All across America, ravenous fans have turned collecting donut pipes into “kind of like a hunt,” says 36-year-old, Portland, Maine glassblower Brian Owoc, who has a four-month-long waiting list to buy one of his highly coveted, hyperreal glass sculptures.
Made under the name KGB Glass, Owoc’s donuts fetch up to $1,000 per piece, or $8,000 for a 2015 collaboration with the glass artist, Calm. Available at select shops nationwide, stores are regularly getting calls from desperate collectors. One California collector has 73 donuts and climbing. Several fans have tattoos of KGB’s logo on their bodies. The ravenous fan base still amazes Owoc, who never went to art school and doesn’t consider himself an artist.
“I never thought I would have collectors of my work,” he said. “In early days of the donuts I was struggling — living week to week, and spoon to spoon.”
A former head baker at a Dunkin’ Donuts, Owoc traded his garage space for pipe-making lessons in 1999. In 2007, Maine’s Royal River Glass Studio accepted him, boosted his skills and he went shop-to-shop, selling pipes.
Donuts are a personal passion, Owoc said. He’s made well over a quarter million real ones, and made his first donut pipe in 2008. “I thought to myself, ‘Man, there needs to be a donut pipe’.”
Initially, donuts were slow to sell until Vermont’s “Bern Gallery” brought Owoc’s work to the American Glass Expo trade show in 2013, and they were snatched up. Today, over 6,500 donut pipes could be circulating through the U.S.
“There’s something about it that brings out happiness,” he’s discovered. “It’s just like — instant smiles, from young people to older people.”
“There are people that buy the donut pieces that don’t even smoke out of them.”