UPDATE #2: Thank you everyone for the kind words. They mean a lot to me, especially on the down days when all the self-doubts creep in. I really truly hope this post has inspired those of you who need that push; a lifetime is a long time to be miserable. To everyone who's putting their work out there whether you're starting out or well-established: publishing your work is an incredibly vulnerable thing to do and takes a whole lot of courage. That makes you a goddamn HERO. Ignore the haters -- inside and out -- and keep rockin' it. I'm outski.

UPDATE: Hey, wow. WAY more questions than I can keep up with. Need to eat a couple tacos for strength then I'll be back to answer more!

Proof. If you don't know anything yet about the glass pipe scene, watch this. It is straight up a new American folk art movement. Edit: direct link to film's website here. Backstory under my old username. I'll comment with that username in a minute.

Since I posted that comment two years ago, I have:

  • been interviewed for a book coming out next year called "Inspiration in Glass"

  • quit reddit for the better part of a year ...twice

  • teamed up with Dime Bags to collab on a line of GingerELA hemp pouches (coming out soon)

  • been nominated Best Female Artist of 2012 in the Functional Glass Industry Awards (think Oscars of glass pipes)

  • decided to break out into the world of design and started a Kickstarter for my first design that got public traction (ending in a handful of days)

  • been approached by Fab.com to feature my non-pipe designs

  • been told I am a feminist icon and an instrumental role model in many changed lives, which I can hardly believe but makes me simultaneously proud and embarrassed.

Lessons learned:

  • Dreams are a moving target so you better enjoy the journey.

  • My greatest asset and worst enemy is one and the same: my impatience.

Ground rules: I probably won't answer anything that will get me in trouble, either socially or legally. ;)

I tell ya, this has been one hell of a ride. AMA.

edit: formatting, beh. edit #2: A lot of y'all are asking how to get started in glass pipes, and I wish I could answer each one of you personally. I've written some comprehensive answers in the comments, but in essence The Melting Pot forum is a great resource, and Glasscraft is a solid company with good people and offers both live and online workshops with established artists in this industry.

Comments: 585 • Responses: 33  • Date: 

MiamiPower298 karma

You blowhard.

gingerela173 karma

I can't skim by this comment without laughing. Thank you.

zingiber174 karma

yep. that's me.

stooge4ever101 karma

Not sure if your name choice is coincidental, but ginger in Hebrew roughly transliterates to zangebil.

gingerela172 karma

good eye. and it's zingiber in latin

stooge4ever43 karma

Sweet! How do you know Latin?

gingerela721 karma

Google translate.

Pergolide148 karma

So... you make bongs and shit? And a puking cat gravy boat? I clicked all your links and still can't tell.

gingerela104 karma

My bad! Here's my gallery. Reddit overwhelmed the site temporarily. Should be back up now.

Edit: Yes, the gravy boat thing started as a silly whim that got way more popular than I expected. So I'm running with it. Consider it my B-side.

Geodude_Maybe80 karma

Was there a single event/occurrence that made you leave your old life, or did it build up over time until you couldn't take your old life anymore?

gingerela144 karma

I'd love to say I was struck with a sudden moment of clarity, a Realization of the Truth. Love the drama of that. But no, it was a buildup over two years. A nervous breakdown at work. Later, a book called "Going Alone". A road trip with 16 hours of good thinking time, wondering "Is this going to be it for the rest of my life?" and realizing I just couldn't accept that.

ImBetterThanYou2730 karma

Author of said book? Reminded me immediately of Beck's Go it Alone, and now I kind of have to read it

gingerela22 karma

Susan Fox Rogers. More good food for thought: "Arctic Dreams" by Barry Lopez.

800sxr52 karma

Are you an actual ginger or an imposter

gingerela99 karma

It's on my birth certificate.

torkle46 karma

YES! What's up GingerELA. I fucking love your work and respect the pipe scene so fucking much. I am a male but I love that there is a rising female scene in the glass industry. I guess my question is do you plan on, or ever think you will be getting out of the functional art scene?

gingerela36 karma

=D Thanks, dude! I'm glad to see it too, quite frankly. It gets a little old at the shows when someone looks at my work and with surprise in their voice say "You made that? Like, all by yourself?" Lacy gets it too. Yeesh. I don't plan to ever fully leave the functional scene. It's pretty damn amazing to be caught up in the newest American folk art movement, before it's even been fully recognized as such. However I can easily see myself moving my bread and butter away from pipes as I pursue my (constantly changing) dreams, and only put out a handful of choice headies a year. We'll see.

