Joel Corley is making waves (literally) in the world of functional glass art.
Corley’s Black Sand Glass studio is named for the black volcanic sand beach near his home in Kalapana, on the Big Island of Hawaii. His love for the ocean and surfing is reflected in his signature glass Party Wave rigs.
“I spent years trying to come up with original concepts but would see other people that did them as well. When I created the waves, it was a random moment of inspiration,” Corley says. “I was about to stop blowing glass with the night, when the ‘C shape’ popped into my mind. I decided to stay up late to make bring that creative inspiration to life.”
The wave shape, formed when Corley bends the molten glass, is a traditional Sherlock. The unique curvature to the functionality, allowing smoke bubbles to pop around the bottom and catching most of the splash before it reaches the mouthpiece on the top of the curl where an actual wave breaks into foam.
“It’s the “kickback” in a recycler design where instead of going straight back, the form is at more of a 45-degree angle,” Corley explains. “Instead of having to tilt your face downward to take a draw, it creates a nice, comfortable, relaxing, way to smoke.”
Glass frit, which has been crushed into shards, colors the waves and gives a broken, dotted effect what the eye would as light and motion interplay in the water. Corley often adds sculpted turtles, squid, sharks and surfers playing in the waves to create an entire aquatic scene.
“Each Party Wave is different, because just like water, the shapes are fluid,” Corley says. “There’s definitely a story element because ‘m thinking of how the water is coming up out of the ocean and how the wind is blowing the splash around. The ocean has such majestic colors and trying to recreate the exact color I see when I watch the waves is an . It’s great to do traditional blues, but I also like to go wild and abstract with psychedelics and bright, vibrant sunset colors.”
As you might expect, the Party Waves are popular souvenirs for visitors to the islands, as well as heady collectibles in smoke shops and glass galleries in coastal California and Florida. Surfers will often commission Corley to recreate famous breaks they’ve ridden and have on their bucket lists. But he’s found the pieces to resonate in landlocked locations where smokers are simply into the aquatic vibe.
‘People really long for that water in the dry places,” he says “There’s definitely a fascination with Hawaii everywhere around the world.”
“I feel blessed to be able to live in Hawaii and make a living doing what I love,” Corley adds. “Life is waves and you’ve got to ride them.”