An interview with Ryan Arnold of Frostbite Glass
Visit Winter Park, Colorado
When did you first start making glass art, and what sparked your interest in glass art?
I first started making glass in 2005. However, I would have to say my interests was sparked in glass in 2002 when a roommate in college brought home a inside out pipe locally made in Ogden UT I was intrigued by its colors and fascinated that these colors would change color when the pipe was smoked out of. I had to have one so I went out the next day and bought my own. While at the store I needed to know how it was made and asked the shop owner what kind of tools and supplies I needed to start such an endeavor. He had limited answers but enough for me to want to know more.
My junior year of college was over and I went home for the summer. I met a girl named Jen Wendall during spring break in Colorado so that summer we dated. On a 4th of July camping trip I met Jens friend and roommate Aimee Mollway. Over the course of the weekend I learned a lot about Aimee. She seemed the average hippy type and I was a pre law major so besides weed and snowboarding Aimee and I had nothing really in common. My distant to Aimee immediately changed when she told me she knew how to blow glass, and was in the process of building her new shop. I thought she was full of shit it but sure enough she did. I asked her if I could watch and then shared some of my pieces with her. The weekend ended and soon after so did my summer and I was attending my senior year at Weber State.
About a year and a half later I moved back to Denver from Utah. I was helping my brother with his business that summer. I was driving from Highlands Ranch to Johnstown working 70 plus hours a week, Anyways MySpace was a big thing that summer and all my friends were creating a profile with their own mini webpage. So I jumped onto the trend and made my own MySpace. About a week or so later I received a MySpace message from Aimee. After catching up she told me she had bought a house in Arvada and that she had a glassblowing studio in her garage. She invited me over that night to see how it’s done. After working a 10 hour with my brother I fueled up on RedBull and went to Aimee’s House. We had a few drinks, smoked and caught up for a while. Then the moment came…She asked me if I wanted to try and make my own pipe. I have to admit I was intimidated by the torch after her little demo and safety lesson. I overcame my fears that night and successfully made a pipe. I was hooked; I was addicted to the flame. I went for weeks straight after work to replicate that pipe or trying. My first night was a bit of luck and had many attempts before I made another functional pipe. Making the glass was cool but back then selling the glass was even better. That was my main love of the glass at first. After working all week and blowing glass all night Aimee and I would head to the lots of red rocks and sell glass. The money was outrageously good and there were only a few glassblowers there at the time. We had to be more inconspicuous those days hiding in between cars and running from security and dodging the local police. Some nights could be lucrative. I remember a rave on the rocks or global dance (one in the same) in 06 I made 1200 dollars in one day. This was when pipes were still illegal and considered paraphernalia in Colorado. In short, Aimee introduced me to glass and was my mentor. She showed me the basics really and I formed my own style from there. I am mostly self-taught. We continued as Kind Glass for about a year and a half. Eventually, Aimee and I started dating, which led to a falling out. I left Kind Glass in 2008) Aimee and I remained friends and in 2012 started hanging out again. Of course, I started blowing glass again but over the 4 years, a lot of my skills diminished. It was more of a challenge this time. Aimee and I worked together for another 6 months mainly her melting and me selling at Redrocks and running the wholesale clients, while regaining my torch skills at night.
Eventually, that came to an end. This time I was not going to let my indifferences with Aimee steer me away from glass. After two months I got my own gear and was paying shop rent to work at “like a moth to the flame studios” I worked there for 5 months and put every dollar I had into glass blowing. Unfortunately, I had some personal bad habits that I had formed over the years and it started to take its toll on my personal life. So in August of 2013 I left my condo in Denver and moved to Grand County. My goal was to start, new and also to put a foot into the growing wholesale market that was starting to flourish. My family has owned property in Grand County for almost 20 years. We have been vacationing to The Rocky Mountain National Park since I was a toddler. I learned to snowboard at Winter Park Resort in 1999 and have been in love with Grand County since I was young. I moved here for a new start, to be closer to the resort, lakes, and mountains so I can enjoy the beauty of Colorado. I am pure native and Colorado is in my bones. I also moved to Grand County to be closer to my family.
Can you tell me about how you decided on the name for your company? Frostbite Glass.