CQZGCY35 karma

Are you doing this AMA to stealth advertise your pipes?

gingerela30 karma

Ha, I wish I knew how to get to the frontpage whenever I wanted to.

leveragista31 karma

How have your thoughts about business changed since your days of selling cotton candy at raves? (hi! xoxo) What are your thoughts on "safety nets" for people considering leaving their previous careers to pursue a dream? Necessary reality, or hindrance?

gingerela39 karma

Nice username. Man, so much has changed since the Cotton Candy Girls days; best business partner I've ever had. ;) One of the more memorable lessons I learned is opening my mind to the possibilities. What I mean by that how these supposedly rigid structures can be actually quite malleable and just require a little creativity and negotiation to bend to your will.

What I used to see as blinding obstacles are now just varying degrees of challenges and the trick is in figuring if the reward will be worth the effort.

I had a safety net my first year and I found it more of a hindrance than a help. There's something about the rush of finally letting go that kicks your motivation into high gear.

irrelevantwallflower23 karma

Where do you get inspiration for your work?

Do you take requests?

What are your average prices?

How long does it take to create the average piece?

What is the glass blowing industry like?

gingerela3 karma

You've got a couple multifaceted questions in there and it took awhile to figure out some answers.

Where do you get inspiration for your work?

This is something I've wondered most of my life and perhaps that's why so many of us find it so intriguing. The simple answer is this: I don't know. The best I can do -- the best ANY of us can do -- is to create fertile mental ground and hope that inspiration will sprout. For me, that can mean going to an Art Murmur or concert, playing around with an existing idea, listening to a book, browsing design websites, taking a walk, and so on. I've also found that the more you create, the more inspiration strikes.

What are your average prices?

This is actually something a lot of glassblowers -- and any creative, to be sure -- struggle with. You can get a good, steady income from simple bread and butter work that turns you into a human machine. Or you can give up financial stability and do original, creatively fulfilling designs. The best balance I've found between the two is in my $200-$1000 (retail) designs. They sell enough to keep the bills paid and maintain sanity.

How long does it take to create the average piece?

Depends. Design can take anywhere from a few hours to a week, depending on how inspired I am. The first handful I make generally take twice the time until I get the hang of it. The inevitable breakages have to be figured in. But usually we're looking at a handful a day to a couple a week.

What is the glass blowing industry like?

Mostly populated with super nice, open minded folks with a well-honed business sense. Occasional assholery and egomania resulting in pockets of drama. It is oddly behind the times tech-wise by like 5 years, I think because the community is rather insulated, partly owing to the fact that it's hard to browse the internet while handling molten glass.

RedundantMaleMan22 karma

I am left handed and always wondered if artists blow their hand pieces for a particular hand, ambidextrous, or does it vary depending on style/client? I have a few pieces that seem to fit in either hand equally well, while others fit my right hand better than my left and am just curious to know if you guys ever consider the southpaw in your designs?

gingerela29 karma

Folks tend to settle into different skills for each hand. One of my hands spins glass really well and the other is much more accurate with sculpting. I tried to be more ambidextrous when I started out and put carbs on either side, but that faded over time. Wish I stuck with it. My left hand carries most of the weight now and is starting to show signs of wear and tear. Re: southpaw, a lot of shops complain when it's built like that which is why you don't see a lot of left-handed pipes.

kravioli17 karma

Did your friends and family support you or were they resistant to the idea?

gingerela59 karma

Most of my friends used to live with me at a student co-op that once had a, um, lively reputation. I think a lot of them are proud of where I am today. Although I was raised with a drugs-are-bad-m'kay upbringing, my parents used to party a lot (I would NOT wear what my mom used to wear to the disco -SCANDALOUS!) and as long as I was happy and making money they were A-ok. My husband's parents, well they've chosen to be supportive. I think it helps to be living in the SF bay where it's pretty socially accepted.

R6RiderSB2 karma

Seeing as you live in the bay, have you ever been to "The Cave" smoke shop in San Mateo? I swear some of their pieces are amazing and I don't even smoke, i've just tagged along with friends. Or maybe some of your pieces are in that shop, it's like a wonderland of glass.

gingerela4 karma

It's crazy, but I only just visited it for the first time two weeks ago. It IS amazing, and I'm so glad to see a shop of that caliber here in the Bay. They snagged a couple of my pieces with more to come.

moopy9311 karma

The first thing that caught my eye and brought your work to my attention was your Lego head dome series. What inspired you to make that?

Anyway keep creating, I always look forward to seeing your art.

gingerela10 karma

This post.

