Season two of Netflix’s glassblowing series Blown Away will feature San Diego, California-based glassblower Michael Shelbo as a contestant—who is known for creating pipes. Blown Away is a Canadian reality glassblowing competition television series.
Shelbo’s Instagram account features glass creations including dab rig bangers and glass pipes. In the era of recreational cannabis states dotting the land, the glass pipe industry has grown to become more socially acceptable. The artist was recently profiled in Pacific magazine.
But since Blown Away is created for a family target audience—don’t expect to see much cannabis-specific works from Shelbo. Instead, you will probably see objects more along the lines of glass figurines and ornamental glassware.
Off the show, however, he’s much more open about his background in the cannabis industry. “The stigma of the glassblower and the stigma of the stoner—that’s kind of timeless,” Shelbo says. “When I started, cannabis was illegal everywhere and in many places, so was paraphernalia. Making pipes was very underground.”
In 2003, Tommy Chong and over 50 glassblowers and sellers were targeted by federal agents under Operation Pipe Dreams—a sobering moment for glass artists at the time. Under the George W. Bush administration, glass “paraphernalia” was not tolerated.
“I guess I was part of that next emerging class of pipe-makers-slash-glass-blowers in the post-Operation Pipe Dreams world of getting out there, visiting head shops, selling our wares, going all over San Diego from Oceanside down to Ocean Beach on a mission to empty our gun cases filled with pipes. We had to do the hard grind that has nothing to do with Instagram or Facebook or anything that’s going on now,” Shelbo told Pacific magazine.
Despite studying fine arts in college, he often spent a good chunk of his time blowing glass—his other passion. “I wanted to experience both because I loved everything about cannabis and glass pipes, but I also was finding my love for goblet-making, goblin-making,” he said, after one particular piece gained popularity.
Check out Shelbo’s fine work, especially his esteemed piece “The Goblin King,” and similar pieces.