The Godfather of Heady Glass: Bob Snodgrass
For a long time Bob Snodgrass has been widely recognized as the Godfather of heady artistic glass in the United States. His contributions to color changing glass and his unique psychedelic style of glass blowing became the artistic foundation for the functional art glass scene. - Written by Randy Villarba
For a long time Bob Snodgrass has been widely recognized as the Godfather of heady artistic glass in the United States. As a pioneer, his unique approach and style to glassblowing became renowned as glass artists from across the country would flock to learn his techniques under his tutelage. His contributions to color changing glass and his unique psychedelic style of glass blowing became the artistic foundation for the functional art glass scene.
Snodgrass first began working with glass back in Ohio in 1971 when he was inspired by a glass pipe in a head shop window. He had a lengthy conversation with the glass blower, which quickly became a friendship that launched Snodgrass on his legendary American Dream.
After a decade of honing his glassblowing skills, what started initially as an artistic pursuit became a full-time journey in 1981. Having acquired the tools and skills to blow glass pipes, Snodgrass began to experiment and invent brand new techniques that are today considered standard in high-end functional art glass.
Inventor of Style and Functionality
Through his explorations, he uncovered the transformative effect of silver, gold and platinum when vaporized into hard glass. Known as fuming, this technique is what creates the color change in glass pieces as they get resinated. This separated his pipes and glass art from the rest of the pieces out there. Snodgrass explained how he discovered color changing glass in an interview with Leafly.
"The glass I work with is actually a spin-off of scientific glass. In that process, I found that silver and gold could be blended and sprayed into the glass. A new technique of spraying metals into glass changed the parameters of color possibilities."
Snodgrass was a visionary artistically, but always kept functionality in mind. He was also credited with creating the sidecar pipe design. The origin of its design was simple. Snodgrass was tired of glass pipes that would fall on their side when placed on an uneven surface.
A Mobile Studio and the Grateful Dead
Accompanied by his family members, Snodgrass would establish his mobile production studio in the parking lots adjacent to Grateful Dead concert venues. His remarkable lampworking skills drew crowds, allowing him to sell enough finished pieces to sustain his journey from one show to another for several decades. His signature piece, styled after the Dead’s imagery of a skull in a top hat, quickly became known throughout the Deadhead community as a Snoddy.
Artistic Glass Culture of Oregon
When it comes to borosilicate art glass (Pyrex, Duran, Kimble glass) Eugene, Oregon stands as the ultimate destination—a mecca where an unparalleled concentration of glass artists can be found. The credit for this thriving artistic community goes to none other than Snodgrass and his students, who have fostered an environment of quality art that commands immense respect within the community.
Snodgrass and his family eventually threw down roots in Oregon in 1991. It was here he helped continue to build an extended family of glass blowers. Many glassblowers in the area can trace their roots back to the apprenticeship, influence and teachings of the legendary Snodgrass. Instead of keeping his techniques secret and proprietary, Snodgrass decided to teach those willing to learn his craft.
His first apprentice was Hugh Glass, who is now the Glass Games Director of the national glass exhibition Champs Trade Show. Other notable apprentices include Cam Tower, the inventor of the glass bong, Jason Harris of Jerome Baker Designs, along with dozens of other giants in the glass art scene. He of course kept the next generation of Snodgrass in the family business, passing on his techniques and trade skills to Bob Snodgrass III.
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