Functional glass has risen as a modern art form, fetching prices comparable to work hung on a wall. But for Boston’s Cristian Gazmuri, otherwise known as Chaka, the glass is much more important than the money.
“For me as a craftsman, I really love glass,” says Chaka, who was first introduced to glass over a decade ago working at jewelry and marble making.
His work steadily evolved toward creating pipes and other types of artfully crafted functional glass. His gorgeous work includes dab rigs shaped as penguins, pipes accented with dripping ice cubes and bongs adorned with intricate scenes of aquatic wildlife.
Just one look at his Instagram account (@chakaglass) is enough to validate his artistry and craftsmanship with glass, which Chaka says is his preferred method of visual expression.
“All the ways that different materials can be worked, you can work glass,” explains Chaka. “You can carve it like wood in a manner of speaking, and you can melt it, which you can’t do with a lot of things, and it also has a ceramic nature that includes surface work… they all combine to make the perfect medium.”
Chaka’s painstakingly crafted glass has fetched prices of up to $3,000, such as an aquatic-themed bong bustling with various sea creatures, including fish and an octopus, and surrounded by colorful blooms of coral.
“I wasn’t worried how much it was going to be. I was having fun, and that was probably why it sold for that much.”
Although his studio is based in Boston, Chaka has also spent time in Oregon refining his craft with fellow glass artist, Marcel Braun. He appreciates the wildly different cannabis culture that legal states have to offer.
“When people are so loud and proud about it, I really appreciate that because we don’t have that here on the East Coast,” says Chaka. “It’s a total trip to blow glass out there because every time I do, I learn some new ridiculous, crazy trick or something. I have my mind blown every time I’m on the West Coast.”
Chaka believes those attitudes could soon make their way to the East Coast soon, as nine states, including his native Massachusetts, will be voting on legalization measures this election season.
“With all the laws that are changing, people can be loud and do their thing. They don’t have to hide the fact that they’re smoking out of a pipe. Now they can take out this really nicely crafted pipe that makes no mistakes about being a pipe, and show people that beauty of craft.”
Whether or not his state legalizes cannabis, however, Chaka’s first love will always be glass.
“Working with glass is a take on glass itself – how it moves and what it likes to be – it’s just really an impermanent and changing medium that’s always in a constant state of flux, not just itself but the culture around it.”
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