For the past 14 years, the third week in September has heated up in Burlington, Vermont with the kickoff of the annual glassblowing competition known as the Pipe Classic, created and hosted by the Bern Gallery, one of the premiere headshops not just in the state, but in the nation.
The Pipe Classic was founded in 2006 by Tito Bern, owner of the Bern Gallery and an incredibly talented glassblower and artist himself. Some of the most sought after names in the glass art game have competed in the Pipe Classic over the years and while the winners’ names may change, the general core format and the original four rules have remained the same.
Start from scratch. Though some artists do choose to incorporate non-glass items or sections into their overall design, all glassblowing from prep to final assembly must be done from scratch.
All of that work must be done in 12 hours total, broken down over two days of competition into two 6-hour seshes unassisted by a solo artist on the torch
The completed project must be “functional” with the ability to smoke or dab off of it
All work is to be done live onsite at Bern Gallery
Twelve top glass blowers are invited to compete each year by a panel of glass aficionados. Aside from what are surely some epic after parties, artists have plenty of incentive to get invited and show up to Pipe Classic with lucrative prizes on the line as well as the hard-earned recognition from their peers and the judges, as well as the hundreds of hardcore fans and collectors who show up to see it all go down.
250 judges from around the country are given the difficult task of trying to rate awesome versus amazing as it is being created before their very eyes by artists truly at the leading edge of their craft.
Some names of past winners include legends like Pakoh, Snic, Burtoni, Phil Siegel, and more. For the past two years, however, renowned artist Cap’n Krunk had been flexing so hard at Pipe Classic that he was riding into 2019 with back to back 1st Place prizes in 2017 and 2018 and the coveted Glass Blower’s Choice Award in 2018. This year’s field also included past Pipe Classic champions Hickory Glass & Kurt B, so the contest was sure to be hot. The full field of competitors included:
· Kaj Beck
· Kurt B
· Sam Lyons After two days of intensely friendly competition – all of which is open free to the public to watch live – an equally intense gathering takes place exclusive to the judges and event organizers to determine which pieces are worthy of the 1st, 2nd & 3rd Place prizes. At that time, the twelve competing artists also submit their votes for the Glassblower’s Choice Award. This four-hour deliberation period is capped off by a live auction of all the completed pieces back at the Bern Gallery, once again open to the public. It is not uncommon for the winning pieces to fetch anywhere from five to fifteen thousand dollars, which can often be a bargain price for a totally unique piece from these highly sought after artists.
This year, the 1st Place winner of the 14th Annual Pipe Classic is Certo Glass, a Denver-based glassblower known best for his sculpting skills and unique design style of forming lifelike water effects from borosilicate glass. His peers agreed with the judges, splitting the votes for the Glassblower’s Choice Award between the final entries from both Certo and Laceface Glass.
Laceface took 2nd Place and Kurt B. came in 3rd this year.
We do not know if the Certo piece sold at auction, nor do we know a sales price yet, but it is certainly a worthy winner, showcasing not only the artist’s undeniable talent, but his ability to apply that talent under the pressure of the Pipe Classic format.
All artists are different, of course, but many of them choose their Pipe Classic design months in advance and train over the course of those months to be able to replicate the magic when it counts. But shit happens and glass breaks, so to even complete your project in 12 hours AND keep it in one piece, is a testament to the skills of all the competitors.
If you have a passion for the glass game, a trip to Burlington in the Fall will give you an even deeper appreciation for that passion.
Need a 6 hour stream of Certo turning glass into water? We got you fam!
ABOUT BERN GALLERY
“Founded in 2004 by a pair of pipe-makers, The Bern Gallery has been at the forefront of the functional glass movement for over a decade. More than just another hippy-dippy head shop, the Bern Gallery is an award winning, multidimensional destination, a must-see for any glass aficionado or glass artist.
In 2006, the Bern Gallery’s Pipe Classic made history as the world’s first pipe-making competition. Ever-committed to growing the glass community, it began offering lessons in pipe-making in 2007.
Whether it’s pushing the glass medium to its outermost limits, providing artists with a platform or patrons a marketplace, the Bern Gallery is, and always has been, the torchbearer and leader of the northeast scene.”