Grit City Glass – why supporting local artists and business is critical to the cannabis community

Tacoma, situated 32 miles southwest of Seattle, Washington is well known in the Pacific Northwest for multiple points of interest. From being the third busiest port city to nearby Mt. Rainer, the ‘Home of the Dome’ where artists such as Ozzy, Heart and Iron Maiden are scheduled to play soon,  the infamous ‘Tacoma Aroma’ and of course, artistic, historical and collectable glass, it should not go undiscovered.  

Tacoma is Home of the Dome

The gorgeous, memorable and infamous art of Dale Chihuly can be enjoyed at the famous Museum of Glass on Dock Street as well as experienced for free over the Chihuly Bridge of Glass and is evident throughout town in many of the older buildings, known for their architecture as well as original stained glass.  The stunning link between the Museum of Glass and the Thea Foss Waterway Esplanade, the Chihuly Bridge of Glass is a pedestrian bridge which spans 500 feet while featuring fabulous art installations.  The museum is dedicated to both temporary and permanent collections, which currently include ‘Spotlight on Dale Chihuly’ (October 14, 2017 – ongoing), and Preston Singletary brings ‘Raven and the Box of Daylight (October 3, 2o18 through September 2, 2019)

The museum’s permanent displays and installations include ‘Fluent Steps’ (2009-ongoing) as well as ‘Gathering the Light’ (2003-ongoing) .

Coming May 26, 2018 through March 17, 2019, Sara Young and Tyler Budge will present ‘Foraging the Hive’

The Bridge is also open 24 hours a day, making it one of the more romantic spots in Tacoma, especially at sunset.  At night, the installations are illuminated from underneath and add brilliance to the Gritty City skyline. For a good first taste of Tacoma, spend the day at the Museum of Glass after visiting a dispensary, then grab feed your munchies at your choice of funky restaurants or pubs.  This part of Tacoma is friendly to both foot traffic and public transport with nearby hotels, making it a good choice for visitors with families as the museum frequently hold family days, hosting visiting artists as well as live glass blowing demonstrations , a hobby which has become increasingly popular, even evolving into profitable businesses as glass also plays an essential part of history in cannabis.  It has been utilized for centuries in various forms, from pipes to bongs to elaborate dabbing rigs, all cannabis consumers are familiar with glass and of course, have their favorite and/or essential pieces.

Upon becoming a new resident of the City of Destiny last summer, as a cannabis advocate and consumer, I was curious how fellow 420 friendly folks obtained their smoking accoutrement and to what extent Tacoma area dispensaries offer glass from local artists, as opposed to importing pieces.

I began researching this article by emailing area shops and received one response, from Misha Jones, the Marketing and “PR Marquis” at Mary Mart who wrote “This sounds like a great opportunity but I don’t believe we sell any local glass work”.  My visit to the shop on September 21st confirmed that they offer imported works, however I was referred to both the Hippie House and Mary Jane’s House of Glass by a very kind Budtender.  If you are on 6th Avenue in Tacoma, this is a shop you should stop by.  It is big, bright and the staff are incredibly well informed, especially the Budtenders who specialize in medical patients.  They can produce photo identification cards within 15 minutes with a valid authorization for new patients, thus allowing them the opportunity to obtain their new medicine at reduced prices, without tax in one visit.  Look for their specials and pay a visit to the La Ca Bar next door for a bowl of pho on a rainy afternoon, if you want to fully embrace the Tacoma vibe.

Mary Mart on 6th Avenue is one of my favorite dispensaries in Tacoma – you can read my review here

As the remainder of the shops did not respond to my e-mail, I visited each with a list of questions, starting with Clear Choice Cannabis on South Hosmer Street , where I met briefly with the Manager, Bret, and asked about some of their pieces.  He showed me some of their current inventor, which, starting reasonably for $200 or so, you can go up to $20,000+, (click this link to peruse the Clear Choice glass selection).  

Discover a cannabis career with Clear Choice Cannabis at this link

Bret referred me to Jeff Knight of MidKnight Glass as a contact for a well known, quality glass artist who specializes in glow in the dark pieces, including everything from bats and chillums, oil pieces, sherlocks, slides, spoons and headies.  The full catalog is available via this link and you can score free shipping on orders over $50.  Jeff isn’t the only artist (click this link to browse by artist), and although he is not specifically from the Tacoma area, he does provide many local shops with beautiful work and has been making high quality glass since 2001 in Eugene, Oregon.

My next stop was close by at The Joint Tacoma which is one of eight franchises throughout Washington, from Bellingham to Wenatchee, who, the Budtender believed, featured glass from “What You Need”, however a thorough Google search did not reveal any website or social media information on any such glass company or artist.  They did not carry any other local artists and had a bit of a retail chain feel, orderly, perhaps a little ordinary, but not quite that local Tacoma flavor one might expect, or is that the Tacoma Aroma? Either way, it was a clean shop with friendly staff, online ordering (as many dispensaries do, look for specials before placing any order) and well worth a visit if you are in the Parkland area.    

I then checked out Emerald Leaves Tacoma, near Mary Mart, also on 6th Avenue, whose only “local” (they were referring to local to the Pacific Northwest, not Tacoma specific) was the artist Special K, aka Kris Uhlhorn of Eugene, Oregon.    Kris is not just an award winning glass artist.  He and his family are also responsible for the ShelterCare’s Hawthorne Program, which, according to the ShelterCare website, is “one of the only programs in Oregon that houses and supports low-income individuals who have survived an acquired brain injury”, with the program celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2015.

