Robert Mickelsen has been working with glass for almost 40 years. He started as an apprentice for a professional lampworker in the ’70s and now shows his work in some of the finest galleries in the country and participates in prominent exhibitions every year. Cannabis Now asked Mickelsen about how his status as a veteran affected his latest project, a series of water pipes called “Weapons of Peace”.
CNM: Tell us about your political viewpoints surrounding cannabis.
Cannabis should be legal. There is simply no rational reason to continue a policy of prohibition that has completely failed to do what it set out to do. Cannabis laws have created no societal benefit whatsoever but have caused a great deal of unnecessary societal harm. Ending them seems like a complete no-brainer.
Now, that said, part of the appeal of the counter-culture that has given rise to widespread cannabis use and the popularity of the glass pipe movement is that it is illegal. This “outlaw” status is a driving force in the growth of the entire industry and we have all benefited from it. But now that legality seems a very real possibility… the growth seems to be reaching a fever pitch. So the tide is now shifting and creating a wave that we are all riding. There is no telling how long it will last. Political winds shift almost daily among our leaders and they can as easily pull the rug out from under us as allow it to continue. A measure of political awareness and involvement would seem to be appropriate for anyone connected to this trade.
CNM: What was the inspiration for “Weapons of Peace”?
Guns. What a topic. Just for the record, I am not a “gun” person. I actually abhor guns and the violence associated with them. I will not own guns or allow them in my house. I believe stronger restrictions on gun ownership should be adopted as quickly as possible to reduce the likelihood of more tragedies like Sandy Hook, Aurora and Columbine. So you might wonder what I am doing making glass replicas of guns. It is a valid question.
In 2007 my wife and I bought a house in a very rural part of Florida. We love the lifestyle out here. We have 6.5 acres of land with horses and dogs and goats, etc. But all of our neighbors own guns. Their attitude about guns in general is so completely at odds with what I believe that I decided to take another look at them to try to understand what the appeal was. What I discovered surprised me to say the least.
Turns out, guns are beautiful. They are designed with aesthetics in mind, not just lethality. This is not an accident. It points out something about human nature that I did not know before. Just as it is often stated that human beings are naturally predisposed to conflict and war, they are also naturally predisposed to beauty and art. In fact, the two things are related. Interdependent, like two sides of a coin. Guns represent, better than any other object that I can think of, the ironic true nature of ourselves. So I decided to try to capture this idea in glass. I did not want to “invent” guns. I wanted to make replicas of actual guns, made to actual scale, distilled down to just their aesthetics with all the lethal function removed. Clear glass seemed like the perfect material for this because of its visual purity. Finally, by replacing the lethal function with a more peaceful one [smoking], the metaphor was complete. The “Weapons of Peace” series was born.
To date, I have made nine rifles and four hand guns. I feel I have just started and cannot wait to try to make more and more difficult and unusual weapons.
See more of Mickelsen’s work at www.mickelsenstudios.com