There is a reason for this post. I make pipes to smoke dried leaves, tobacco, cannabis, sage. I blow glass, and it is my chosen trade since 1998, when I graduated high school. See, in my town, Medford, Oregon–as a woman, your options for life as a working adult were the Service Industry (because the resource based economy was gutted in 1990s by environmental regulations) or move far away and go to College. Never mind that you couldnt return to your hometown because there was no work there…..you had to move to California or Colorado or Washington State if you had a degree just to afford paying the loans.
Well long story short–instead of doing either of those things I got into blowing glass. It was a wonderful career–I made my own hours, sold my own products, and developed good business habits. Then in 2003, John Ashcroft and the Bush Admin dealt us glassblowers a major blow via Operation Pipe Dreams. Tommy Chongs bongs, and JBD glass were among the hardest hit, while a lot of the glassblowers bowed out of the business to go underground. I quit working out of fear. I moved away to go to an Equipment Operators trade school, and Im still paying off the loans. It proved to be a poor decision–the retraining was being promoted as part of NAFTA. IT WAS A SCAM AND I FELL FOR IT, BECAUSE THE ECONOMY HERE HAS NO CONSTRUCTION ANYMORE. Hind-sights 20/20.
I figured, It was too risky to do anything “illegal” so I may as well go “legit” (because functional art isnt legit? WTF?) Anyway, I ran equipment and drove dumptrucks for 5 years. It was hell. I had to work with really stupid men. Sexist men. Masagenistic men. Men who hated me beacause they thought I had it easier than them because of Affirmative Action. Dont get me wrong, I love men. But I like the thinking types. This is a really shitty environment to work in, ladies. Please dont kid yourselves…..
Well, I had enough of that. I was starving, and moving, and spending all my hard earned cash to do so. And the constant drug testing! I smoke weed. I dont do drugs. So this was a real problem. The cons were outweighing the pros.
Im a Glassblower. I make pipes for smoking. Apparently because of that Im a criminal. Yet, I made a positive decision to start up again, otherwise I wouldnt have anything in life. Id be a brick in the wall.
I know many blowers who read this will probably say, there is nothing to worry about as long as products are not shipped across states. Look. This isnt the problem. The problem is two-fold. One is getting society to look at being an artist as a REAL job. The other, is the problem of labeling products “parefanilia”. EVERYONE knows this is a big problem, and you will be a criminal with a pipe in you’re possession. Why shouldnt I sell my wares on the street? Because everyone else has to buy a permit? Thats not a good enough answer anymore. A side note to this, is that if I REALLY wanted to make some money at this, I couldnt. I have to stay below the financial “radar”.
This is Fascism, folks.
Im writing this post because now that you have an understanding of my history, you can now see that every day that goes by I risk being hammered by DHS. Its true. It does weigh on my mind. However, under the alternative I was unhappy and I was dyeing inside. Im an Artist DAMMIT. These four little words have landed many artists in jail, or beheaded, or worse. Its true, the Artist is an enemy of the state. What we do is very dangerous to the Status Quo. Its still like we glassblowers are on the island of Milan as prisoners. I believe this with my heart.
To protect myself, and hopefully to inspire other artists to speak up before its too late, Im sending this post to a few of my favorite people. If you are reading this, Its because WHEN I GET ROLLED FOR MY CHOICES, hopefully, IT WILL NOT GO UNNOTICED. I dont want to disappear without someone knowing what happened. Seriously, this is a reality for a lot of artists right now.
Its hard enough gathering the capital to even begin to produce anything anymore, and this goes across the small business board no matter what business were talking about. I think its only a matter of time before another artist has their human right to prosperity and freedom of speech (art is part of freedom of speech and expression) disregarded and gets popped by the BS regulations to freedom of trade.
Im going for it, because taking the risk is actually true freedom. Hell, America was built on that notion.
This is the time to resist.