Happy Hour Drinkware Experience
Thank you to our Special Guest Blogger, Katie Davis!
“Have you done this before?” The woman next to me politely asks.
“This will be my sixth mug,” I reply. “I’ve been coming to the Glass Academy for years.”
“The sixth?” She exchanges a look with her friend who has accompanied her. I can tell they are trying to be polite, but don’t understand. But I just keep smiling because I know before Chris Nordin can put the dragon tail handle on their mug they will be brainstorming their next one. My friends trickle in slowly. We’ve divvied up over texts who will bring the beer and who will bring the pizza. I settle in to enjoy the process. I’m not sure there’s a better spot than having a cold microbrew in your hand in front of a glass kiln. It’s almost like sitting around a bonfire, but much, much more interesting.
The man who is first to have his mug made asks Chris for a dragon inspired creation. It will be in honor of his Welsh ancestors, he later explains to me. The Welsh flag apparently has a dragon on it. I make a joke about being Irish and not holding his heritage against him and he laughs. “As long as you aren’t British,” he grins. I cheers to that. His wife explains that she visited Glass Academy the year prior and that they have been dying to get back and make him one. I assure them I know the siren song of glass blowing. Chris draws it out in chalk and explains each texture and process, frequently bringing the molten form over to show him how it’s progressing. The man is beaming.
Next up is the woman who had been sitting next to me. She also wants a dragon inspired mug, because in her words, “how can you not?” She’s an interior designer and she has pulled pieces from the store to show Chris colors and textures she likes. He sits down and discusses options to make her vision a reality. She will be making a ruby red mug, with teal accents, and a dragon tail handle. Time to draw it out in chalk. Their conversation pings back and forth, two creative people finding common ground on a single vision to create.
This is what I love about this experience. As a teacher, when I read an essay, I get a brief glimpse into my student’s world. At the Glass Academy, I get the same experience only with the creative process. I will never be the person who makes a red dragon mug with teal accents. If you visited my home, the entire thing is grey and beige. Almost all of my mugs are shades of blues and purples with a lot of clear glass to tone it down. One time, I got crazy and made a light green mug. But when I come to the Glass Academy I get to watch the process of someone making something that I would never think to do. It’s like I get the experience of making the dragon mug, but don’t have to bring home a dragon mug. Later, Chris would tell me he enjoys the same aspect. He has worked with glass for decades and working with clients in the workshop constantly pushes what he would think is possible. Internally, I think of the time I asked him to make a mug of clear glass with the nest texture. He stared at me blankly and said he’d never thought to do that. I’m still proud of that moment and that is still one of my favorite mugs. It must be pretty hard to stump Chris.
It’s suddenly my turn. I explain to Chris that I like the idea of a clear base (of course) but I would like splotches of my favorite colors, impressionistic style. One of my friends had previously made a tumbler inspired by Starry Night, by Vincent Van Gogh. I liked the idea, but didn’t want to be wedded to that specific painting. I’ll admit, I’m not very talented at picking out colors. This is why I need Chris’ expertise. He will be the one to suggest, you should use an amber handle with that blue and clear mug to balance it. My mugs turn out better because of the skilled glass blowers at the Glass Academy. I am pretty decent with textures though. Mostly because when I use my mugs, often by the campfire while my husband and I listen to our favorite podcast, I like to fidget with the texture. Chris listens carefully and asks a few questions. He offers a suggestion on shape. And we draw it out on the floor and he gets to work. Through out the process he checks in with me. Would I like rosettes on the base? I shake my head no. Plain base it is! How about a lifted base though? Excellent.
“You’re right,” the woman who I had spoken to earlier in the night about my half dozen mugs says. “This is an addiction. It’s like getting a tattoo.” It’s exactly like that. A tattoo is a micro expression of self in the same way the mug is. Our culture is accustomed to disposable products. I sometimes think of the quote from Fight Club in which the nameless narrator reflects on IKEA, “I’d flip through catalogs and wonder: What kind of dining set defines me as a person? I had it all. Even the glass dishes with tiny bubbles and imperfections. Proof that they were crafted by the honest, simple, hard-working indigenous peoples of…” (Fight Club, 1999). We live in a world that is mass-produced. To borrow again from Fight Club, “everything is a copy of a copy of a copy.” People laugh when I explain it that way, and no, I’m not arguing that beating each other senseless to stave off boredom is the answer. But I do believe we crave creative expression and collaboration. It’s good for the soul. Evidence of this is in the rise of popularity of Marie Kondo’s cleaning philosophy. The viral Netflix show, based on Kondo’s bestselling book, shows Kondo kneeling and talking to a home before she cleans it. Kondo instructs the viewer to hold an object and ask themselves if it sparks joy. Our society is drawn to the idea that the objects in our world can be connected to our sense of self, our spirit: the idea that objects can bring joy. The happy hour experience is this philosophy distilled down. What do you want to make? What will bring you joy when you reach for that object? What wacky, elegant, unique combination of style, textures, colors, and shapes reflect who you are?
Each of my mugs has a different story. One I made immediately after my husband and I filed for adoption. Years later, I made one our first date night out after bringing home our son. I try now to make a mug on a banal, run of the mill day. Because that is what life is made of: one more school year wrapped up, one more date night. But when I do the happy hour experience, I get to hear a piece of other people’s stories too: their heritage, their design career, the child who will be attending MSU in the fall, and it’s those stories and those experiences that make the mug to me. Each of my mugs are like a small tattoo reflecting a fragment of my personality. It is a brief snapshot of my life in the same way the dashes on the impressionists’ paintings were meant to capture a fleeting moment in time. A mug isn't photorealism. If you want that, make a scrapbook. But me? I love to create objects that will both serve as both a reminder of a good time, while existing in the creation of new memories.
Until number seven.Cheers!