The name Frostbite Glass took a while to evolve. After I left Kind Glass I struggled with a name. My lot name at the rocks is crow so I went with Sam Crowe Glass for a while. I didn’t like the connection with Sons of Anarchy and honestly, a lot of people didn’t know what to think about the name. Then I went with Almost Famous Glass, Which I later discovered “Almost Famous” was a movie with Russell Peters in it. So I went for about a year and a half with no name. Then one day it came to be. Frostbite Glass. Sometimes when working with glass you stretch, push or flatten the glass. In the process of shaping the glass one can do it at too high a heat causing a residue or “frost” on the glass, almost as if it’s been sandblasted. Frost isn’t desired in glassblowing but it struck a name for me. I mixed this idea with the fact that we live in one of the coldest parts of the nation, and my love for snow and snowboarding the name just stuck. It seemed to be the first name that had wider approval and less question or explanation to the name. It also is quite fitting because for the last 4 years I have literally been so cold working late nights in the mid-winter months just to feed my fix to melt glass.
Are you an advocate for the marijuana industry?
In regards to the pot industry. I am a complete advocate for medical marijuana and legalization. However, I believe the recreational side is taking away from their medical benefits of the plant and turning it into a cash crop. Our State government in 3 years has supposedly made over 1 billion in taxes already. Another downfall to legalization is now dispensary’s can market and sell glass. It was great at first but the glass scene didn’t see it as such. Now that dispensaries are selling glass, some established head shops are now struggling. An influx of glassblowers moved to Colorado, flooding the market with all kinds of glass. The biggest challenge is the out of state millionaire dispensary owners are supporting Chinese glass, living the American dream, marking it up as much as they can and turning the local away. These dispensaries will come up with any excuse in the book to tell the local artist why they support sweatshops and not local. When we all know it is for bigger profits. So goes business, change isn’t always a good thing.
Although I do believe recreational legalization has allowed access to medicine for those who do need cannabis. I also see it as a way to make money for our state on tourism, which has helped Colorado and its economy. I do believe it is too heavily taxed. In an ideal world, I believe marijuana should be widely accessible to us and not taxed or sold for profits. It was given to us as a medicine, let us honor that and keep it that way.
There is a good reason why I am such an advocate for medical marijuana. It’s simple really; Mary Jane was a crucial part of the recovery in my life. I was stabbed 7 times on New Year’s 2008-2009. I was, unfortunately, a victim of a random act of violence. To keep a long story short, I did die and come back; luckily I was close to Denver Health, which specializes in Guns Shots and Stabbings. There my life was saved after an extensive surgery and kidney removal. So long story short I was given all kind of opiates for pain. Fentanyl to morphine to some kind of muscle relaxers. The pain was intense after I was released but I became dependent. Trying to get off once I was pain was manageable was a nightmare. I eventually weaned off the pharmaceuticals by smoking flower. In 2011 I finally became a legitimate red card holder and have been an advocate for it medically even before this tragic event. The industry has also been the main source of my income over the last 3 years, supplying production accessories to head shops and dispensaries.
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What else do you create with glass?
Other than pipes and chillums which is my stable, I create pedants of all kinds, dabble in sculpture and figurines, dabbers, oil accessories, Memorial (human and Pet Remain) pieces, and other ideas in the making such as water fountains and other ideas. I have certain lines or styles of pipes and pendants we are marketing on our Etsy lately. I am slowly branding my own style.
Have you considered incorporating pet or human ash remains in your artwork?
I hadn’t considered putting remains into glass until about a year ago. I had a customer ask me if I was interested in making a pipe with his mom’s remains in it. I politely turned him down. He was very adamant about it and kept asking. So in October of 2016, when I got back from Hawaii I started experimenting with my deceased cat’s ashes. I successfully made a pendant and pipe. So I took on his idea and made my first remain pipe. I have a moment of silence and remembrance for those lost and is humbled by the opportunity to make one of a kind pieces like that. Some say morbid, but once you look past the superficial, it is quite a sacred beautiful thing to incorporate those passed in something we can cherish them forever. There is a difference between working with pet remains and human. I prefer pet, we are going to incorporate memorial pieces as part of our website. The reaction of the client is by far the best part of glass, but especially the memorial pieces.
What’s the future of glass art?
The future of Glass art is really limitless. The future of pipe making I believe is going to be challenging. In my short time in the industry, I have seen so much progression, not only in pipes and bongs but, sculptures, figurines, pendants, goblets and more. Honestly, the art will never die only advance and progress as it’s done since supposedly the dawn of time. Our only setback, especially as a degenerate artist (pipe maker) is competing with China and all those businesses established in America, who want to support these sweatshops and not local. I think the strong pipe makers will find their niche and styles to survive. While those of us whose creative side is lacking will falter or move to other parts of the glass. Pipe making in 2017 is really about creativity and new ideas, even setting new trends and techniques.
Readers can find Ryan’s glass at the following locations:
Locally at K&J Smokeshop in Winter Park and Granby
Also at Serene Wellness in Fraser