Ever wonder what it’s like to spend your days blowing glass bongs and getting paid to do it? While it’s not an easy gig to just waltz into, the work is a lot more fun when you’re around friends who enjoy cannabis and making sweet rigs. That’s the enviable position we find Hamstafam in, working out of 8th Wonder Studios in Arizona. Phoenix is overrun with excellent glass blowers, as the town has a reputation for artists and crafters, but making glass for weed is perhaps “elevated” for a variety of reasons. Plus, Arizona looks poised to finally fully legalize pot thanks to the Smart and Safe ballot initiative.
Hamstafam, aka Joshua Hamra, has been making sweet glass rigs since the mid-2000’s, and getting to see him blow a dab rig is a thing to behold. The studio smells like any other glassblowing studio, a bit of burnt material but nothing that smells bad — certainly not the weed being smoked while we talk, either.
The Daily Sesh sat down to chat with Hamstafam and talk about what it’s like making glass, while he makes glass. The work, along with studio maintenance, can take a while. He describes a 12-hour work day, starting sometimes at 4am, running until 4 in the afternoon. Early in the morning, he’ll prep the studio a bit, do a little cleanup, and make glass the rest of the day. No lunch breaks, but weed breaks are acceptable. He says Mountain Dew fuels his work ethic.
The name Hamstafam comes from his mom, who is a glassblower as well. They were initially set to create a family business, which would be called Hamfam, but when he started his Instagram he created the name Hamstafam, and it “kinda stuck.” Although he’s been in business longer, his first glass blowing came during a trip to see his mom, who was already making glass in North Carolina. He was able to play around in their hot shop in 1996, but after seeing some life-changing marbles made by a master glassblower, he decided to make marbles at first.
Hamstafam credits the Internet as one of the biggest changes in the industry in his lifetime, since creators can directly sell online. That connection is key, because it’s progressed the industry and the movement. “You see someone doing this thing and you want to do it better,” he says, and notes that color palettes used today are probably 10 times more varied than when he first started. Plus, smaller operators are able to pop up and make special colors, which was tougher before as you had to be closer to where more glass was being finished.
His favorite glass providers for color are Northstar and Glass Alchemy, “but I am starting to branch out and work with some of the smaller companies as well.” Hamstafam uses a Carlisle CC burner, not unlike this one, but 60 years old. Why mess with perfection, right? He admits, “she’s an old one.”
His favorite colors include a green sparkle, but can be manipulated to bring out gold or purple, but mostly has a high sparkle content. The glass colors from Glass Alchemy are especially hot for Hamstafam at the moment, their CFL-reactive stuff is “intense” and he notes how few bubbles are in their colors. Bubbles are a bong’s worst enemy, of course, and glass providers are readily able to provide better glass than years ago. While glass with bubbles can be used, it’s typically used for accents or decoration, not for main chambers than need structural integrity.
He demonstrates a layered technique he’s been experimenting with on a small piece of glass, which is purple and sparkly. The colors are subtle, but work together brilliantly. Even this small piece took over 8 hours to finish! For Hamstafam, it’s a joy to work with the new colors and try new things. The results are rarely bad, and always seem to lead to new, beautiful glass works.