American vs. Chinese Made Glass
American made bongs or Chinese? You can find many arguments on the Internet discussing the difference between American made and Chinese made glass. However, contrary to what you may read, the real difference between the two is not in the quality of the glass creation, but the quality of the glass.
Quite the opposite to an American made glass blowing studio, Chinese glassblowing studios make producing glass products as cheap of an affair as possible. This often leads to lower quality supplies, thinly blown glass, and with less consideration to structure and durability.
A Chinese glass pipe and an American pipe could look exactly the same, however the internal chamber and percolators will be significantly more fragile on a Chinese glass pipe.
However, there is an exception to this. When Chinese studios are contracted by American companies to produce glass specifically for their purchase, American companies may negotiate specific standards for thickness and quality on their imports, and pieces often go through multiple revisions to ensure proper thickness and quality.
American glass usually has a noticeably higher price tag on it than imported glass. This is because Chinese manufacturing is subsidized by the Chinese government, which keeps manufacturing labor at a cheap price. Even disregarding subsidies altogether, China’s work force works for a substantially lower rate than Americans. When you shop American glass, a lot of what you are paying for is the cost of American labor.
However, you are also paying to keep jobs here in America. Since all functional glass is produced by a human, it consists of human care and craftsmanship. There is no machine out there that will just pop a water pipe out. Additionally, supplies and equipment used by glass blowers is not cheap either, not to mention potential hospital bills that can often arise when you’re dealing with torches that reach temperatures upwards of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
That said, by supporting American art and American labor, you are contributing not just to the American workforce but to a lineage of fine and non-traditional art in the veins of American history.
The Art of Glassblowing
Glassblowing as an art takes an incredibly long time. It takes years just to become a decent glassblower, and it can take decades to become a standout talent. The actual process of melting glass, blowing glass, and annealing it to the kiln also takes a startling amount of time.
Most Chinese glassblowers do not have years of glassblowing experience, and a lot of Chinese workers are factory workers who have turned to glassblowing as a way to support themselves.
In China, glassblowing is not an art, it is a manufacturing job. American glassblowers and consumers consider glass working to be an art because of the intricacies, innovations, and intuitive designs that American glass artists focus on creating. Chinese factories do not innovate, they copy existing designs from images online or samples sent to them by companies. By buying American glass, you are contributing to the continuing efforts of American glassblowers to have their craft seen as an art within the community.
Smoke Cartel & American Glassblowers
The demand for high quality glass products continues to accelerate as the counterculture industry becomes less and less "counter" to "culture". While this future is exciting, it also widens the gap between domestic and foreign glass even further.
To any glass connoisseur, the difference it makes to hold a piece handblown by an artist with lifelong passion and a groundbreaking vision is unparalleled. Our small and passionate team curates glass made in the USA by cultivating personal relationships with the artists who bring it to life.
Brands like Envy Glass, who make each piece to order individually-- meaning that the one you buy was blown for you and you alone. LA Pipes (formerly UPC), based in Riverside, California, is one of our top sellers thanks to their thick tubing, ergonomic designs, and affordable pricing.
You’ll find blowers from Asheville, North Carolina to Austin, Texas to Denver, Colorado to Los Angeles.
Smoke Cartel recognizes that each glass artist has something incredible to add to the industry in his or her body of work, and we are working hard to help preserve and distribute an important part in US art history.
Keep checking on smokecartel.com for new heady pieces, new unbranded pipes, and new glassblowers, all made right here in the United States of America!