Micah Blatt, owner of Mr. Head's Art Gallery and Bar, has called Tucson home since 1996. Blatt began glass blowing when he was 18 years old. Self-taught, he wanted to open his own smoke shop with functional glass he would create himself, so he headed to the library to find books to study up on the unique art form.
Blatt admits his first two years were rough—he regularly gave himself cuts and burns which he mostly self-treated. He worked through these issues while creating a studio out of a carpeted spare bedroom he covered in plywood and sheet metal. Blatt invested about $3,000 into an art he felt was his calling.
Since then, Blatt has evolved to owning a torch which costs as much as his initial investment.
Though he said he is still constantly learning how to improve the design of his functional glass, Blatt has clearly become a master with the materials. His solo and collaborative works are beautiful, sometimes color changing and glow-in-the-dark masterpieces borne of his passionate hard work.
"It's kind of my zen," Blatt said. "I go in there and disconnect from the world, have a little fun and play with some fire."
The catchy and successful title of Fathead glass came first, and when Blatt decided to open a bar, he connected the the two names. He also knew he wanted to incorporate art, both his own and others' from the Tucson community.
The art in the bar changes out one to two months and the full proceeds go to the artist. The current artist is an employee of the bar and his work beautifully compliments Blatt's glass.
Blatt also makes recognizable glass pendants. The basic ones begin at $50 and ones with designs can go up to $200-$300.
"I spend three to four hours on those," Blatt said. "I used to draw cartoons but I never really expected to be making images like this. ... Glass blowing's one of those things—like playing music—you can't do it once a week and have to be consistent because it's a lot of fine tuning."
Blatt also has a music background, having played bass in different bands before taking on the busy life of a bar owner.
His glass blowing is still second to his business, but it has inspired charity events like the Desert Fire Charity Drive, which began this year.
This drive raised $7,200 for local food banks and will have its second annual event in February. This Mr. Head's-hosted "collaboration and celebration of the Tucson glass scene" gives 100 percent of its proceeds to charities and encourages art collaboration and programming in the Tucson community.
Proposition 205—a marijuana legalization effort—has the potential of impacting many functional glassblowers. However, Blatt said he and other artists would not be impacted as much as the individual smoke shops. If Proposition 205 is passed, the smoke shops will have to hand over the sale of accessories solely to a fixed number of marijuana dispensaries in Arizona.
"There is some language in the proposition which regulates where functional glass could be sold, which would narrow it down to these 53, 58 dispensaries that will be allowed in Arizona." Blatt said. "It's just a kick in the pants to some people."
Though he has grown from being a simple "piper" to making pieces which have sold for up to $10,000, Blatt continues to be encouraged by and work on projects which are bigger than himself, like mixed media arts. He said that art such as panel paintings with cutouts for glass installation can help make pieces come alive in new ways.
Blatt admires great names like Banjo Glass, who have boldly created functional glass and helped normalize the craft.
When Blatt began, glass blowing pipes and pieces was seen as an evil industry perverting something beautiful. Now, there is an explosion of companies who provide the materials and tools, and he and other artists are hopeful this specific economy will continue to grow and evolve.
"I kind of feel like The Beatles, you know," Blatt said. "Rock 'n' Roll is just starting—it's like the beginning of this whole new age. It's fun to see glass be more accepted as an art form, to see these people who started off in their houses now leading the industry in art and techniques."
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