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What’s up, Smokers! On Tuesday we posted the first half of our interview with Empire Glassworks’ lead lampworker Phillip Vuong. Today we’re back with the second half of his interview. These questions highlight Empire’s process for selecting and adapting pop-culture characters to functional glass. Make sure to check out our Empire Glassworks collection for an awesome selection of functional art pieces!

Q: What lead you to focus on pop-culture characters?

I’m 23, so pop-culture naturally came from that. I’ve always loved Pokemon and Starwars, that’s evident in our glass. Being a millennial lead me to combine pop-culture with my craft.

Q: What is your process for deciding on a specific pop-culture icon? How do you adapt it to functional glass art?

Here at Empire Glassworks we have a think tank. Lots of our staff are younger and we have a diverse crowd to source ideas from. We try to cater to different people. The adaption was a perfect union due to our pre-existing figurine and bead skills.

Q: How much time do you spend brainstorming concepts?

We’re always brainstorming and always open to new concepts. I take a lot of inspiration from Comic-Con, movies, and art shows. I’m open to anything that stimulates the creative mind. We also take a lot of recommendations from fans. If we can execute it, we’ll do it! Lots of our pieces have been suggestions, it shows that fans are the driving force behind Empire Glassworks.

Q: Even your accessories are character-driven! Was the process for deciding upon Honey Bucket characters different than deciding on what adorns your pipes?

The process wasn’t really any different, the ideas come from our think tank. But we have all this glass, literally every color on the market. So a lot of it comes down to what colors we have available. I’ll be like, “we have lots of yellow. Fuck, what’s yellow? Jake Dog!” Because our generation is coming into power and finally has disposable income, we’re buying stuff! We want to appeal to our generation’s nostalgia and hobbies—everyone has a hobby. Plus, social changes are allowing everyone to smoke. We try to adapt what people enjoy into their smoking apparatuses.

Q: Much of your work features expertly sculpted characters within the glass. How did you conceive such an idea?

I thought it was common sense. I wondered why no one had really put sculptures inside of functional glass. It was tricky, but it turned out to be a match made in heaven. When Empire opened up there were lots of lathe workers around our area. They collaborate with lampworkers to put sculptures inside the pieces. Our themes allow us to accent both the inside and outside of pipes, creating a cohesive piece of glass art.

Q: Your new line of pipes depict different ecosystems. What was the idea behind that?

Our newest line is about trying to save the world. That’s a big unifier in millennials— it’s up to us to prepare for the end. If you check out our new dry pipe line, each pipe depicts the conservation of a specific habitat. We decided it was important to use our pipes for preservation efforts. That’s the idea behind the Polar Bears, the Great Barrier Reef, the Pandas, all of those pieces besides the Mother of Dragons. That one's obvious. It’s up to us now to save those habitats.


If you enjoyed our interview with Empire Glassworks, slide over to our Empire Glassworks Collection to support Phillip and his team.

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