We sat down with the head of the CHAMPS Glass Games to talk art
Matty White is truly an artists artist. The MC and creator of the CHAMPS Glass Games, Matty is a fixture across the glass blowing community by originally making a name for himself in the die glass blowers of the Pacific Northwest corridor. We sat down with Matty to discuss glass blowing, the CHAMPS Glass Games, and the future of the medium in this exclusive interview.
This Article Originally Appeared In The July Special Report on Accessories by MRR
MRR: What originally got you into the art form?
Matty White: While I was on a Grateful Dead tour I kept seeing these handmade glass pipes by Bob Snodgrass. I went to the San Francisco show, headed up to an Oregon show and got to meet a few people that were starting this whole little pipe movement in Eugene. I was curious about it so I started selling glass for them and a few people in Eugene. After a few trips and bugging them to buy more and more, because you could sell it really quick because nobody had these cool glass pieces. I mean there were acrylic pipes and metal pipes and wooden pipes and stone pipes, but there wasn’t really a lot of art glass pipes at the time because it was a fresh new art form.
To be honest, people were really secretive in the beginning. So it was like they didn’t really want you to watch too much, but they let certain people watch. So when I got the chance to see it for myself I was like, ‘I got to do this’. I kept coming in, begging him for more and more glass and finally they just asked me “Hey do you want to learn how to do this?” The rest is history.
MRR: How has the industry evolved in your opinion from when you first started out?
Matty White: I feel like our whole industry are artist minded people. To collectively get together and do art through glass. It’s been really inspiring to watch the people before me and then to see a generation of glassblowers spawn this huge burst of creativity now within a group of artists it’s incredible. Artists are making pipes that I mean if we saw them 25 years ago, we wouldn’t even believe it was made out of glass. Some of the stuff that we’re seeing here at this show, you know, is groundbreaking pieces, some of those pieces over there, you know, $50K to $100K, sometimes even more than a $100K. We were selling, you know, $100 pipes, we started and did the pioneering for this industry. So to like see everybody kind of like carry on the torch with this next level of creativity is crazy.
MRR: Seeing these shows now where you have live on-site glass blowing to actually demonstrate to the connoisseurs of these pieces the process. Like you talked about, they were kind of secretive about their methodologies back in the day on how to make their pipes. As you transition more into the open and as the medium wants to show more of the process, how has that been for you guys?
Matty White: It’s been cool doing things like starting the Glass Games at CHAMPS where people can actually see the artists work. There’s a few glass competitions going around the United States and the CHAMPS Glass Games has really pushed the envelope of good competitions. You’re not out there playing by yourself here anymore. Artists now are trying to show off to each other or you know, one up each other. It’s been a fun experiment with art to have people compete and have competitions and try to beat each other with their own techniques. It makes people perform above and beyond probably what they would normally do to try to capture that moment for people. And I feel like by doing the competitions that that spark between people has pushed the envelope to where now we have these big competitions where people are giving away money. People are really trying to throw down. A lot of people have won and then they don’t compete next year, then when they come back there’s a whole new class of kids coming up and it’s kind of cool to see the evolution of the next class of kids coming up.
MRR: Speaking of pushing the envelope, Shayla Behrman better known as Windstar Glass was a first time three-peat winner at the CHAMPS Glass Games Masters Finals this past Feb by capturing the People’s Choice Award, Artist’s Choice Award, as well as 4th place overall. Can you talk a little bit about how high the bar is being raised for these veterans?
Matty White: She got the triple whammy. Forth Place, People, and Artists. Artists is like the most prestigious award because your fellow glass artists are voting for you. The People’s Choice is also extremely difficult because it is our community coming together and voting. So for them to both come together on a singular piece, it was perfect. I felt like the judges had the right top four or five people, which is always good cause we’re doing three or four different comps with CHAMPS Glass Games just to collect the artists for the Masters by weeding them out and because of that they have to fight all the way to Vegas in Feb. So if your top five, you might have competed against almost a thousand glassblowers by the time it’s said and done between the summer show in Vegas, Atlantic City, and then our stuff in Denver and the stuff that we do in Orlando with the emerging artists.
If you’re top five in the Glass Games for CHAMPS then you are elevating your glass career there is absolutely no doubt about it. I mean, I even know people that didn’t place in our Masters that went rode that wave and sold their piece for like four grand and then they’d sold eight grand worth the pipes to the guy that bought it since then. At that point the artist is like ‘I didn’t win, but like I fucking won in my own eyes because not only did I financially sell a piece for more money than I’ve ever sold it for at a show.’ So being in the top 40 is just a good boost for people. Getting their Instagrams out there, having their booths, selling their stuff, explain why they’re competing and you know, people get to connect with the artists. Not only that, but they get to see their art evolve like at our shows
MRR: What can expect at the LV Summer Show for the CHAMPS Glass Games?
Matty White: We really started the glass games in summer to boost the summer show and bring in some pizazz so definitely look for a lot of new events. We do a lot of different events so people can have a chance to try a bunch of different things. We used to do a lot shorter games and car crash derbies and things like that and we’re going to start bringing that back next summer with our 10th year anniversary of the Glass Games. We’re also going to bring a bunch of the like early games like the game board and like some quick like 15 minute events, um, which people are really excited about and been really pushing for that.
But this summer we’ve got eight events. We got ‘Rastafari’, which is rally around the red, gold and green. We got ‘Multi-Function’, which can be like a pipe teacup or it can be like a shot glass pipe or you know, who knows. People can take that wherever they want. We also have ‘Action Figure’, which we’re letting people make an action figure head so they get a little help on that one. ‘Hear No Evil’ in the beginning is a pretty big one. We’re letting people bring in a bunch of premade elements for that one as well. We got Pipe in a Pipe where a lot of times people make like an oil rig inside of an oil rig or people make a sherlock inside of a hammer, so kind of like the recipe, you know, nesting doll theme. Then we got ‘Mystery Collab’, which is a fan favorite. We brought that back a few times and you sign up and you get to blow glass with someone else where you’re notified about a week ahead of time so you can start getting a little game plan. We link people up that might not know each other or they might’ve wanted to get a chance to blow glass with that person, it’s random, and we randomly pick teams for the mystery collab which leads to interesting combos. Like for instance some people will be making a skull and some other person makes butterflies. Then because they got paired up they put butterflies on the skulls. Then if people like them they’re making them all the time. So ‘Mystery Collab’ really evolved that whole like camaraderie of working together and collaborating. So that’s definitely a fan favorite. Then we’re doing ‘Inner Peace’ so people can go wherever they want with that. We’re ending with ‘Necklace’ because a lot of people wear pendants, and necklaces, and beads, so we kind of wanted to find someone that might have that fine detail skill to get in the Master’s without really looking for that big pizzazz-y piece. Something that’s a little more technical where people can get involved with making something more intricate.
Those are the 8 comps and I think with entering our ninth year that anticipation is building with knowing at our 10th year, we’re going to bring back all the Masters Finals winners and we’re going to gather only 30 people and then let the masters pick three people, kind of like a schoolyard pick. So people really want to be one of the Master Leaders for the foreperson team because it’s going to be a mega event. The pieces are going to be massive. This summer there’s only two chances left to get in or you’re going to have to hopefully get picked. It’s going to be a fun year for sure.
Make sure to check out Matty White and the best glass blowing on the planet at CHAMPS Glass Games located live on the CHAMPS Show Floor.