The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

55° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Fathead Glass’ a sparkling gem on Fourth Avenue

    Gordon Bates / Arizona Summer Wildcat
Micah Blatt, owner of Fathead Custom Glass in Tucson, performs the challenging procedure by which most of todays popular glass smoking utensils are made. Micah has been in the business for well over 10 years and his shop is filled with work of his own as well as that of other local and national artists.
    Gordon Bates
    Gordon Bates / Arizona Summer Wildcat Micah Blatt, owner of Fathead Custom Glass in Tucson, performs the challenging procedure by which most of today’s popular glass smoking utensils are made. Micah has been in the business for well over 10 years and his shop is filled with work of his own as well as that of other local and national artists.

    If you’re looking for unique opportunities to satisfy your cultural appetite in Tucson, then there are few better choices than Fathead Glass. Torches burn hot, sparkling creations line display cases in the cramped quarters of the customers’ area and many get the sensation that they’ve stumbled onto something wonderful on the busy sidewalks of Fourth Avenue.

    It’s a striking example of what can be done with a space usually classified as a hole-in-the-wall.

    Of course, the people who work at Fathead aren’t your average employees because blowing glass is no average job. Using fire to mold glass into works of art isn’t part of the usual student’s job description, but Chelsy Wood, a 23-year-old business and accounting major, isn’t your usual college student either.

    She hardly looks like what you’d expect when walking into the place. With a warm voice and friendly demeanor, Wood has worked at Fathead for about two years and says it’s been a tough road to begin learning the craft of glassblowing.

    “”There aren’t very many schools for this kind of thing,”” she says. “”You usually have to do an apprenticeship. I’ve watched for two years and I’m just now starting to learn.””

    It’s not just the learning process that takes a significant amount of time. The pieces themselves can take a lot of time to create, and it’s not always the safest process.

    “”It really depends on the intricacies of the particular piece,”” Wood says. “”It can take anywhere from two minutes to two days to create one of these things. It’s a process, and of course we sometimes get burned. I mean, we work with fire, there is always the potential for things to go wrong.””

    Looking around the store, it’s not hard to see the influences behind some of the art. Micah Blatt, the manager of the shop, is a talented artist himself. His calm charisma reflects onto his work as his steady hands mold what, at this point, looks like a floating orb. It’s fitting, in a way.

    What some would classify as bongs behind display cases are, in fact, art. Blatt is adamant to dispel any theories of the contrary.

    “”A lot of people come in here and say, ‘Wow, nice smoke shop!'”” he says. “”We do the best we can to correct people when we say that we are a glass shop, not a smoke shop.””

    Smoke shop or not, Fathead is building a reputation beyond the metal shutters on its windows.

    “”We’ve made stuff for the UA science department and all sorts of places. We make stuff like wine glasses, jewelry and whatever else people want,”” Blatt says.

    The talent doesn’t come cheap, though.

    “”There’s no money in this. It takes years to learn how to make anything and it probably costs you more than you earn. It’s about $2,000 to set up one of these blowing stations at home.”” Wood says. “”

    One wouldn’t expect Tucson to be the aplace where this kind of shop thrives. But, according to Wood, there are several things that work in Fathead’s favor.

    “”All of our stuff is Tucson-made,”” she says. “”Tucson has one of the lowest glass markets in the country compared to other places, at least in my experience. It’s better to make it here, though. The hot weather helps because cold air and hot glass don’t mix well. It’s surprising there isn’t more of this industry here, really.””

    Not that it’s any concern of Fathead’s. A new, fully-stocked bar named “”Mr. Head’s Art Gallery and Bar”” is set to tentatively open in October and the staff of Fathead’s is excited to get the ball rolling.

    “”We’ve got some stuff planned,”” Blatt says with a smile. “”We’re coordinating art walks every other Sunday to help the Fourth Avenue economy and all proceeds will go to local artists. It’s important to keep the talent here.””

    It’s not just the outreach that Blatt’s excited about, either.

    “”Oh man, you should see the plans we have for this new place!”” he says. “”We’re going to have a ‘floating’ glass bar-top, metal sculptures, you name it.””

    Ultimately, the success of both Fathead and the new bar relies on the clientele.

    “”We get all kinds in here,”” Wood says. “”Lots of locals, mostly students and curious types who want to take a look. But sometimes we get the really fun people. Just the other day I had a girl come in on stilts. It’s Fourth Avenue, and we love it. We’re a different place, so it kind of works out.””

    More to Discover
    Activate Search