“I had my bank accounts seized, and everything was dead in the water as I was under house arrest,” Jerome Baker Designs founder, Jason Harris, recalls. The DEA’s Operation Pipe Dreams led to his indictment and ended Jerome Baker Designs, his multimillion dollar ‘functional glass’ empire.
While Pipe Dreams target Tommy Chong served jail time due to a paraphernalia-distributing operation, Mr. Harris was sentenced to house arrest. The federal government seized all assets belonging to Jerome Baker Designs in 2003. Mr. Harris, founder and original artist for Jerome Baker Designs, would have to start from scratch.
“I was hired at the University of Oregon to build a glass blowing program and I did that with my ankle bracelet on during my probation,” he tells THCist.
The celebrated glass blower ultimately moved in 2006 from the mystic lush Oregon rainforest, where he had trained under legendary functional glass artist Bob Snodgrass, to the sunny island climes on Maui to make glass art for tourists. He set up a studio there and from 2006-2007 sold functional glass only “very lightly” to friends. His focus was on non-functional glass art.
With Maui Glass Blowing, Mr. Baker to this day does custom glasswork for homes. “I’ve done building entranceways, lighting, and all sorts of installations. For me it’s all apart of the glass game.” Much of Mr. Harris’ non-functional work is inspired by coastal and native themes.
In between riding waves and blowing glass, Mr. Harris, who is also formally trained by seventh generation glassblower Hans Ittig from Germany, tried to learn a thing or two about the Hawaiian culture.
“I do a lot of heavier things here like bringing in aspects of native culture,” Mr. Harris said. “We went to the University of Hawaii a number of times to study the culture. We brought in art students and glassblowing students and make a piece that might be from the hula culture. I enjoy going out and learning about the culture I am living in, and making art with a story. I figure, I live in Hawaii, and can tell some of these Hawaii stories.”
Mr. Harris had all but retired from making water pipes. Then, around 2011, as Colorado prepared to regulate recreational marijuana, a second life was born into his functional glass talents.
“Society’s perspective started to evolve in 2011 and 2012,” Mr. Harris says. “And so I once again dabbled in the functional glass movement.” Today, Mr. Harris has quietly positioned Jerome Baker Designs to pick up where it left off.
“The past couple years, as the functional glass aspect of my career has grown again, I’ve worn two hats with functional and nonfunctional glass,” Mr. Harris said, referring to JBD and Maui Glass Blowing, respectively.
For now, the Jerome Baker market is “singing again,” according to the glass artist. JBD just partnered with Nastee Glass to produce a cookie-sized nug jug for Snoop Dogg, as covered by MERRYJANE.
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“This thing is the most badass jar ever,” Mr. Harris said, who is sure to mention he and his lawyers ensure he does everything by the book.
With a newer brand, Tipper’s, Mr. Harris is producing glass tips for joints. Jerome Baker Designs brand is also now producing non-functional china glass jewelry chains, as well as a recent line of limited edition JBD vape pens.
“Jerome Baker gives me the platform to create serious crazy cool one of a kind glass artwork,” Mr. Harris says. “One of the pieces on my website is an $18,000 dual torch two tube water bong – just craziness.” Mr. Harris’ ultimate day is just sitting around making glass art.
“My element,” he calls it. “My meditation is blowing glass. My outlook is if you’re not doing what you love, you’re screwed. You don’t want to do that. My waking moments are trying to keep ‘living the dream,’ as they say. Being out in Maui and making glass art, that is the dream for me. I just surround myself with glass.”
Images via Jerome Baker Designs, Maui Glass Blowing