Edit: Seems the author posted his collection twice. That link is from three days ago. I first saw it last winter here

travis-10 karma

Huge fan and loved your posts on r/glassheads. What's your daily driver?

gingerela2 karma


maltesefalcon919 karma

Hey! I'm so glad to see artists getting on here and communicating with their fan base. So often we as consumers feel very removed from the art portion of the scene because face time is rare for glass blowers outside of conventions. My question to you is this, what artists have affected your style the most, what are your favorite artists, and where do you believe the glass world will be in 5 years? Thanks so much for being open to questions and being a prevalent female artist in a male dominated world :)

gingerela15 karma

Eush is totally my first strong influence. He came into the shop I was apprenticing at and helped me out a couple times. Dude is so incredibly nice. Taught me much about clean work and gentle, natural lines. A lot of big names have had their impact: Darby's unusual shapes, AdamG's sexy curves, JAG's exquisite lines, and my old shopmate Umbsstadder's fearless color and depth experimentation. It's hard to pin a favorite, but I love seeing how Kind's glass is developing. 5 years from now I hope the pipe movement will get the recognition it deserves as it's own art form, but we'll see how the wheels turn.

soproductive8 karma

i was looking at your glass gallery and cant even figure out where the bowl or mouthpiece is on your art. Or maybe i'm looking at the wrong stuff? idk... regardless, it's all amazing.. i would be afraid to even smoke out of it if i owned a piece of yours.

gingerela10 karma

Pretty much all functional; I like turning them into puzzles like that. And they're stronger than they look.

Jrupp8 karma

How long did it take you before you were making what you consider to be actual quality pipes?

I'm also wondering how/where you learned. I am somewhat interested in glass blowing but I have yet to really attempt to get myself behind some sort of torch.

gingerela5 karma

Two months, full time. About where I learned, all I'll say is this: check out the reputation of the place you're learning from BEFORE you sign up. The Melting Pot forum is a good resource. Use it.

breeks7 karma

What distinguishes "folk art" from just "art"?

gingerela13 karma

Well, there are plenty of answers to that question, but I think of it like this: hardly any of us (pipers, that is) went to art school, and much of the traditional art establishment has closed their doors to us, so it's pretty much a grassroots movement.

A thought (and not quite on topic): correct me if I'm wrong but isn't evolution "accelerated" in isolated populations? The glass pipes thing is a small, isolated and tight-knit movement and the speed at which we are pushing the boundaries of our art is astounding.

Filth0906 karma

im currently enrolled at massart in the sculpture program with the dream of becoming a pipemaker, and i am also looking towards getting an apprenticeship over the summer with a local glassblower/pipemaker. i have friends who decided to forgo the college route and simply take apprenticeships with the local glasblowers in thier towns. which course of study would you reccommend and is it worth my time for me to be in school? obviously a very subjective andchallenging question, but if you could lay out some pros and cons of each method of schooling i would appreciate it!

gingerela8 karma

Pros and cons, for sure. With a program, you know exactly the quality of the education you are getting and it will likely be more comprehensive that what a single piper can give you. With an apprenticeship, the quality of your experience can vary hugely and a lot will depend on how you get along with the artist. One thing the school will for sure fail at is prepping you for the business end of things, especially if what you want to do is make a living with glass pipes. If it turns out you want to do something else, well, you won't get a bachelor's from an apprenticeship. (Of course, I question the value of college degrees nowadays, esp. w/ loans and tuition nowadays.)

You've got to ask yourself: how well do I take instruction? Maybe you work best in a classroom setting, maybe you'll shine under one-on-one instruction, or maybe like me you get a chip on your shoulder when anyone tries to teach you anything and it's best to go solo as soon as you can.

Personally, for pipes I'd say forget school (we're too young an industry to have any proper programs set up), take some classes (direct lessons or through a place like Glasscraft), find a good shop to work in with folks who are making the kind of pieces you want to make (but don't be all asking questions all the time unless they say it's ok), and only get an apprenticeship if you're willing to really devote yourself to that person and play by their rules.

But take any one person's opinion with a grain of salt.

FlamencoSketches6 karma

Really great. Where may I buy one of your pipes?

gingerela5 karma

Start here. I'm not particularly prolific, so my work can be hard to come by. The Cave in San Mateo just snagged a couple things and will be getting an order in the next month.

demonspork6 karma

What would constitute your ideal sandwich?

gingerela17 karma

Bacon. Mustard. The rest are minor details.

Deepsea875 karma

Do you or do others in your field make wine glasses or beer mugs with the same beautiful colors and flare as with pipes and such? I'd like some glassware in that area because I don't smoke.

gingerela2 karma

Yes indeed. I know Devin Somerville aka Cap'n Crunk makes them on the regular.

tomkzinti5 karma

Hey, I watched Degenerate Art on Netflix just the other day.

