By Alexandra Fresch, Glass Axis assistant director
Justin Poulin is a Glass Axis instructor teaching their flameworking classes, which is glassmaking on a torch, and currently has gallery work on display in the Glass Axis Inaugural Pipe Show through Feb. 29.
Alexandra: How long have you been making glass and what lead you to working with glass?
Justin: I’ve always been a creative, even as a kid pursuing creative endeavors be it in music, theater or visual arts. I met a couple doing glassblowing demonstrations at a lot of Ohio music festivals. They invited me to show my paintings alongside their glass at festivals, but I distinctly remember the first night them giving a pipe demo and being absolutely astounded and captivated. In 2021, a generous friend who had a small workspace set up at their home give me my very first torch lesson. I was instantly hooked, from the first time I introduced glass into the flame I knew this was the medium I had been looking for my whole life and that I would dedicate myself to the pursuit of understanding and creating glass.
Alexandra: You are also a Glass Axis Instructor. What lead you to become a teacher?
Justin: I am incredibly excited about the opportunities Glass Axis has given me to pursue the two things I’m most passionate about, glass and teaching. In my previous career I worked in special education for Columbus City Schools. Before that I was a rock climbing instructor/coach at Vertical Adventures. I absolutely LOVE helping someone realize their potential and supporting them in doing something that they originally thought impossible.
Alexandra: What are you teaching at Glass Axis?
Justin: I have been teaching beadmaking, but I am really excited about their new pipe-making classes, which I helped develop. If you’ve taken one of the other torch classes before, the pipe class will feel very familiar. We start with a quick demonstration, go over basic safety and equipment, learn a little about the unique properties of borosilicate glass and the history of pipe making in the United States, and then I help guide people through the steps to make one of the most classic pipe designs.
Alexandra: How has the Ohio legalization of marijuana affected you, your art sales and the pipe-making community?
Justin: The wave of legalization sweeping the country has done a lot to shake up the pipe scene. It makes me really excited to see that every day more and more attention is being paid to the incredibly talented people working in the pipe scene. The legitimacy that I think comes with legalization will do a lot to propel pipe making into new spaces that have historically been closed off to artists. What has been this underground subculture of people making amazing things out of glass is being recognized more and more by the mainstream.
Alexandra: Where can people see your work?
Justin: I ship all over the country and supply several local head shops, including Headies Hideout on Parsons Avenue. I post frequently on Instagram at @Headie_Eddie19, but maybe the thing I’m most excited about going on right now is the first ever pipe show happening at Glass Axis, with pieces from many of the best local, as well as international, glass artists. I am incredibly happy to have work in the show and hope everyone comes to check it out. Our reception party is happening during February’s Franklinton Friday on the 9th from 6-8 p.m. Many of the artists in the show will be there and it’s going to be a great time!
Alexandra: What is something you wish people knew about the art of pipe making?
Justin: For me the thing I wish people knew about pipe making is twofold. Firstly I want more people to know that the American pipe making scene has been around for a long time with some of the most amazingly talented glass artists working in the medium. Secondly, pipe making takes many of the techniques and decorating styles from soft glass and applies them with the precision and technical ability that is required for the creation of a scientific apparatus. By blending these two worlds, traditional soft glass and scientific torch work, the pipe making scene has created a unique niche, from which I think will come the next big innovations and excitement in the glass art world.
The Glass Axis Inaugural Pipe Show will be up through Feb. 29, with a reception on Friday, Feb. 9 from 6-8 p.m., where you can meet Justin and the other featured artists. You can take a flameworking glass class with Justin by registering online at glassaxis.org.
This article is part of a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council as part of the Art Makes Columbus campaign. Explore a calendar of events, public art database and artist stories at columbusmakesart.com. To learn more about GCAC grants visit gcac.org.