Nick Bozas keeps himself plenty busy just playing his music. In his last semester of university study, he's staked his claim as drummer for three Denton bands: Losing, No Touching and Goodboy, playing shows and recording with each to varying degrees. But that, surprisingly enough, is not the only passion igniting his creative mind -- and maybe not even his main one. Seated in front of a bench burner inside his home, with steel-blue flames flickering at 2,600 °F, Bozas looks just as comfortable holding glass tubing as he does a pair of drumsticks. With his work so far, he's found glass blowing might just be his true passion; and more surprisingly still, he's only been at it for four months.
Bozas approaches glassblowing with a reverence that he's never gotten from anything else -- he says there isn't another art medium that has enraptured him so. He cites his Uruguayan heritage with his fascination for the arts.
"My father was a percussionist himself; he drummed for Aretha Franklin," Bozas says. "And my family has had painters, chefs."
Though he eventually wants to ascend to making purely artistic pieces, Bozas currently makes production pieces to pay the bills; both financially and through learning the profession. He primarily produces glass pipes and sells them to local head shops, but he maintains a high standard of quality that's evidenced by the various rejected glass projects laying around. To anyone else, they look like staggering pieces of flawless work, but Bozas knows that each one has a tiny imperfection -- a wonky mouthpiece or a misshapen swirl -- that prevents them from being sold.
"I don't want people to look at that kind of product and think that it's the standard I find acceptable," he says. "I never let anything out of my shop if I'm not completely happy with it."
Bozas says the glass blowing scene in DFW is, in turn, blowing up because of the fading stigma surrounding marijuana usage. As discussions regarding criminalization are being taken more seriously, and as even Texas itself overlooks House Bill No. 2165, glass blowers are steadily being treated more as the artists they are rather than paraphernalia craftsmen.
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And for Bozas, that's absolutely the respect he believes the community deserves. "Anything you can think of has been rendered in glass," he says, listing off an assortment of objects. "Sandwiches, transformers, used condoms, lesbian pornography -- anything you can think of." Bozas himself owns several incredibly intricate pieces from famous glass artists, some of which are worth nearly $7,000 since the glass market has grown.
With his long locks held back in a bandana, Bozas demonstrates the process by first picking a cylindrical indigo glass piece to build a pipe from. He then uses a clear, narrower piece of glass as an anchor to hold the piece, melting the rod to the cylinder at one end. His torch sears inches from his hands, but he guides the glass with a comfortable familiarity that would appear terrifying to anyone else.
In the workshop, he and and a fellow artisan have a healthy dose of Hendrix, Zeppelin and Sabbath playing as they alternate melting together and then chiseling away certain pieces. The rhythm of the two actions can't help but feel, well, rhythmic.
What he's making is called a "Montage Pipe," which involves creating several holes around the pipe and then sealing them over with a thinner glass; little apertures with multicolor designs. Bozas puts the long pipe against the flame and exhales until it audibly pops, and he then uses a tube to twist the melted glass like taffy, swirling it to a point. The blowing part is used to create accents as well as smooth out the glass for a symmetrical, round shape.
For a finishing touch, with the bowl and mouthpiece both shaped, he pokes one end of the pipe and heats it, then pulls out a blue tendril from the main body. He carefully twists it into a small arm, then uses tweezers to shape it. After inspecting each side slowly, he puts the piece into the workshop's kiln, where it'll be superheated and then allowed to cool slowly, reinforcing the glass to prevent cracks.
While we wait, he shows me various rejected pieces collected in a drawer in his bedroom as he absentmindedly plays polyrhythms on a Vic Firth drum pad. "This one didn't have the right airflow, and this one wasn't symmetrical enough," he says, sifting through the wares. "But I never look at it as a waste of time, I just learned something from each of these."
Musically, Bozas finds himself with a bevy of options. Beyond his three bands, he's seriously considered trying out for the Mavericks drum line, as he played snare in his own school's drum line. "Wouldn't that be something? By day, play for their drum line; by night blow glass," he thinks out loud, laughing. In the meantime, he's planning to get his post-rock group Losing back in motion as they recover from losing a member, while No Touching has been frequently playing shows and is currently recording a new EP.
At the same time, Bozas is trying to continuously hone his craft and dedicate as many hours a week as he can to glass blowing. He used do glasswork for nearly 30 hours each week, but between school and three bands he's had to cut back whenever necessary. "I never want to rush just because of limited time," he says. "I would rather make one piece a month that I'm really happy with than 10 pieces that I just had to get finished."
The time comes, and we revisit the pipe in the kiln as it undergoes its last inspection. As Bozas rotates and scrutinizes every angle of it, he finds it unsatisfactory. To my untrained eye, it looks nearly indiscernible from something that'd go for maybe $50 at a head shop. I ask him what flaws he sees. "The mouthpiece, it's slightly misshapen, and I just can't sell it like that," he says matter-of-factly. However, he doesn't look at all downtrodden. "I haven't made a pipe in a few weeks, and I tried a few new tricks that I might keep or forget about. So it's never a waste."
As he adds the pipe to his desk collection, he returns to drumming with an unperturbed smile. "I always want to maximize my progress," he says. "The first time I saw someone blow glass, I was mesmerized by it. So I got my shit together, taught myself, and now I can start mimicking the techniques of my idols. And even though my skill doesn't yet match my level of ambition, I can feel it's definitely catching up."
I catch him stealing a glance at one of the ornate, multi-tier pipes made by one of these aforementioned heroes, and I can see Bozas' face mirrored in the glass. "Blowing glass is just cathartic; a release," he says wistfully.
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