Updated: Apr 7
Jerome Baker Designs helped pioneer the glass smokeware industry, becoming the largest bong producer in the world…that is, until Operation Pipe Dreams caused the company to go up in smoke. Nearly 20 years later, they’ve risen from the ashes to reclaim their place of prominence in the glass game.
Functional glass art is a huge part of our culture. Heady borosilicate bongs and bubblers are not only the method by which glass artists express their creativity and earn a living—they’re also a way for us potheads to reflect our personalities through our paraphernalia. Of course, none of the amazing artistry we see today would exist were it not for the Pyrex pioneers who paved the way. And when it comes to glass smokeware, it doesn’t get much more old school than Jerome Baker.
The story of Jerome Baker Designs begins, unsurprisingly, along Shakedown Street in the parking lot of a Grateful Dead show in Foxboro, Massachusetts in July 1989. It was there that a young Deadhead from Miami by the name of Jason Harris—who was attending junior college in the suburbs of Boston—met a bearded hippie from Eugene, Oregon selling glass pipes by the name of Bob Snodgrass. After graduating in 1991, Harris enrolled in the art program at the University of Oregon, moved out to Eugene, and decided to reach out to the pipe maker.
"My first week out there I looked him up in the white pages, called him up, and said, ‘Hey—I just moved here from the East Coast…can I come over and check you guys out?’ And they said, ‘Sure, come over.’ I visited them in their little trailer in Glenwood, Bob had his overalls on... he was the coolest dude I’d ever met. I just wanted to be like him instantly."
Known as the Godfather of Glass, Snodgrass invented two groundbreaking glassblowing techniques: fuming, aka color-changing glass (spraying precious metals into the glass to create a mirror-like effect as the inside blackens from smoke), and the "pushed-in bowl." His individualism and ingenuity would inspire and influence all those to follow.
"There was just some magical attraction to Bob—he’s just that kind of being," Harris says. "It’s like being around a master—not in a technical sense, but in an imaginative sense. It's more like wizardry."
“There was just some magical attraction to Bob. It’s like being around a master... like wizardry.”
In the months that followed, Jason saved his money, bought a torch, and began studying under Snodgrass as one of only ten apprentices.
“There was an energy in the air surrounding that pipe makers’ scene at the time,” he recalls fondly, “something that I would consider akin to when Manet, Monet, and Picasso were hanging out together in Paris, understanding that there’s a movement or a renaissance going on and they were a part of it. It was magical.”
In 1993, Harris and fellow apprentice Chris Shave (founder of Jah Creations Glass) started working together—first at a small garage studio down the street from Snodgrass’ shop, then in a larger studio with another fellow student, Dan K. Dan was the first of the group to earn a formal degree in the art; he’d attended Salem Community College in New Jersey (the only school to offer a degree in scientific flameworking). It was Dan who introduced the group to the big Carlisle CC Burner torch and he