Is it possible to melt down natural agate to make glass stuff out of? I understand it'd probably have to start out powdered and mixed with lime or flux and whatnot to get it homogenous enough to work with...just a thought I've had for a while now.

gingerela2 karma

Nice! I'm not sure on the agate, that's a better question for the people who develop new glass colors. If you're really curious, ask Abe Fleishman at Northstar glass.

oh_okay_4 karma

How did you find out you were so good at this?

gingerela23 karma

Wrong question. You can't look at it like that, like a built-in talent. There are studies on this: tell someone they're talented and they become fearful of disappointing you later. Tell them they really worked hard, they will keep pushing it. It's about being able to control the outcome -- "talent" is an unknown, uncontrollable. Effort, on the other hand, is something entirely within your grasp.

I work hard. And I'm impatient. That is all.


Netflix is only available in the US, any Youtube videos on it?

gingerela2 karma

List from their website.

edit: more accurate link

getgnarly3 karma

Would you ever consider an apprenticeship?

gingerela2 karma

Maybe one day. For the life of me, I can't even figure out what I'd do with one! And managing other people is one of the things I put behind me when I left my old job. It's actually really hard to be a good manager, balancing training, productivity, and keeping folks happy. And I've still not figured out how to correct someone without feeling like a dick. :\

[deleted]2 karma


gingerela2 karma

26, after a similar amount of time. Good on you, I hope you're finding your fulfillment.

LoFreqOsc2 karma

I like your frog.

gingerela2 karma

You silly thing. I love you too, old man.

dotgeorgie2 karma

I'm 17 and Irish, but glassblowing has always fascinated me (as well as metal working - I read a few fantasy books by Tamora Pierce where people have magical powers relating to inanimate objects and one character was a glassblower and another was a smith, it triggered a curiosity). This was helped by watching a documentary by Dale Chihuly in an art class, and I love the shapes and colours.

Do you have any resources you would recommend for someone interested in glassblowing but nowhere near anywhere that has classes? Are there any videos or books you would recommend that could tide me over until I get somewhere that I can try it out?

Also, what do you think of other types of glass work such as Murano and carving cooled glass (like with Waterford Crystal)? Do you ever experiment with them as well?

gingerela4 karma

Sounds like a cool series. Reminds me of some of the Saga of Recluce books by Modesitt (beware, I lost like two weeks of my life to that series). I highly recommend checking out the Melting Pot forums or maybe even some of the online workshops through [Glasscraft](www.glasscraftinc.com/home/gla/multilist_981/glass_blowing_webinars_online_videos.html).

Murano's got it down. They have an unparalleled history of masters in the craft. And carving, which is a type of cold-working, is a whole other set of skills I very much respect.

justanother_onymous1 karma

Any advice for a student?

I absolutely love creating. Anything that I can make with my hands. Music, paintings, small crafts, etc. I always love to learn more and glassblowing is on the list. It's very relaxing for me and I'm always proud of my work.

I would absolutely love to do that for a living and be an artist, but I'm always being told I can never do that and I won't be successful. My family keeps saying I should go into biological sciences (my academic interest) because there's a better chance of hitting the big bucks.

I look up to people like you. People who can make a living doing what makes them happy and successful. I would only need to make enough money to support myself, no more. Have you been able to achieve this? What advice can you give to someone who still has time to decide?

Also, congratulations on pursuing your goal and finding your trade.

gingerela2 karma

It's important to have a little spending cash after paying the bills to be happy, so keep that in mind. I'm going to be totally honest here: you are more likely to have a good, stable income pursuing the biological sciences vs art. And that career path may provide you enough free time and money to satisfy your need to work with your hands. That being said, there are a LOT of people out there making a living doing art, but unless you establish some stable accounts, it's a feast-or-famine game. I've traded a greater satisfaction with what I'm doing in my life for financial stability, and until you stare down the barrel of bills due and lint in your pocket you won't know how psychologically undermining that can be. That has happened to me on this journey more times than I care to think about.

That being said, I still wouldn't go back to my old life. No way. But before you make any life decisions you should go into it eyes wide open. And you should think hard about what "success" means to you.

itsmeipromise1 karma

It must be said - all respect to OP and all - and good on her for pursuing dreams and all that - but I believe a token of humility pays dividends in droves. The way the AMA is written, OP seems very egotistical.

On a more personal note - I think the artwork is pretty - but nothing compared to in my opinion, gods of glass-making like these guys

gingerela14 karma

No worries dude. Yes, I'm proud of how far I've come -- and I think that's the tone you heard -- but at the same time the more I learn, I realize the less I know. Those guys you linked to have made some damn fine glass, especially that sea dragon. I really envy the color palette and dimensions that soft glass workers get to play with.