Some people are into feet, some are into eyes. Kim Thomas is into teeth. 


“They’re like little tiny jewels that grow out of your gums,” says Thomas, a Detroit-based glass artist, best known within the pipemaking community as Zii. “When people talk to me, I like to look at their teeth — you can tell a lot about a person from their teeth. Some people have naturally perfect teeth that look really pretty, but the majority of people don’t.” 


Crooked, misaligned and abnormal choppers are most inspiring to Zii, and she turns them into functional smoking accessories. Dentists, as you might expect, are among Zii’s biggest fans. She’ll sometimes swap her glass version for one made of plastic for a set of dentures. One fan sent her his actually dentures, straight out his mouth, in trade. 

“I eventually gave them back,” Zii admits, “because he needed to eat.” 


Zii, nicknamed after her classic 1978 Camaro Z28, has a background in sculpture and ceramics from the Rhode Island School of Design, and later worked as a special effects makeup artist on movies such as The Road. Her introduction to the torch came when she responded to a Craigslist ad seeking a glassblowing apprentice. She thought it sounded fun and would take her artistic talents in a new direction. When she arrived for the interview, she found the flameworkers making pipes. A decade later, Zii has worked in glass studios in California, Texas, Philly, eventually landing in Detroit, home of the Michigan Glass Project.  


As an artist, Zii believes the most creative and engaging work is influenced by things going on in the world that find their way into your dreams.  

“I don’t really dream that much,” she says, “but I used to have a lot of nightmares.” 


Some people mistake Zii’s severed finger pipes as zombie fingers, but actually they’re a callback to her anxious habit of biting her nails — the ghoulish solution she dreamt would be cutting off her fingers altogether. The inspiration for sculpting hyper-realist vagina pipes isn’t as gross; it’s actually about the beauty of childbirth. The idea for pipes in the form of dirty socks and underwear came from walks around the city and finding people’s discarded undergarments on the sidewalk.  

“It’s easy with pipemaking to get pigeonholed into making one type of piece –- if you’re doing it as a living, you have to please your fans and make things they will buy,” she says. “As artist, if you want to like grow and develop, and have some sort of message, you can’t just make one thing over and over.” 

“Glass is a very diverse sculptural medium and lends itself to experimenting — you can have any size, shape, texture and color that you want,” Zii says. “You can break every single rule and not worry that your piece won’t survive. 

“I love being part of the pipe community,” Zii adds.  “It’s amazing how hard the glass artist work, and that it started out as, and still is to some extent, a bunch of outsiders really pushing their art medium.”


Zii Glass 



Recent Articles

Top Products of 2022

EZJ Legendary Stash Boxes By EZJ For the true aficionado with discriminating tastes and a penchant for the handcrafted comes the Legendary Stash Box series from the maker of the now-famous EZJ rolling machine. Each unit is handcrafted from oak and pinion, upcycled untreated pallets and exotic hardwoods such as teak mahogany and perlotta, intricately

Read More »

Retailers Guide to Establishing an Annual Budget

Creating an annual budget is crucial to running a successful and profitable retail business. A budget helps you set both short and long term business goals and enables smart decision-making to achieve those goals. You’ll also be in a better position to proactively manage your finances, setting you up for profitability, sustainability, and exponential growth.

Read More »

Retailer Holiday Planning: 5 Tips to Drive Holiday Sales

The weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas are the busiest shopping season of the year. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers in the U.S. spent $886.7 billion during the 2021 holiday season — and the total is expected to be even higher in 2022 as consumer demand continues to rise. With Black Friday, Small Business

Read More »

Gearing Up for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

How to Make the Most of the Year’s Biggest Spending Frenzy Even before Black Friday became the biggest shopping day of the year, the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas have always been a pivotal time for retailers. After all, the day after Thanksgiving signals the start of the Christmas shopping season. Eventually, retailers began offering

Read More »

How to Attract Holiday Shoppers with Gift Cards

With that in mind, we introduce you to our newest feature: You Asked, HQ Answered. And being that this is unofficially our holiday issue, we thought what better time to answer a few questions about gift cards.  Who doesn’t love gift cards? When you consider how hard it is to buy a present for friends

Read More »

Social Media

Most Recent

Are you 18 or older?