I first saw Nathan’s work in the It’s All Goodz Smoke Shop in Phoenix. I noticed his knack for stacked colors and I want to know more about his work. We spent the rarely cloudy afternoon smoking terp sauce and discussing degenerate art and desert life. Check out our interview with the Glass Master known as Natrix below.
Where are you from?
Mesa, Arizona. Born and raised.
Tell me about your childhood and your interests?
I started out skateboarding and then got into BMX and snowboarding as well. Then I got into motocross and fractured my spine doing freestyle motocross. That ended my skate life and I got into music and DJ’ing.
Did you get good grades in school?
I was always smart and learned fast but I was always focused on skateboarding. I was semi pro at age 11 so it was a cool way to grow up. I skated with big teams and had some cool experiences until I got injured and the eighteen month recovery period ended my skate career.
How old were you when you got your first skateboard?
Five years old. It was an old school board with handlebars attached to the trucks. I rode it for about thirty minutes before asking my dad to take the handlebars off. The next day I was building a ramp and going nuts on that thing.
I think it was an ollie and basic stuff. Skateboarding wasn’t what it is today. We were hated by everybody and there were no parks to skate at. I remember the first parks they built here like on 67th ave and Encanto. I won my first major contest at age 11. They didn’t really check the kids ages so there were lots of older kids competing against me. Keeping up with those kids is how I got sponsored.
Are you married? Kids?
I’m engaged and I have five kids. My oldest boy is nine. My girls are three and four and I have twin boys who are two years old.
When was the first time for you to see glass art?
A friend of mine from the DJ world introduced me to glass. A couple months later I was invited to DFO, Degenerate Flame Off, which is an event in Oregon where I was really exposed to glass. That event was the biggest competition event for pipe making and it became my favorite.
No. My buddy who introduced me to glass first had just a National hand torch. It was pretty simple and he made production pipes and stuff. I started looking online and trying to research how these pieces were made and he let me practice at his house.
What was your first piece to make?
It was a little hand pipe. A dry pipe. It took me like two hours to do on the hand torch. I was hooked and started going to his house every night to practice. After just a few weeks I bought my first torch and then two weeks after that I quit my job and started practicing glass full time.
What was your first advanced technique to learn?
I got good at wrap and rake pipe making and I did wig wags first but I wasn’t really that into wig wags. Dot stack is probably the technique that I’m known for. Most of my collabs and high end pieces contain dotstack features done by me.
How did you develop your style?
I never have stayed with one style. I try to keep progressing and challenging myself as much as possible. I don’t feel set into any one style and I try not to do the same thing for very long.
What was the first pieces that you made for sale?
Hand pipes were first, then Sherlocks and then I made dab rigs. I did my first heady after about a year and a half. It was a recycler, like the old school ones, with the separated top and bottom where it recycled the water and it had a double honeycomb disc top for the mouthpiece. It had a sculptural wasp on the outside. The antenna for the wasp was a dab tool and the wasp was made from different wigwags. It was cool.
I think it’s great. We have a good group of guys and a lot of talent here. We are all pretty much tight knit compared to other places where it’s more scattered out. We actually do a lot of work together as a community in Arizona. In last years Champs Glass Blowing finals 9/32 of us were from Arizona.
What was your first collaboration?
I think it was with Hicdogg, Erk the Jerk and Billy the Kid. I had a small piece in my first one. Hicdogg has been my biggest inspiration while collaborating and everytime I work with him I learn so much. I also did a collab with Marcel Braun and learned a lot from doing that. He is well known for glass design and we did a rainbow color, air trap reticello hand pipe that came out great.
How do you link with artists to collaborate?
Some on instagram but mainly going to events and networking. We all have our strengths and we know what each other does well. Just striking up conversation and expressing gratitude for each others work is how it starts.
What is your specialty or the technique that people come to you for?
I would say dot stack is my specialty right now. A dot stack means I put every single color like a dot around a tube or wherever. I melt it in and then layer the next layer of color on top. It’s very time consuming to make intricate. I don’t know if I’m the first to do dot stack on whole tubing but I haven’t seen it really before then.
