Hi! Welcome to my shop! Thank you for taking this moment to learn more about the artist bringing you this collection of playful glass art smoking and decorative accessories.
My name is Michael Sorenson, and I am an American functional glass artist. I was born and raised in the Kansas City, Kansas/Missouri ozark region, and Lawrence. As a young midwesterner, I was schooled in, and mastered, numerous kinds of jobs from a very young age- everything from farm work to electrical wire harnessing, to roofing , construction and product sales. I also had an artistic yearning, but struggled to find the medium that really called my passion- until I discovered borosilicate glass.
I first encountered borosilicate glass smoking pipes at a Dead show in the early 90’s, when I was a wandering lad searching for my bliss and meaning. This was a totally new and astounding piece of art, far different than the usual smoking accessories available at that time that all had issues with contamination, cleaning and safety- and this smoking device was color-changing with use, thanks to the innovations of early glass innovator and Eugene, Oregon resident- Bob Snodgrass.
I was enamored. I knew in my soul that this was the medium that had been calling to me all of these years, but it was so new as an art innovation that there were very few ways to demystify it to try out, myself. The place to go was Eugene, Oregon- home to a burgeoning and secretive cluster of innovators taking on the research and development of this amazing new industry thanks to the influence of artists like Bob Snodgrass, Jerome Baker, Bob Badtram and others.
So- I came here, to Eugene, Oregon in 1997 and began learning to blow glass in my woodshed with a humble set of glass equipment in 1999. I was mostly self-taught on the basics, because the Eugene glass art community was as secretive as the Venetian blowers in the days of Yore. After ascertaining just enough skills to create passable pieces, I was able to land a production blowing job at The Cosmic Dog, a glass production company owned by two amazing people that have become lifelong friends in the years, since.
Here, I was able to work alongside some of the greats of that time, and was able to harness a vast array of skillsets and techniques that became the basis for my knowledge and understanding of what makes a great piece, and how to do the research and development needed to create innovative designs where no roadmap before led.
After a couple years of great experiences at The Cosmic Dog, they closed shop due to the pricing pressures born by the new wave of imported glass pieces, bringing the market values to unsustainable lows. So we all set off on our own and tried to get work where we could. At that time, the local headshops were glutted with shelves of underpriced local glass pieces that creators were selling for below-cost in order to just get them sold. This brought down the market, further.
And so I trudged along, through these early, uncertain days, mostly doing production pieces for The Crush making huge blue fumed down-stem bubblers for $15 each, including materials, waiting interminably for a check; but it was glass work, and I was happy for it. That was clipping along at a relatively stable pace when in 2003, Attorney General John Ashcroft launched a war against glass pipe makers, and the stores that sold them, called “Operation Pipe Dreams” and “Operation Headhunter” respectively. The entire industry shut down in a flash. The Crush refused a shipment I had just sent, and it returned to me postage due. No one was buying, all of the headshops closed their doors, and a full 1% of the Eugene population was put out of work, along with thousands of glass blowers around the nation.
I was facing a tough decision- give up now and go back to labor work and be able to support my family, or push on and find a way to beat the odds. I heard of one distribution company that was still doing business, albeit quietly and cautiously, and I needed to get their attention, to get them to take a chance on me. In that day, there was a pretty standard set of basic pipe shapes- spoons, bones, tasters, hammers, sidecars, bats, etc. and most “designs” were variations of these ideas with different patterns and shaping variations. I decided to take the concept of a Sherlock pipe, and turn it into a chili pepper shaped pipe, and then my daughter saw this and thought it was funny, and suggested a banana shape. So, I made these designs, and they were accepted by Chameleon Glass, who sold my designs for almost a decade thereafter. But, it was still hard to pay the bills from 3rd party resale distribution models; it was barely covering the cost for materials, but it kept the lights on and the glass melting.
In 2012, my wife discovered Etsy and opened a shop there called, Reincarnations by K, where she sold up-cycled art. One day she got the idea to upload the Banana, the Chili, and my newest design- the Peach pipe. And it exploded! Within a short time, we realized the feasibility of direct-to-buyer glass sales, and it was AMAZING! In reducing the middle-men and creating direct connections with my buyers, not only am I now able to make the profits on my work that can sustain my family above poverty-wages, but I also get to do something I never could before- connect directly the the buyer, to know how they like their piece, how they are experiencing my work, and engage in collaborative designs to best meet the needs of the people who own my art.
And for that- I thank you. Thank you so much for being here, for coming to my page and being a part of my story.