‘Pipe Classic’ competition draws top glassblowers

Published: Sep. 13, 2022 at 5:06 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Nationally recognized glass blowers have rolled into Burlington to compete in the annual Pipe Classic held at the Bern Gallery.

Tuesday was day two of the week-long event featuring a dozen artists from across the country. Each gets 12 hours to make a glass from scratch and with no assistance. The only rule for the event is that the final pipe needs to be functional.

After the week wraps up, guests can buy a judge’s pass and help pick first, second, and third place at a showing on Saturday night at Nectars. There is no prize money but winners get a cutting-edge torch and lots of bragging rights.

“I think being that this is the first and longest running pipe-making competition, it’s seen as sort of a Mount Rushmore sort of landmark in the glassblowing scene. It’s not about the money or the status necessarily, it’s truly about the love for the art. And being that this is a very young art form -- really this kind of borosilicate glass blowing really only started in the early ‘90s -- the envelope is constantly being pushed, and that usually happens here at the Pipe Classic,” said the gallery’s Paddy Donnelly.

As cool and highly-regarded as this event is, this is the final year of the competition, as the gallery prepares to begin selling recreational cannabis in October.

The space where the glass-blowers compete is slated to be turned into retail space. Donnelly says they can’t think of a better reason to put a cap on the competition seeing that recreational weed sales have been a goal since 2004. “It’s to offer high-end, locally grown cannabis to the people of Vermont -- and finally we are here. So, it’s once again a bit surreal. We kind of thought that it may have come a little bit sooner after the legalization in 2018, but I wouldn’t trade a thing. We’re ready for the Vermont ethos to dictate how the cannabis industry is formed here, which is so wonderful. It’s all about craft farm-to-pipe and that’s what we’re about here,” Donnelly said.

The gallery will grow their own cannabis -- Bern Legacy Cannabis -- indoors in Addison County. They have their cultivation license and are waiting on their retail license now.