Valuable nuggets aren’t the only similarity between California’s gold and green rushes. Both endeavors brought flocks of people to the northern hills in search of riches. The allure of change and ability to craft brought craftsman to the region.
David Rivera, founder of RAMZ Glass, is one of those crafters. He has been creating handmade glass pieces for 16 years. As a Bay Area native who’s lived in Humboldt for 23 years, Rivera considers himself a ‘production worker.’ He started his work at 101 North Glass in the early 1997.
“My neighbor worked for 101 North and I was hoping he could get me an interview or a job,” Rivera said. “But it turns out, he was one of the owners.”
Rivera was trained and worked at 101 North for six years before leaving to work at a more traditional office job. After working a desk job for a few years, he returned to the glass industry with plans of working for himself.
“Glass has always called me back,” Rivera said. “Now I get to work for myself. It might not be as stable, but I’m my own boss.”
While Rivera was trained at a glass company, his education didn’t stop when he began his own business. Through the community of glassblowers, Rivera has expanded his work and increased his talents.
“It’s very solitary work,” Rivera said. “If I’m not staring at the glass, I’m staring at the wall. The community of artists allows us all to grow and expand our trade. You can only go so far alone.”
“When I first started, my parents thought I was making crack pipes,” Rivera said. “But now they see it more as my art. And that’s been one of the most surprising parts of the glass industry: even though we’ve been working in this gray area for so long, it’s becoming more accepted as art.”
For this reason, Rivera is looking forward to the prospect of full legalization of marijuana – this means there will be more fans of the kind of work he does.
“I think people being more interested in glass will lead to a focus on American made over imports,” Rivera said. “People want safety and quality too.”
When it comes to his products, Rivera is constantly sketching, creating and advancing his craft. He mainly makes wholesale pieces instead of one-off, more eccentric, models. “Though I have made some creature-shaped pieces, I feel there’s more money in wholesale,” Rivera said.
However, he has made some custom orders, such as a series of extra long pipes (so people wouldn’t burn their beards).
In addition to Humboldt, Rivera’s glass has sold in stores in LA, Redding, the Bay Area and Arizona. He leaves his stamp on the bottom of larger pieces which reads “RAMZ.”
Eventually, says Rivera, he wants his work to be recognized nationally. “It’s kind of like fine china. I want people to be able to see the stamp and know their piece is authentic. And I want them to come back for more.”
Written by Jeff Gardner