In flameworking, everything old is new again, and there are no techniques much older than linework. Whether wig wag, chip stack, or incalmo (where two glass sections are joined together to create a defined line) artisans, like Dan Longden are honoring the beauty and history of these colorful pipe making processes and continuing to bring them to life.
“A lot of these designs are not something that you would know if someone hadn’t done it before,” says Longden. “There are certain techniques where it’s tough to come up with something completely new and different, but part of the beauty is that me and my buddy could attempt to make the same exact thing and you would still see significant differences.”
Longden, whose studio is in Worcester, Massachusetts, just outside Boston, was mesmerized by the bright colors and crisp lines when he first saw linework designs at his local head shop.
“I was a pothead, and I was obsessed with pipes. I’d go in and just stare at them for hours,” he says. “When I get in the studio, and think about what I want to make, my mind goes to the way things used to be done — those classic designs are very intricate, but in their own way they have a certain simplicity.”
But simple doesn’t mean easy. Langdon’s pieces contain as many as 20 sections, which starts with pulling each individual piece of colored tubing. Each of those sections is carefully assembled like a puzzle to create a functional design.
“Even when I plan out a piece, I really let the glass decide,” Langdon says. “Sometimes the glass seems to have a mind of its own, so I don’t fight it. I just try to make the nicest piece that I can.”
“Once a piece is done, and it has gone through a few quality checks, it goes into the kiln for a few hours to cool down slowly. It always requires another quality check, but I don’t mind because I enjoy holding onto the pieces for a bit once they are completed,” he adds.
Getting started in the mid-2000s, Longden had been going to community college struggling to figure out his path in life, when he decided to give glass blowing a try. At a local craft studio, he faked his way onto a torch, not even knowing how to light the flame, and picked up some basic techniques. He was making pendants and marbles, and when he found himself alone, he would try making pipes. It wasn’t long before he bought a torch and set up a studio in his garage where he could create the things that he liked. After years of experimenting, and learning by doing, his pieces have found their way into private collections and smoke shop showcases.
“When I was just getting into it, one of the coolest things someone ever said to me, was that you can make absolutely anything out of glass,” Longden says. “I’m a pretty old school guy. When I got started, not many people were taking dabs; even now I don’t smoke much hash. The pieces meant for use with flower are what drew me in and what I steer towards now. I just make what I like and hope other people will like it too.”