One of the very first artists who agreed to this wacky Mountain Grass idea was my dear friend Robyn Weatherley. Robyn and I first met in a mandatory Drawing class while completing our undergraduate degrees at the Alberta University of the Arts (back when it was still ACAD!). She was going to major in Photography or Design, and I was going to major in Painting or Jewelry.
We also took our first glassblowing class together the following semester, and thusly the best laid plans fell by the wayside. For the record, I’m awfully glad they did; while I have no doubt that Robyn would have accomplished no shortage of amazing things in virtually any material, her blown glass is some of the most unique we have in the gallery.
The thing I love most about this body of work is how it explores weight and optics. From a thick bottom emerges a delicate vessel; inside the bowls, little chunks of colour are trapped, spilling their hues around the edge, and beyond the vessel themselves. They’re quite exquisite when the light passes through them, their width permitting illuminating ripples that extend beyond the dimensions of the bowl’s edges. The way they look from the top is not how they look from the side.
In Robyn’s drinking vessels, this same dynamic allows for a glass that has weight to it, while still being thin and delicate for your lips to touch. Not extending the glass from the fat bottom of the vessels all the way to the lips also ensures the delicate texture of the powdered colour remains – giving places for your fingers to rest and play.
Robyn holds a BFA from Alberta University of the Arts and an MFA from Tyler School of Art; we are thrilled to have her work here at Mountain Grass!
2018 was a very different year than any previous I’ve ever had, full of transitions, new adventures, and beginnings. We started the year knowing it would be full of changes and new discoveries, but it’s nice to reflect on just how many and how far we’ve come. This is my chance to share some of my favorite things about this year, including places, people, and things!
10. Cannabis Legalization
This is probably a favorite for a lot of people, but in addition to being a positive for our business model of selling all kinds of glass together, it’s nice to not feel like a criminal! To go into a store and purchase cannabis is so civilized! You don’t need to know a guy, you don’t need to meet in some strange location, you don’t need speak in codes, it’s all legit! And our Kimberley location means we’ve got some of the first legally operating dispensaries (Tamarack and Earth’s Own Naturals) in the province – civilized!
9. Canadian Lumber Rolling Papers
Something that was really important to us starting out was to be able to carry – in as much as is possible – products that are made in Canada. It’s not too hard to find the glass artists, but finding Canadian-made products for the Smoke Shop proved a bit more challenging. I was super stoked to discover Canadian Lumbers, and even more stoked to discover they are awesome rolling papers!
8. Canadian Glass Artists
Here is where I could write a whole damned novel, but legitimately I have been overwhelmed by how warm, welcoming, and supportive glass artists have been to this wacky idea I had. Full disclosure, since I am also a glassblower many of the artists are people I know personally who are friends, but many were not; it’s been great getting to know everyone and seeing what amazing talent and creativity exists all over this massive land mass of ours.
7. Kimberley Fire Department/City Hall
I’m not sure if you watch the news, but we had some fire activity this summer around the neighborhood… I’d never been on any kind of evacuation alert before, and it was super scary and stressful, especially since we had just completed our move days prior, and just wanted to live our dreams!!! We were blown away by how hard the Kimberley Fire Department and City Hall worked throughout that whole period; we are across the street, and I cannot tell you how many evenings we would see lights on and people bustling around in offices, well into the wee hours of the morning. They’re also all super nice, friendly, and helpful people – and what’s not to like about that?
6. Lois Creek Trails
Okay, so admittedly Kimberley is legitimately full of trails and pathways, but Lois Creek Trails are the closest trailhead to our apartment, a whopping five minute walk. It’s absolutely magical – I don’t think we’ve ever taken then same route twice, and the terrain is full of surprises. I think my most favorite thing about it is how within just a few minutes walk I can be tucked away into the forest.