Special K, aka Kris Uhlhorn
Kris blowing glass

Kris, who moved to Oregon in 1976, has said that when it comes to glassblowing, it is the process which is just as important to him as the finished piece.  “What has allowed me to be a successful businessman is my dedication to the production process, more so than ever wanting to be an artist, I wanted to create processes that allowed things to work smoothly and efficiently.”  He signs and dates each piece, which take between two to five minutes to complete and noted that he has never spent longer than one half hour on a single piece, thus allowing him to produce thousands of pieces as efficiently as possible. “I’ve developed a process that allows me to make beautiful, one-of-a-kind glass faster than just about anybody I’ve met”.

Kris obviously creates art from his heart and soul and owning a piece might be on your list, or as a gift, so visit a shop and ask if they carry any MidKnightGlass.  Feel like shopping Kris’s work form the couch? Click here!  And no worries, we even have shops covered.  If you would like to inquire about purchasing wholesale, click here.

High Society Tacoma was a nicely appointed shop I stopped by which offered dab rigs from Peter Pierson, and QuartzCastle from Chris Schuller (peruse his shop here), an Olympia artist who, according to his website, “has been creating a various assortment of glass works for over 20 years, in 2011 he handcrafted the QuartzCastle domeless nail”.  Some examples of his work include these adorable “Bell Bottom Rigs” available for $200 and his new “Zincite Crystal” Rigs for $300.  

I also dropped in at Cannabis Oasis and Urban Bud, both had limited imported selections, but could be worth the visit, although these were the only two shops I visited that had active panhandlers who approached me.  If I were to return, I would probably go with a friend, although I’m sure their security fully ensures the safety of their customers.

At the Tacoma House of Cannabis , located in Central Tacoma at 2632 S 38th Street, I met with Mike McDonald, Owner and Purchasing Director, who presented many of his own opinions and insights on the local glass scene, which represent  a contradiction of that which I later discovered at the Hippie House in that he believed medical customers are usually the first to buy the cheapest imports available whereas recreational users tend to spend more money and buy bigger, more extravagant pieces.  This is in part, he believed, due to the fact that most medical customers are on a fixed income. They did not carry any local glass and do an extremely brisk business, within walking distance of a nice selection of restaurants, if that is something you are looking for in a dispensary.

My day ended when I last visited The Herbal Gardens (THG) , a dispensary located just off Highway 16 and Center Street, at a busy intersection on the western edge of Tacoma, near Fircrest.  This shop had a very limited supply of glass items, as they concentrate more on the flower, concentrate and edibles end of the cannabis market, although their Budtenders are friendly and the security is excellent.  They are at a convenient location and therefore continuously busy, but well staffed and wait times are short.

Don’t miss The Hippie House on 6th Avenue

My visit to the Hippie House Glass Gallery, located at 3109 6th Avenue in Tacoma on September 25th turned out to be beyond my expectations.  Unlike actual cannabis dispensaries, this experience was much more like entering a beautifully curated glass art museum (and please note, they do not sell cannabis).  The shop had a groovy vibe, with classic rock playing amongst displays of beautiful creations. There was plenty of room to wander and look at each creation. It felt comforting and welcoming, with free and easy parking directly in front.  This is the only glass shop in the Tacoma area to feature 105 local artists and offer in-house glass blowing demonstrations. They also are new participants to the “6th Avenue Art” which gives artists and residents a fun opportunity to interact through events and activities in the eclectic area.

I spoke with Manager Justin Stieglitz who gave a personal tour where he recalled how the business has evolved, since 5/1/2011 when it was founded in the hip 6th Avenue ‘Artsy’ District.  At that time, as Washington had “medical marijuana only” laws, the shop thrived on medical patients who sought precious pieces of functional art at premium prices.  However in 2012, when I-502 passed and recreational cannabis became legal, the majority of the new clientele changed to recreational users and tourists who sought cheaper, imported pieces.  The shop also holds glass blowing demonstrations featuring local artists and encourages community involvement by participating in local events. The cannabis community, I am learning, is a tight knit tribe I am honored to become part of.

The Hippie House’s Instagram page is active and fun to follow, with interesting pieces and artist details being posted dailY, along with some of the cutest kitties and dogs in town.  Take a look here at their current inventory such as this two-tone Atlantis and Blue Slyme piece from Josh Scolari (@scolariglass) with Stonker the cat .  This spiky pipe by Coleman Anderson is also on display alongside this purple dichro double pineapple creation by Hondo Pinzon, a collector could spend hours perusing the different pieces while chatting with Justin and sipping a Valhalla coffee (after all, coffee is a basic necessity on rainy days and pairs perfect cannabis and shopping locally, supporting small businesses).  

The dichotomy between the Hippie House and actual cannabis dispensaries who also carry glass is interesting in that the Hippie House is more driven by the meaning, purpose and beauty of art of art’s’ sake, and the true glass connoisseurs who support local artists and make minimal profits whereas the typical dispensaries appear much more profit driven.  Importing the cheapest glass from various international sources does not support the local economy nor does it encourage artists to participate, learn and grow. It seems only logical, when considering a new piece, to think about where you want your money to go.

Do you want it to go to a regional artist, someone in your community who will in turn, put the money right back in to the community?  Or would you rather buy something that is made of lesser quality material, manufactured in bulk, outside of the United States, if that means you can get it at a cheaper price?

In the end, it is up to each consumer to carefully consider where they spend their hard earned money. The best advice is to always do you research, figure out exactly what type of piece you need, not just want and for what specific use, then save your money (budgeting is always important for the smart stoner) and enjoy your next purchase responsibly.

I know where I will be going for my next piece – the Hippie House is the place for me.

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