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April 05, 2012 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-04-05

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4B - Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Glass pipes are a hot commodity in A2

Close-knit artisan
community keeps
craft ablaze
Senior Arts Editor
Matthew Ronayne steps into
his garage to begin production on
his latest work. He begins like any
other artist: He collects his tools,
gathers his pigments and turns up
the radio for some added focus. At
this point, however, he deviates
from where a painter might make
the first stroke, or where a sculp-
tor would make the first strike,
and instead ignites a torch - one
that will heat his particular can-
vas up to a red-hot 1,200 degrees
Ronayne is a glass blower, a
member of the small community
of artisans that serves as the foun-
dation for Ann Arbor's glass-pipe
Over the next half hour, he
will shape a glass tube about
the width of a clementine into
a single glass pipe. The process
has many steps: The glass must
be heated until glowing, at which
point it's pulled until the desired
width of the pipe stem (the body
of the pipe) is achieved. One end,
which will act as the "bowl,"
is sealed off, heated again and
blown into until a bubble forms.
A cone-shaped indentation is
then pressed into the bubble.
After just a few more adjust-
ments, a functional pipe is born.
The end result will become one
of the hundreds, if not thousands,
of glass pipes that will fill the

shelves of local shops in prepara-
tion for this weekend's Hash Bash.
"This industry ... it's only been
around for 10to 15 years, in terms
of the real artistic pieces," said
Patti King, operations manager
at 42 Degrees, a shop located in
downtown Ann Arbor that spe-
cializes in glass smoking devices.
"It keeps growing and grow-
ing every year ... because the art-
ists keep getting more elaborate
and better at what they do," King
For Ronayne, who blows glass
pipes full-time as a means to sup-
port his wife and three kids, this
constant change in artistic form is
especially true.
"It's all evolution, from dayone,
to the piece I made six months ago,
(which) leads me to that piece I'm
going to make tonight or tomor-
row," Ronayne said. "You always
got to challenge yourself to push
The evolvingtechniques can be
manifested in changes in features
(such as bumps or ridges), designs
(such as a skull or a flower within
the glass itself) or the shape of the
piece. This perpetual pursuit of
innovative development is facili-
tated by Ann Arbor's small, tight-
knit group of glass artists.
"It's a small world, the glass-
blowing community," said Paul
Plant, whoblows glass with fellow
artisan Steve Hoffman in a studio
just outside of downtown Ann
"Most Michigan glass blowers
know each other," Plant added.
Still, at a basic level, the glass-
pipe industry is just like any other.
Glass blowers must work tirelessly
to turn their artistry into a profit.

An individual blower can make
as many as 100 pipes in a week,
a testament to Michigan's high
demand for glass smoking devices.
Ronayne hasbeen crafting glass
pipes for about 16 years,buthe still
strives to maintain his passion in
the artwork, despite the pressures
of glass blowing asa career.
"You get lost in glass blowing;
it's still a backyard art in a way,"
Ronayne said. "You're not going
to go to school and find it; you just
kind of have to get lucky and stum-
ble on it ... and not that it gets old,
but it gets tiresome. It's all on you.
But if I didn't want to blow glass, I
wouldn't be blowing glass."
Thoughthe endresultis alarge-
scale production of small pieces of
artwork, the glass sculptures ulti-
mately do fulfill a practical pur-
pose - one that benefits from the
medium of glass itself.
"(Glass) is cleaner; it's safer; it's
not bad for you," said King, who
manages a selection of pipes that
consists almost entirely of glass-
work. "If you think about heating
up plastic or metal, there's tons of
chemicals in it. Basically, (with)
any other product other than glass
or a stone product, you're going to
be able to taste it. It's going to be
unhealthy whether you realize it
or not."
Aside from glass, other popu-
lar pipe materials include acrylic,
metal, wood, stone and any com-
bination therein. But, according
to Ronayne, glass is the ideal for
"You don't want to inhale any
of those things ... metal, especial-
ly," Ronayne said. "(Glass is best)
mainly for health, all the way. And
it's cool as hell - you're not going




Matthew Ronayne makes his living by craftingglass pipes in his garage.

to get a spectacular piece out of
And in using glass, the blowers
are able to make use of a material
not just for its properties as the
healthiest material for smoking,
but also for its ability to be ablank
canvas, a medium with unlimited
artistic potential.
King explained that the cre-
ative aspect of working with glass
makes those who sculpt with it
artists in their own right.
"I think it's a huge form of art-
istry - anyone who blows glass is
an artist," King said. "Most of the
artistswhoblowglass, ifyouknow
them personally, you can see that
in them ... you can see they're a
little eccentric.
"It's definitely, in my opinion,
one of the truest forms of art there

is - you have to have that ability
inside your mind to be able to cre-
ate somethinglike glass."
For some, that creative foun-
dation can lie dormant and make
itself known later in life.
"I never thought that I was
going to be an artist growing up,"
Hoffman said. "But this worked
out the best for me. I was a junior
at (the University) studying phi-
losophy and ethics, and I started
blowing glass. And I realized
that I can make a living doing
this and read all of the philoso-
phy I want."
However, though glass blowing
may appear to be an easy, fun way
to earn a living, it boasts a steep
learningcurve like any other form
of specialized sculpting.
"I watched for, like, three.

months before I would even
touch it, because I was learning,"
Ronayne said. "They make it look
really easy, but it's not as easy as
it's made to look. ... The fire's rag-
ing, and if you let the fire take you
and you want to be aggressive
with it, you're done."
But despite its difficulty and the
patience required to obtain the
right set of skills, blowing glass
pipes is a career unlike any other.
Like with any form of art, there is
no level of perfection for what you
can put in to your work.
"I don't know that I'll ever
achieve that (level), which is
great about glass," Ronayne said.
"(With) alot of jobs you have, you
see where your pinnacle will be.
With glass, that doesn't exist. It's
wide open ... it's endless."

From Page 3B
splurge of a meal. And if you need
somethingsavory to balance the
incredible sweetness, or even if
you don't, order a side of sausage

patties. They're made of the most
perfectly flavored, juicy and ten-
der breakfast meat I've ever had,
putting even Bob Evans' original
recipe to shame.
If you're feeling more like
lunch, though, anything with
bacon is the right decision. The

cured meat shatters in your
mouth likea perfectly fried potato
chip, never tough, chewy, dry
or burnt. The kitchen staff piles
it high on the sandwiches, so
feel free to slip a piece out for a
quick pregame before you dig in.
The BLT is a great go-to, but the

turkey club takes the sandwich
to a whole new level. Be sure to
specify that you want yours with
smoked turkey, and toasted, for
the ultimate meaty nosh. I like
a little more mayonnaise than
what's generally slathered on, but
I'm willing to accept that this is

maybe just a personal preference.
Basically, whatever you're in
the mood for, Angelo's has you
covered. The restaurant has
earned its title as an Ann Arbor
classic, and the line of customers
waiting outside leaves no doubt
that it's for good reason. The

atmosphere is full of energy, the
food full of flavor and the expe-
rience full of college memories
waiting to be made.
Wood is drowning himself
in bacon. To join him, e-mail

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