Glassblowing on display as artists make pricey pipes at Chalice cannabis festival

The blue glass snaked round and round, melting into frosted white curves and a delicate rainbow pattern that reflected the blazing hot desert sun.

It’s a piece of art, on sale in a glass case for $50,000. It’s also a pipe that’s been used – many times, the vendor and nearby artists said knowingly – to smoke weed.

The “Glass Village” is a main highlight of Chalice, a three-day festival celebrating cannabis that’s taking place July 7-9 at the High Desert Event Center in Victorville.

The weekend actually kicked off Thursday night, with a performance by rapper Kurupt during a pool party at the Holiday Inn. The main festival will feature more than a dozen music acts, with Thievery Corporation and Cypress Hill set to headline Friday night, Ice Cube and Big Boi taking the stage Saturday and Sound Tribe Sector 9 headlining Sunday.

Chalice also includes art installations, a cannabis competition, vendors — and lots of weed, with a focus on concentrated marijuana products such as resins and oils.

That’s why the festival is timed to coordinate with the unofficial concentrates holiday on July 10, so designated because 7/10 upside-down spells “OIL.”

More than 50 glass artists are slated to take the festival stage over throughout the weekend, making pipes and other glass art that’s typically for sale to the public as soon as it cools down.

Glassblower Joseph “Hex” Gomez works to attach a tiny shark another artist made to one of his pipes during the Chalice festival in Victorville on Friday. (Sarah Alvarado, Southern California News Group/Cannifornian)

Joseph Gomez was one of the first artists to take the stage, knocking out several pieces in less than three hours while wearing an “I heart girls who heart glassblowers” T-shirt.

Gomez – who goes by Hex – is a master glassblower. The San Diego native has been doing it for 17 years, since he first wandered into his friend’s garage and made a functioning pipe on his first try. Today, he’s most known for his intricate glass necklaces worn, he said, by the likes of Snoop Dogg and B-Real.

He’s been blowing glass at festivals, competitions and trade shows for years, with a recent second-place finish in a Las Vegas contest. But this weekend marks his first Chalice festival.

“I’m having a ball already,” he said, enjoying the friendly crowd and chance to challenge himself with something new.

The most expensive piece Gomez has made sold for $3,000, but he’s not a collector himself.

“All of my pieces are Duct-taped together,” he said with a laugh.

The Chalice festival kicked off Friday at the High Desert Events Center in Victorville. (Sarah Alvarado, Southern California News Group/Cannifornian)

Artist Brandon Welk is a collector. The Spokane, Wash. artist said he started off making random “Northwest” art like carved walking sticks. But he’s been making pipes for two decades after being apprenticed by a neighbor.

Learning glass blowing was hard at first, he said. But he studied and asked a million questions before picking up his first torch. Now he’s having pieces commissioned and being featured in a film called “Vagabong,” which is about traveling glass artists. The movie is supposed to debut at Chalice this weekend.

Making glass live has its challenges, the artists said. Fans interrupt them to ask questions and take pictures. The sun makes it hard to see the colors. If it’s windy, Welk said he’ll make less complex pieces. Then there’s the heat, with temperatures soaring to 109 degrees in Victorville on Friday as the artists handled torches that heat glass to more than 1,000 degrees.

Glassblowers are a highlight at the Chalice cannabis festival. (Sarah Alvarado, Southern California News Group/Cannifornian)

Both Welk and Gomez said their field has changed a lot over the past few years. As marijuana legalization has spread and the culture has become more mainstream, they’ve seen more young kids watching “how to” classes on YouTube, then knocking off their work. And they’ve seen more shops turning to cheap imports instead of locally made artists.

Even if youngsters watch videos or take a glassblowing class, Welk said “hours equals powers.” He said aspiring artists should get their own low-end rig, which can be had for around $1,000 total, so they can practice in their garage before trying to come out to live shows.

The veteran artists are anything but bitter, though, with Welk calling festivals like Chalice “Disneyland for adults.”

Visit TheCannifornian.com for more coverage of the festival. And check the website Sunday for our special package of cannabis oil reviews in honor of the 7/10 holiday.


If you go

What: Chalice festival celebrating hash and cannabis culture

When: 1 p.m. to midnight July 7, 1 p.m. to midnight July 8, 1 to 10 p.m. July 9

Where: High Desert Event Center at 14800 7th St., Victorville

How much: Single-day tickets start at $60, with multiday, VIP and judges’ packages also available

More information: ChaliceCalifornia.com


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