Sophomore photography major Charles Matz works out of his parents’ garage to create glass marbles, pendants and pipes to grow his blossoming glassblowing company, Matz Glass.
Drawing inspiration from astronomy, his favorite part of glassblowing goes beyond the art. Matz photographs his marbles in cosmic settings and said the universe is his muse.
Matz said glassblowing came naturally after he mastered the silversmith art form.
Although most of his customers have been his mother’s friends, Matz said he is trying to expand his clientele by advertising his work on his Instagram account @matzglass. He also launched a Facebook page April 15 and is looking for stores in Chicago to sell his work. Matz’s marbles cost $25 to $60 and glass pipes range from $15 to $150.
The Chronicle spoke with Matz about his glassblowing techniques, prices and inspiration.
THE CHRONICLE: How did you get into glassblowing?
CHARLES MATZ: One time after class, I went to the park on Harrison and LaSalle where there’s a big field and it’s right next to the river. This guy drove his Chevy Malibu on the grass, which you’re not supposed to do. He was sort of sliding back and forth and he threw a pipe out the window and asked me to put weed into it. He said he would give me the pipe if I did so. Then he introduced himself as a glassblower and offered to teach me some techniques over the next couple of weeks and I did that. After two months of learning from him, I told my parents I’ve been learning and my dad said he would buy the equipment for me. I now have a shop in my parents’ garage and am slowly working to pay back the equipment. I just started making pipes that are sellable, so this summer I’ll be working to sell my stuff to nearby shops. [I’m] also using social networking like Instagram and Facebook to market my products.
CC: What equipment is required?
CM: I use a 5-foot oxygen tank, which you can get refilled at a welding supply store. You need propane and a torch. The oxygen accelerates the burning of the propane and I used bar silica glass, which is what most pipes are made out of these days. [You] also need a big blue oven called a kiln, which strengthens the glass.
CC: How do you make your unique glass products?
CM: You start with a clear tubing rod and colored glass. You take the rod and you color glass by putting various metals into it, which reflects parts of the spectrum of light back at you. To start making a pipe, you start doing line work or [use] crushed glass for a more organic look to the color, [which] you literally paint on in the flame. It requires a lot of symmetry and spinning to keep the glass from slumping. I al so make marbles, but I’ve made most of my money selling pendants to my mom’s friends from word of mouth. There’s a huge culture of glass art and pipe making and the whole culture of using pipes is growing rapidly and becoming more accepted.
CC: Do you serve a lot of stoner customers who buy pipes?
CM: I get as many middle-aged people with families who buy my work as I do college students who smoke a lot of weed. It’s really becoming a widely accepted art and it’s really not just for smoking anymore. Some people even buy $15,000 sculptural pieces that are still functional as water pipes and they don’t even use them because they keep them as art. There are some pretty popular artists like Mark Sheldon, who makes goblins the size of a 2-inch marble that will [sell for] up to $1,000.