You walk into a headshop riddled with incense sticks, papers, and pipes of all sorts everywhere. You talk to the clerk who can barely put a sentence together, but manages to pass you the pipe you were looking at and liked. You pay them, and you walk out happy about the new item you just bought, even though you weren’t really educated on the artist or techniques involved. For a long time, this was the standard route to take if you wanted to buy a pipe. There was nowhere you went and learned about what you were buying before or after you visited the shop, however that has drastically changed.
As far back as 2005/2006 we see Glass Art related forums popping up, places like www.tokecity.com are giving like-minded people a place to virtually gather and discuss issues and topics in the industry. The use of forums such as Tokecity was quintessential to anyone trying to educate themselves on anything and everything Functional Glass Art related. There were moderators keeping things civil, artists educating collectors, discussions by all parties involved, and a great atmosphere for encouraging collectors to pursue their passion for Glass Art. For a while, forums were the only way to learn about the headpieces of the glass world.
Fast forward to the current platforms with Facebook entering the scene and Instagram close behind. At first, it’s nice to not have to go to the forums and I can just do my glass related stuff while I do my regular social media. Groups, pages, accounts; anything and everything glass related is popping up, and they all want to tell you something or sell you something. The flow of information is only speeding up, but of what quality is all of this information? No one is moderating with any sense of direction or knowledge, there are no governing bodies, and it’s the wild wild west of information. Someone that is simply popular on Facebook or Instagram has influence and power over those collectors admiring them, and in turn the spread of misinformation continues, as those original collectors are new to the industry themselves. It is a classic case of the blind leading the blind.
Facebook and Instagram present a whole new problem, qualifications are determined by how many followers / likes you get rather than your peers choosing you as a moderator for a number of reasons. This puts uneducated people in positions of influence, which only further spread misinformation / low quality information. Our industry seems to differ from other facets of the art industry as the position of influence is given to collectors with large amounts of disposable income, rather than those who are in the industry as their livelihood, such as dealers and galleries.
If you are going to buy a Lamborghini, do you talk to another Lamborghini owner or the car dealer who has spent 20 years learning about and putting people in their dream Lamborghini? If you are reading this blog, I hope you are mature enough to realize that the latter option is the wiser one.
Ultimately though, what is the price we pay for having the blind leading the blind? A big one unfortunately, buyers who have no idea how to properly assess and judge what the price of a piece should be worth based on the craftsmanship involved. They are totally willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a piece of glass, as long as that one guy they idolize on Instagram is willing to, because in their eyes he is the ultimate Glass Aficionado and it’s a smart investment if he’s willing to make it.
This poses a HUGE risk to the future of Functional Glass Art as it creates a whole community of collectors who are only purchasing a tiny group of artists work without even seeing all the work outside of their small spectrum. Essentially, large sets of collectors are having blinders put on them. This segregates and hurts the future of the rest of the glass artists in the industry, potentially keeping them from staying glass artists and coming up with the next best thing. The blinders need to come off and the light needs to be shined on other artists, to ensure our long-term survival and progression as an industry.
So go on, buy that piece from that unknown artist you’ve had your eye on, it’ll help him and you ultimately.