It wasn’t long ago that if you were into the glass scene, like Amy Short is, the best place to find cool new pieces for your collection was in the parking lot at a Phish concert or Grateful Dead show. Live music is great and all, but what smoke shop owner has time to follow bands around the country when there’s a business to run?
That’s the predicament that inspired Amy and her mom, Lee Anne, to start Glass Vegas, a one-of-a-kind industry-only trade show with a focus on high-end functional glass art.
Other cannabis and smoke shop industry trade shows give retail attendees a little bit of everything. As its name implies, Glass Vegas is all about glass, with over 300 vendor booths representing between 500 to 600 independent glass artists as well as the leading wholesale vendors.
Buyers coming to Glass Vegas can find all kinds of functional glass, from simple dry pipes to rigs, bubblers and the most creative heady pieces imaginable. Sure, you can log onto Instagram and scroll through countless photos of pipes, but as Amy points out, there’s nothing like being able to see a piece with your own eyes, hold it in your hands and meet the artist responsible for its creation.
“Our industry is much different than any other— it works a lot based on relationships. If you hit up an artist online that you don’t have the connection to, depending on how busy they are, they may not even respond,” Amy says. “Some artists will only work with people they know, so coming to Glass Vegas and meeting them in person gives you the opportunity to place orders that other people can’t — when a glass artist knows their customer, they’re also likely to give them a better deal.”
“Glass artists are amazing people,” Lee Anne adds. “This industry is built on connections, and so many of these glass artists have really great stories about who they are, what inspires their art, and why they are so passionately immersed in the craft. It’s easier for a retailer to promote and sell an artist’s work when they can get the customer excited about the ‘story’ behind it.”
Salt is a perfect example of a glass artist whose name is known far and wide, but it’s a rare privilege to watch him working at the torch live and in person. Glass Vegas was one of the first times Salt had ventured out of his Texas studio to do a trade show in quite a few years. Not only did he bring some of his best work to sell, but he also put on a glass blowing demo.
“Watching a piece made right in front of your eyes, gives you a whole new level of appreciation for the artistry and the kind of work that goes into these pieces. It’s absolutely incredible,” Amy says.
How to stage a successful trade show is something that this mother-daughter team know well. Lee Ann is founder of the Glass Craft and Bead Expo, now in its 25th year. At the request of some of the attendees, who were boro glass artists, she launched Glass Vegas, of which, the 2020 event (January 28-30) fourth appearance.
And what better place than Bally’s Hotel & Casino, right on the Las Vegas strip, to put on such an event. Attendees and exhibitors never have to leave the building to enjoy the expo experience — they can get up in the morning, grab breakfast at the resort, walk to the exhibit hall, and afterward, have a great dinner and hang out, network and make some new friends.
You might say Glass Vegas is one big party, and you’d be right. For glass artists and retailers, it’s like Christmas, Mardi Gras and Black Friday all rolled into one.
“One of the things that everyone loves about Glass Vegas is that not only is it a well-organized and professionally run show, but it doesn’t have the overly corporate and intimidating feel that many trade shows do,” Amy says.
There’s live music throughout the show and unique events such as a Millie Meet Up (a get-together for millie enthusiasts and makers), the Boro Derby (where artists make cars out of glass and race them down a track) and The World Series of Glass (WSoG), a carry-over from the bead show, but with the same goal of raising the status of glass blowers, particularly those that make functional pieces, to that of mainstream artist.
Unlike a flame-off, where pieces for the competition are created right there in front of the audience, the WSoG allows artists to enter creations in which they’ve invested time and skill into making in their own studios. As competitors aren’t under the gun to complete a piece that meets strict guidelines, the WSoG showcases some of the most amazing glass art pieces imaginable.
Retailers have their chance in the spotlight as well, as exhibitors vote for the business that they feel has best eared the title, “Smoke Shop of the Year.”
“Our goal at Glass Vegas is to promote the glass artists, bring together buyers and sellers and help make everyone successful,” Lee Anne says. “At the end of the day, the hard work that our team puts into the expo is all worth it because of the relationships, the love and the bonds formed between everyone involved.”
January 28-30, 2020
Bally’s Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada