In the late 1990s, Tim Bohr headed to Seattle because he wanted to become a chef. Always good in the kitchen, he figured Seattle’s booming restaurant scene was the place to be.
“But I fell into glassblowing instead,” he said, while finishing a glass pipe over one of the bench torches at Glass Gods, 2302 N. Argonne Road. “I’m a ‘pyro’ – if it’s got fire, I’m in.”
Glass Gods turns 20 next year and Bohr estimates he’s made about 40,000 pipes since he opened the store. The store doesn’t sell tobacco or cannabis, and though the main business has shifted to glass pipes there’s still a huge display of handmade glass beads and pendants.
“Everything you see in the store is handmade here,” Tim Bohr said. “That’s the only way I can guarantee the product we sell.”
Tim Bohr said he got serious about blowing glass in 1997, a time when legendary Seattle-based glass artist Dale Chihuly was exhibiting all over the world.
But getting started as a blower wasn’t easy. Tim Bohr said it takes at least 10,000 hours at the torch before you really know what you are doing.
“I guess if you haven’t figured it out by then you should find something else to do,” Tim Bohr said, laughing.
To make a basic bowl pipe, Bohr heats a glass tube to more than 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. The intense heat makes the glass pliable which allows Bohr to stretch, turn and twist the glass into various shapes. The glass is attached to a metal mouthpiece so Bohr can blow into the glass, just like you blow up a balloon.
He twists and turns and heats the glass in the blue flame. Blows a little. Heats again. Bends and pulls the glass some more.
“It’s not as easy as it looks,” he said. “You break everything when you first get started.”
Once the pipe is finished it spends considerable time in the annealer to slowly and carefully cool. Sudden cooling is likely to break the glass; depending on the size and shape of the pipe the cooling process may take hours.
Washington is seeing an influx of wannabe glassblowers lured by the need for pipes following the legalization of marijuana.
“I do take in students,” he said. “People can come find me if they are interested.”
His cousin Ryan Bohr is the glassblower at newly opened The Mind’s Eye Glass Gallery which is located at 11607 E. Trent Ave., near the center of an area also known as Spokane Valley’s “Green Mile” because several marijuana shops are located nearby.
Mind’s Eye store manager Wes Birkhimer said the store features mostly hand-blown, locally made pipes.
“We believe it’s important to support local businesses,” Birkhimer said.
Mind’s Eye has a large selection of glass pipes and also carries tobacco, e-cigarettes and vaping products, but no marijuana.
Both stores do offer custom glass pipes.
“Handmade local pipes are just a better quality,” Birkhimer said.
Both Birkhimer and Bohr said increased demand for glass pipes has resulted in the market being flooded with cheap products made out of bad glass.
“We see a lot of cheap garbage glass sold right now,” Tim Bohr said.
He explained that a bad glass pipe may break during ordinary use, or become brittle and start chipping.
“We are all about quality here,” Tim Bohr said. “If there’s something wrong with a pipe I made you just bring it back in.”
Editor’s note: this story was edited online, to change incorrect information provided to the newspaper.