5. Beers (and food!) at the Shed
During the weeks where we were moving and getting settled, renovating our apartment and the gallery, we had a lot of late nights, often so late that we weren’t left with a ton of options if we needed a bite to eat and a beer. It didn’t really matter, because The Shed quickly became our go-to. Super nice staff, great food, a BC beer menu, and we can go in looking like we’ve just committed any variety of renovation disaster, and be treated like gold.
4. Coffees and Breakfasts
We moved to Kimberley from Calgary, where there is a chain coffee shop or a breakfast place on darned near every corner. We’ve been thrilled to discover that Kimberley is chock full of places that are just as good, if not better! Paper and Cup, Bean Tree, Kimberley City Bakery, Our Place, weekend breakfasts at the Sullivan Pub… and the list goes on!
3. Actually, shopping and restaurants as good as any large city
One of the things that made Kimberley so appealing as a place for Mountain Grass was that the city is full of great, unique shopping and dining experiences. Certainly a trip to the Platzl will provide you a great overview of much of what Kimberley has to offer, but there are shops and restaurants peppered all over the city, in hidden locations you wouldn’t imagine. Kombuchas and cheeses from Creme Cheese Shop, awesome unique gifts at KnickerKnacker, amazing things for your fuzzy loved ones at Kimberley Kritters, beautiful flowers and gifts at Flowers Galore – again, the list goes on! If you’ve never been to Kimberley before by all means start at the Platzl, but make sure you keep walking – there are no shortage of great places to stop in next time you’re in town.
2. Being able to do something that really hasn’t been done before, and people getting it
Much of what Mountain Grass is about is changing the stigma around cannabis, and the things we use to consume it. First and foremost we are a Glass Gallery, so glass is the star of the show, whether it’s the glass you smoke out of, the glass you drink out of, or the glass you put your flowers in. Second of all we are a Smoke Shop, but we aren’t a typical one of those either – it was important to me that the products we bring into the store are good quality, and I spend a lot of time researching brands and products to ensure things are a good fit. I think my favorite thing overall though is when someone comes into the gallery and they immediately get what we are doing – they understand that cannabis consumption isn’t something to be ashamed of, and you should be able to consume your cannabis out of something exquisite and beautiful, the same way you would with your champagne or fine whisky.
1. Kimberley, BC
There is no thing that would be more favorite this year than our relocation to our new hometown of Kimberley, BC. At least once a week we reflect on all the variables that had to come to play for us to be able to move here and just how lucky we have been. It’s so nice to live and work in a place that is so beautiful, friendly, and full of such amazing people. Its like no other ‘retail’ experience I’ve ever had – people here are wonderful to talk to, and so supportive of our new local businesses. We are so grateful for all the kindness we’ve received so far, and we are so looking forward to what 2019 will bring!
“What if it was a glass gallery?”
“Just a glass gallery?”
“Well what if we had all kinds of glass, beautiful handmade glass, but glass people can use, things with purpose so they’ll actually use them – like bowls and vases and bongs and pipes, and we could have a small headshop too? But not like a creepy headshop, like the kind of place where you could come in and buy a vase and not be bothered that we sold pipes, and the kind of place where if you were coming in to buy a pipe, it wouldn’t be like any other place you’d bought a pipe before? And we could have a bit of other smoking accessories, because somebody always needs rolling papers.”
Standing in the middle of the dark, cavernous room on the second floor of 349 Spokane in Kimberley, BC, this seemed to be the weirdest idea yet. This gloomy space was, at one point, part of a bistro downstairs. There was still remnants of this life – a waiter’s stand, booth seating, tables scattered about – but it no longer served that purpose. It was a beautiful room, flanked by giant windows at either ends – you could tell it had potential, but that potential was hidden under dark walls and yellow ceilings.
It was hard to visualize at first. Despite the windows and an exit, it was also still open to the restaurant below, a giant open stairwell echoing the sounds from below. It really only served to add to the cavernous feel. Also, we weren’t even sure if sealing it off was possible. We weren’t really sure if ANY part of this idea was possible, even the very notion of this gallery itself.
