their shops. As such, it was a pleasure to conduct an interview with a local artist, Donald Good, of Good Glass Humboldt — who focuses much more on marbles and other pieces of purely artistic glassblowing and less so on smoking devices — about what it means to be an artisan glassblower.
SG: What was your initial inspiration for pursuing glass art?
DG: Glass chose me. I initially started blowing glass at 101 North. They approached me about employment after discovering that I had experience working at Aim Kilns. That was my first experience with glass, and it was in a production atmosphere.
SG: Could you describe what a “production atmosphere” is and what makes that work for you?
DG: The production atmosphere is making the same piece over and over with some color variations, but no creativity. It is meant to produce volume not necessarily uniqueness. My work since then has been geared away from production work and much more toward creative and one of a kind pieces. Although the production background is still seen in my work through my free hider marbles and my limited runs on certain styles. The hiders are pretty much the same marble over and over again in different colors, because I need to produce them fairly quickly as a giveaway.
SG: How long have you been in the business?
DG: In 1999, I started at 101 North in Arcata, California. In 2003, the Fed’s Operation Pipe Dreams forced 101 North to close. I went underground to a friend’s shop and continued to blow glass. [I was] unable to support myself as a glass blower after that I pursued a “real” job, but always continued to blow glass.
SG: What are some of your future goals for your artistry?
DG: Continue to grow and gather skill sets as well, and move away from production and into more artistic endeavors. Collaborate with other artists, teach classes, travel, blow glass, blow glass, blow glass.
SG: You describe growth and gathering skill sets. What are some techniques you hope to master?
DG: I would like to learn as many techniques as possible. I would like to master the techniques of making Ratachellos, wig-wags, glass fittings, just to name a few…and even cold working techniques (manipulating the glass when it’s cold-before and/or after flameworking the glass), like sand blasting and Dremel carving.
SG: How does Humboldt County and the culture therein influence your work?
DG: There is a large art culture that is very present in Humboldt. As well as a high concentration of glass blowers. Our scenery is my greatest influence…trees, ocean, nature, people.
SG: What piece(s) are you most proud of?
DG: A sea sculpture that I did for a charity auction, memorial space turtles, and my large marbles that incorporate inside and outside décor.
SG: Are you a perfectionist, or more of an ‘in the moment’ style artist?
DG: In the moment style artist all the way!
SG: Could you describe what it is like for you when you work?
DG: I am in the moment because the glass tells me what to make. When I show up at the shop in the morning I do not usually have a specific plan in mind. Instead I start kiln, exhaust, and torch. I listen to the flow of the flame and pick up color, rod, and tubing and let the glass tell me what to do. It knows what it wants to be and I just listen. I’ve learned not to fight the glass: it will win every time, and when a piece breaks, it wants to be something else. So I regroup, look at the new shapes and lines in the glass and go from there.
SG: What’s a dream piece that you hope to create?
DG: Sea sculptures that are larger. [I want] a lot of my work to get larger [and] increase scale.
SG: What else should we know about you as an artist?
DG: Family, friends, and music are also great influencers of my art. I am diverse in my techniques and my finished products. I am open – willing to try new things. I want to grow and network throughout the glass and art world.
Donald Good of Good Glass Humboldt can be contacted through Facebook, and is available for pricing via private message. He is also available via Instagram and Twitter at the aforementioned name. Keep searching for great local glass! You’re sure to find something fantastic here in our community.
Written by Sam Greenspan