JuJu from Texas was probably my biggest inspiration for dotstack work. He makes beautiful dotstack pendants. I did a demo with him out here and it was my first demo. I asked him for advice on dotstacks and he wouldn’t really tell me anything. I just studied their work online and figured it out through trial and error.
Are glass techniques secret like a magicians tricks?
I think it depends on the artist because I’m happy to show my techniques to someone who is passionate and willing to put in the time. It’s still important to me that someone commits to it first. It took me years to get my work to where it is so it would take them a progression of time as well. If they have a faster progression at mastering the techniques then my hats off to them. It’s all love man!
Most artists cut their teeth with years of production work? Did you skip that part?
Everyone has to do production. As we progress as artists we still go back to production, I think it was Hendy who said that. We are making pieces that cost several hundred dollars but we make several of them and they sell so it’s still production. I try to make pieces for all price ranges so that people who buy a dry pipe to smoke flower can still get a heady feature in their glass.
Where can people find your glass in the valley?
It’s All Goodz Smoke Shop is a really big supporter of me and Paraphernalia boutique is also a big supporter of mine. Also Bud’s Glass Joint and several other shops across the state.
What is your favorite piece you have worked on?
Probably the double Koi Fish collab with Hicdogg. It was a journey and a growth to make it and the impact it had on people was more than we expected. We did three of them and they came out beautifully.
That one we did mostly together and it was about forty hours or so of work. We did fourteen hours the first day and then we had some complications and had to remake a few pieces. I think I put in twelve hours the second day and he had another ten hour day of assembly and touch up alterations. I did the yin yang on the mouthpiece and then the dotstacked Koi fish.
What other signature pieces do you have?
I have some Wax King pieces that I have been doing a series of. It’s a creation based off of a painting by @oddwangart. It has a honeycomb mouthpiece, a honey pot body, and some bees on him. I’m doing each one different but they pretty much are all flipping you off and holding a dabber! I’ve done 36/100 of those so far. I’m excited for some new projects in 2018 that will be coming out. One is a sculptural mermaid piece with an intricate dotstack tail and surrounded by some clams with opals inside of them. It’s a heady sculptural piece that will be a nice disc recycler. I started one at Champs last year in the finals with two mermaids, clams holding opals, and a disc recycler in the front and back. We ran out of time on the last day and I wasn’t able to finish it the way I wanted. Hicdogg and I were sharing a kiln and that’s difficult during a competition because you are opening and closing it which makes regulating the temperature difficult. We were having breaks and cracks due to this so I stopped work on the mermaid to help finish his piece.
What’s the worst break you’ve had during construction of a new piece?
Oh man. I had a wasp sculpture made from wig wags and stuff. I was doing these years ago and I had about forty hours into this one piece. It had a faulty mouthpiece and when I pulled it out of the kiln and it cracked at the faulty mouthpiece and the whole piece fell to the floor. I was holding the mouthpiece with the tongs and the rest shattered. You can get away with one faulty point but more than that will cause the piece to self destruct. Perfection is an illusion but it’s what we strive for. That’s what I’ve learned the guys like Hicdogg and Hendy.
I see your arm is in a cast, how many bones have you broken?
At least one a year for the past three years straight. I break broken bones skateboarding, snowboarding and paintballing. This time I broke my arm and had to have nine pins and two plates installed. I was horsing around with some friends and went down hard with two people on top of me.
I don’t think so. Ultimately, I never thought I’d make it this far in glass, doing heady pieces and stuff. I thought I would be stuck doing production like making hand pipes or whatever. At this point I just want to keep progressing as an artist, traveling and meeting great people. I want to see the industry keep progressing and I love traveling. It allows me to work with different people and keep build a network. It keeps the door open for cool projects and adventures.
What should people know about you aside from glass?
I think the biggest thing about me now is that I try to carry myself with as much love as possible within the community and with everyone around me. I try to remain humble and remember that everyone is going through their own progressions and journey in life. I want to be positive towards people so I like to give a lot of glass away and make people happy this way. If I can give more glass away than I sell then I’m doing what makes me happy!
That’s great Nathan. Thank you for taking time to meet us today. We are stoked to see new solos and collabs from you in 2018 and appreciate you sharing your talents in our community!
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