I talked to a number of glass artists when concocting the idea – no one had heard of such a place anywhere else. There were glass galleries, and places that sold high end handmade bongs and rigs, but nowhere seemed to have the things for smoking mixed in with the things for not smoking. And then I had one conversation, with one glass artist whose opinion I highly respect; she listened intently, and when I was done giving her my elevator pitch she just nodded slowly, and said “Please, please do this.”
And that may have been the last push we needed.
As it turned out, because 349 Spokane is in Kimberley, and because Kimberley, BC might be one of the few places where crazy ideas are encouraged, the answer to most questions around ‘could we’ were yes. As long as things were done properly and to building code, it seemed like most people didn’t care what we did with this space. The fact we were a second floor retail location in a town of predominantly ground floor businesses? Not an issue. The fact people would have to enter from a stairwell off the side of the building? That’s fine, just a few repairs to get it to code. The fact we wanted to sell all different kinds of glass? No problem.
And thus Mountain Grass was born.
Nothing can grow from infancy without some sort of support, and we lucked out and found some of the best available! Our graphic designer, Tony Nguyen, was a godsend – from our logo and signage designs to doing hundreds of mock-ups and renders (that’s not really an exaggeration either!), honestly, I cannot say enough good things about him. I must also give accolades to Free Time Manufacturing – we would literally still be standing in our garage in Calgary without this one; you may think you don’t need support to organize yourself, but after using her I’m not sure I could go back – if you are in Calgary you MUST check her out! We found an amazing local contractor (Sheldon Ferguson, of Wood and Anvil in Kimberley), who helped us come up with the best ways of moving forward, and helped us find additional amazing people (J&J Painting & Finishing, and I cannot recommend them enough!). With the help of all these people, the dark walls became light, a stairwell became a counter, an exit became an entrance, an entire store map was taped on the floors and walls. Restaurant furniture moved out, and gallery furniture moved in. A bright orange building became a yellow one. Signs went up, and what once was empty filled with glass, beautiful handmade glass from all over Canada.
Ultimately, our goal was to create something unlike any other space that existed. And through what seemed like a million delays, and despite all the nights where it seemed like it would never happen, we finally have created a space that is as unique as the work inside it.
What has been interesting to learn since we have opened is that this space’s previous life is clearly remembered by people. More than one customer has come in and looked around and told us where they used to sit when it was a bistro and they would come in for dinner. More than one remembers where their favorite table was, and how much they enjoyed it when it was a restaurant.
We have also found that more than one customer has seen what we saw too – they see the potential for a space like this, and when they walk in they understand what we are trying to do. They also understand, as we do, that very unique ideas require very unique spaces – and here is where we feel we have succeeded the most; from our beautiful Kimberley location to the ever changing landscape inside the store, altered by the dynamics of the glass that enters, we have accomplished our goal of creating a space as unique as our idea.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a super clear definition, but historically functional glass is that which can be smoked out of – bongs, bubblers, pipes, rigs.
It’s a bit of a strange definition though, no? Especially when, if you consider an average day of your life, you probably come across glass everywhere – your windows, your eyeglasses, the things you drink out of, or store things in. Are those things not a function as well?
That’s why, here at Mountain Grass, we’ve decided that definition is just too limiting, so we aren’t going to use it. As far as we are concerned, functional glass is any which has a use – a vase to hold your flowers, a candle holder to light up your room, a bowl for your fruit, a tumbler for drinking, or yes, a pipe for smoking.
So now that we have that out of way, where does all this glass come from?
This is another way we are doing things differently – all the functional glass we carry here at Mountain Grass is handmade, right here in Canada. When you make a purchase at Mountain Grass, you are helping Canadian makers and artists to keep making! You are helping moms and dads to feed their kids, emerging artists to continue being inspired to make, and designers to keep imagining and fabricating amazing glass creations.
You need all this stuff anyways, why not get it made with care and attention from a talented Canadian?
Come and see what we’ve got in store – our inventory is ever changing and evolving, and we are always seeking new amazing glass art and artists to bring in!