Matt Lim is the man behind FossGlass, the Smoke Cartel in-house glassblower. Matt joined the Smoke Cartel crew this past winter, and since then he has produced four beautiful heady beakers for our site. Each of his pieces is marked with a stylish implosion-style floral marble, including the gorgeous “Carnation Petal” Earth Tones Worked Mini Beaker that recently sold. His “Rose Petal” and “Cornflower Petal” heady beakers include that same motif, as well as his Fume Worked Mini Beaker and “Blue Orchid” Fritted Spoons.
The crew has all been very impressed by Matt’s work, and his upcoming series of slyme glass water pipes has us giddy with excitement. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to sit down with Matt to get to know the man behind the glass and the pilgrimage that lead him here to our warehouse.
What got you into glassblowing?
I used to collect a lot of different pieces, and then one day I was fooling around with a little handheld propane torch with my buddy. I was like, “Oh I didn’t know you could melt glass like this,” and he said, “Yeah, it’s how people blow glass.” So a few weeks later I took all of the money I had and bought a little setup and started to teach myself how to blow glass.
Where would you do this?
It was on like the third floor of my apartment on Barnard Street [in Savannah, GA]. [Laughs] I would literally haul oxygen tanks and propane tanks up to the third floor of this apartment building and just blow glass in my bedroom because I had nowhere else to go really.
At what point did you begin your studies outside of Philadelphia?
I was studying here in Savannah. I was studying graphic design and starting to get disinterested in design as I got more into blowing glass. I didn’t want to not go to school though, so I did a little research and I found [Salem Community College] right outside of Philly in Salem, New Jersey. They did scientific glassblowing and it was like the only place to learn how to work on a torch at a school. So I packed all of my stuff and headed over there and got a technical degree in scientific glassblowing.
How did you make the decision to move back down to Savannah?
I finished my degree, but all of the jobs that are offered out of that school -- like you can get some jobs working for companies that make pipes, but it’s mainly like factory work. So I really didn’t want to do factory work. [Laughs] And one thing that I found out was that school and [The Savannah College of Art and Design] have a deal where credits are interchangeable. So everything that I did there transferred down here and I only had two years left, so I decided to get a degree in Industrial Design so I could combine the two and take it a little further.
Where does the FossGlass name come from?
I had a bunch of different names before I got to this one. So when I started blowing glass down here, about 2 months into it I met a guy who owned this little head shop down on MLK. He had been there for like 40 years or something, and he was this really old-school hippie guy who blew glass. And he didn’t know a super lot, but he knew a little bit, and he was the first person to really show me what to do. And he lived in this neighborhood called Foss. So I just kind of took it from the neighborhood where I learned to blow glass.
Your signature is the implosion-style marble. Where did you learn that technique?
From this guy Kevin in Philadelphia. I used to work for him and he had a little studio in Fishtown. He showed me pretty much all of the stuff that I worked on up till now.
What are you working on now?
Mainly rigs. I’ve been kind of fooling around with really bulbous forms and spherical forms. I’ve kind of like been looking into combining small parts and making modular pieces that are composed of a lot of little pieces instead of one large piece with like a neck.
What are your duties blowing in-house?
It’s a lot of repairs, and I had only done like one or two repairs before I came here and started working on all this stuff. But it’s getting a little easier. [laughs]
How does working in-house differ from working in a studio?
Honestly, out of all of the studios that I have worked in, this is hands down my favorite. Usually when I was at my other studio I would be down there by myself, so it was kind of lonely. I’d have to be like, “Yo come and watch me blow glass.” And people were like, “No I don’t want to sit there and do that.” [Laughs] So it’s nice having people around that I can talk to, and having rows and rows and rows of pieces that I can look at for inspiration. It’s definitely a really nice environment. I like working here.
Has working here at Smoke Cartel changed your creative approach/designs at all?
I guess being in the warehouse and seeing all of the things that have been mass-produced. That was kind of the direction that I was going in, and then once I saw how much and how easy it is for someone to get a lot of [mass-produced pipes], I started working more on sculptural or unique products. I feel like anyone can do the mass-produced thing, but you kind of need a team to make it all profitable. For the unique stuff, you’re making stuff that no one else makes that is unique to yourself.
Where did you sell your stuff before Smoke Cartel?
I’ve sold some stuff to a couple of head shops in Philly and New Jersey, and when I would go to like festivals and stuff. And on the way down [to Savannah] we would make stops, so I have a couple pieces in like Tennessee and Wisconsin. But when I first started I would go to festivals and just kind of walk around and it was way easier at the time. I also did a gallery down here at Gallery Espresso.
Is there anything that has surprised you about working in the Smoke Cartel environment?
I’m amazed at the amount of things that come and go. And everyday there’s something going on and everyone is so busy. So it’s like, you see a headshop and stuff sits there forever. And here it’s like everything is constantly shifting. So it’s kind of inspiring to see that you can sell that much, you just have to put your mind to it.
Do you have a favorite piece in the warehouse?
Of course the Daniel Nelson porcelain rigs (Note: Daniel Nelson’s “The Vase” and “Helping Hand”) are cool. I thought they were going to be a lot lighter when I first saw them, and then I picked them up and they were super heavy. Also the Graffiti arrow with the train and the e-nail (Note: D-Rock x Issac Paint’s Blasted Rig and E-Nail Train Set). That one is sick because I love the whole theme of the piece. Hey, it’s got an e-nail and a train.
You can keep up with FossGlass through Instagram and the Smoke Cartel site. Also, be sure to keep your eye out for water pipes and rigs from his Smoke Potions series, which will be available late February 2016.