Most cannabis users have a story about their first homemade smoking contraption: remember that water bong you made out of a pop bottle in Grade 11?
Fortunately, Vancouver’s obsession with all things cannabis means there’s no need for DIY smoking devices. Consumers in this city have access to some of the best glass in the country.
Since 1995, Wes Kuitenbrouwer and Moss Tomlinson of Puff have been working closely with renowned glass artists from across North America. Having been part of the scene for so long, Kuitenbrouwer says it’s exciting to see how designs and styles of pipes, bongs, and other pieces have changed during the past two decades.
Walk into one of Puff’s four Vancouver shops and you’ll find everything from a standard, scientific-style bong with a beaker bottom (for about $150) to a one-of-a-kind recycler or dab rig that glows under UV light (for more than $1,000).
That might sound steep, but for a collector who sees a piece as a work of art rather than a way to consume cannabis, it’s just the tip of the (very expensive) iceberg.
“It’s hard to keep track of the styles, because the artists bring the trends,” he says. “When something is hot on the market, they’ll say: ‘Everything’s sandblasted this year,’ or ‘Everything is reactive to UV light.’
“Then people are trying to adjust their style to the trend before everything changes again or before it gets knocked off.”
Ignite Smoke Shop’s Rhiannon Chernencoff says that beyond the changes in styles, colours, and techniques in glass blowing, she’s seen the consumer base become much more aware of B.C.’s local talent.
“Glass blowing was much more of a ‘hippie’ thing in the early days, in that it wasn’t discussed or well understood,” she tells the Straight by phone.
“Ten years ago, you couldn’t find a third of what’s available now. There’s definitely been a real renaissance in terms of glass, and that’s been good for the consumer, because the price has gone down a bit, too.”
Both Kuitenbrouwer and Chernencoff say the rise of “dabbing”, or using concentrates, in 2012 opened the door to a shift, with some artists focusing on materials like quartz.
Those who aren’t in the market for a “heady” or fancy piece might look to a simple scientific import, like the cheap beaker bottom mentioned above. Although these pieces put function before visual appeal or quality, the rise of celebrity trademarking means that if you’d prefer to pay a little extra for a piece featuring the mug of Tommy Chong, Snoop Dogg, or one of the Trailer Park Boys, you can.
“It would be nice to see a celebrity put their name on something that isn’t import glass,” Chernencoff says, “but that’s why I like to sell work by local artists.”