When you throw all of yourself into a project or endeavor, you are bound to succeed. Like many passionate craftsmen, this is true for Tim Farrell, a Colorado-based glassblower who is completely committed to making glass art and facilitating the consumption of cannabis. Despite having a college degree in another field, Farrell always knew that art is his calling, and will go to any lengths to make the dream come true. CULTURE chatted with him about his career and love for making art.
How did you start blowing glass? Where did you learn?
I started blowing glass in 2015 after being inspired by Degenerate Art, a documentary by glass artist M. Slinger. That winter in New Jersey, I met a local kid, Cameron, blowing glass through mutual friends. I went over to his RV, which he had converted into a studio. He let me let play around on the torch a little and instantly I fell in love with glass. I ended up staying for a week to learn some basic glassblowing techniques from Cameron. During this experience I decided I wanted to blow glass for the rest of my life. Shortly after, I returned to college and applied for a research grant to document glassblowing culture in Massachusetts from the perspective of a novice glass artist. I ended up receiving the grant, and for the next three months it paid for me to work on my technical skills at a local studio and form connections with more experienced glassblowers in the area.
Why did this career path appeal to you?
This career path appealed to me for a few reasons. First, in college, I became aware that I had no interest in joining the mainstream American workforce. I was a Political Science major with a double minor in Chinese and Asian Studies working on publishing a 120-page thesis when I was introduced to glassblowing. I graduated cum laude and my honors thesis was well received by my peers and professors. Even with these affirmations, I felt unhappy spending so much of my time focused on political theory. I realized I wanted to base my career on personal happiness. Making art seemed like the perfect fit because it is incredibly therapeutic. Second, I observed the trend in legalization as something that would not lose steam. As smoking became more socially acceptable there would be more of a demand for pipes, production ones and artistic ones alike.
Do you make any other kinds of art?
In my daily life I keep a sketchbook for journaling and manifesting new ideas. Before I started blowing glass seriously, I played around with a lot of different mediums. During college I took some classes on charcoal drawing and printmaking, which I really enjoyed. I will still pick up a paintbrush from time to time and make weird abstract shit. In the future I plan on messing around more with ceramics. I would also like to get more into beading necklaces for the pendants I make.
Why did you decide to start blowing functional glass for cannabis consumption?
Cannabis has always been a large part of my identity. I’ve been smoking flower since I was 13 and I do not agree with any of the negative stigmas associated with it. When I decided to become a pipemaker, I did so with the intention of creating unique work that could stand alone as a piece of art, but also function as a ceremonial tool. I wanted to prove to nonsmokers and the fine art world that pipes deserve recognition for their aesthetic beauty and functional purpose alike. For many of us, smoking cannabis is a sacred activity, and it has been an important part of cultures around the world since the early days of human history. I am honored to create vessels that people use to reach that state of mind. Furthermore, I enjoy the challenge of being a degenerate artist trying to alter the perspective of people who don’t look at pipes in the same way as me.
What would you consider your specialty as far as glasswork?
I primarily focus on sculpture when it comes to glasswork. I enjoy creating characters and lifelike forms that have an organic feel to them. Recently, I have been challenging myself to develop my etching skills, and plan on blending these two techniques together as I continue to advance my capabilities with the medium.
How would you describe your style? What colors and patterns do you like to work with?
I would describe my style as falling somewhere between ancient, tribal and psychedelic. I lean towards earth tones that give off a muted or laidback energy, but sometimes I’ll get loud with it and incorporate in colors like turquoise, orange, red and yellow. In regard to the patterns I use, etching has given me a way to incorporate in natural imagery that appeals to me such as mountains, trees and the sun. Sometimes etching leads me into a meditative state of consciousness where abstract patterns stream out of my mind and onto the glass.
Do you have any major influences in the glass world?
Definitely. In 2013 I bought my first “heady,” a dry pipe collaboration between Slinger and Voorhees. I didn’t care how much it cost; I didn’t even know it was a pipe because of the way it was sitting. It just spoke to me. That piece showed me that a pipe can be art, that art can be a pipe. Some other artists that have had a significant impact on how I have decided to utilize the medium are Clinton Roman, Bishop Randall and Gregory Paul Scheyer.
How has cannabis impacted your life and your creative process? How does it influence your work?
Cannabis has been a huge part of my life since a young age. Overall, I’ve had a positive relationship with cannabis; it’s been a supreme ally when it comes to my nausea and stomach sensitivity. I’ve also met some of my best friends through the social aspect of cannabis. When I was primarily a writer in school there was nothing I enjoyed more than smoking a joint and extrapolating my thoughts on paper. Nowadays I do more visual creation, but cannabis still encourages my ideas to flow freely. It pops the top of the box, so to speak. I have had some negative experiences because of the social constructs built around cannabis use. Witnessing and experiencing injustice towards cannabis users pushed me towards the counterculture from a young age and helped form my values. Ultimately these experiences are what led me to become a glass artist.
Do you consider yourself a cannabis advocate? Why or why not?
I consider myself a cannabis advocate because there is no reason not to be. Most of the negative shit you hear about cannabis is propaganda funded by the “War on Drugs” mentality. There has never been a death directly caused by cannabis; it doesn’t make you violent or aggressive. It doesn’t kill brain cells; some of the most intelligent people on this planet smoke cannabis regularly. Ultimately, cannabis saves lives and has a positive impact on people. For example, it prevents seizures and offers patients non-addictive and natural alternatives outside of big pharma. On a personal level it helps me eat when my stomach is in pain and helps me sleep when my mind is racing after a 12-hour work day. Cannabis also helps me mitigate my anxiety and take things one step at a time. I’m not saying everyone has to smoke weed, but cannabis is doing some beautiful things for people. That should be both acknowledged and accepted.
“Cannabis has always been a large part of my identity. I’ve been smoking flower since I was 13 and I do not agree with any of the negative stigmas associated with it.”
What do you think about legalization so far? What could be done better or differently?
Overall, legalization is a step in the right direction. In some places, smokers no longer have to live in fear. I can sell my work legally as art without it being labeled as paraphernalia in my home state. I can go smoke a joint outside without worrying I’m going to get cuffed and searched. Legalization is normalizing relations between society and smokers. It puts police resources towards more important matters than busting cannabis users. Tax revenue from marijuana sales are being funneled back into infrastructure and rehabilitation programs. Innocent people aren’t being sent to jail for a nonviolent crime. Less families are being torn apart for minor offenses. These are all positive developments.
However, there are some problematic issues associated with legalization. It’s like “poof!” All of a sudden weed is cool; the government and big businesses are making money off of it. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people are still serving jail sentences for marijuana-related crimes. What about reparations for all the families and communities that have been devastated by the war on drugs this country has been waging since the 1970s? What about all the minorities that have been targeted by cops to fill their quotas or exercise their racism? I’m glad progress is being made but this topic is often swept under the rug. No one should still be in jail for a weed-related crime; that’s unacceptable.
How can people find your work?
You can follow my work on Instagram @artiststylie. You can also visit my website, www.artbytimfarrell.com to see work and shoot me an email with any inquiries. Shout out to Lucid Light Photo (@lucidlightphoto) for the beautiful product photography.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Be aware, be happy, make art. Be good to people, and stand up to injustice regardless of the form it takes.