We talked to glassblower Level Up Glass about his career and his amazing sculptural works. Level Up Glass first started blowing glass in 2015 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and he stumbled into the craft by chance. At the time Level Up Glass was a glass collector and he had acquired some notable pieces over the years from artists like Bubbles the Butcher and Stabby Joe. Level Up Glass made a personal connection with Stabby Joe and after a while Stabby Joe offered to teach him the fundamentals of glassblowing. Level Up Glass was hesitant to try his hand at blowing glass because he didn't feel that he had any artistic ability, but he took to glassblowing quickly under Stabby Joe's mentorship and Level Up Glass was soon selling his own pieces.
Stabby Joe is known for his sculptural works, and the skills that he taught to Level Up Glass largely focused on the fundamentals of sculptural technique. To this day Level Up Glass has a strong preference for sculptural styles but he is also always challenging himself to try new techniques and approaches. In the early days when he would learn a new technique he would say that he had "leveled up" as a glassblower, so it was natural for him to choose that name when he began to make waves with his own work. The techniques that Level Up Glass learned from Stabby Joe were crucial to his rapid development as an artist, but one of the most important ways that Stabby Joe helped Level Up Glass was by introducing him to other key players in the local glass community and the glass industry as a whole. As Level Up often says, "my teacher was Stabby Joe, but my mentor was the community."
Level Up Glass is always keeping an eye on what is happening in the glassblowing community, and he constantly pushes himself to learn new techniques by observing the works of other artists. He is still a relatively new contender in the glass industry, but his skills are expanding exponentially with every year of experience under his belt. To push his skills even further, Level Up Glass has taken some high-profile classes from renowned artists like Milon Townsend and Lewis C. Wilson. Level Up Glass continues to focus almost exclusively on sculptural techniques and continues to refine his abilities to create more complex forms.
The subject matter of Level Up Glass' pieces reflects his personal interests, being a bit of a self-described 'nerd'. He has made a name for himself with his "Dragon Ball Z" inspired pieces, especially sculptural representations of the dragon Shenron. Level Up Glass utilizes a freehand sculptural technique that does not rely on the use of machinery like glass lathes, and this is a challenging but rewarding method for sculpting glass art. The form of a piece can often be the most challenging aspect, and one of the more difficult pieces that Level Up Glass has made was a 'Banana Man Rig' with a complicated shape that proved to be quite a challenging project.
Like many others, Level Up Glass faced some personal struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. He was laid off from his day job and had to move his glass studio to save money on rent. Thankfully a friend offered up some unused shed space where Level Up Glass was able to begin rebuilding his glass studio from the ground up. He struggled to acquire necessary resources like liquid oxygen, a resource that has become scarce due to its importance in treating COVID-19 patients in the ICU. Level Up Glass was finally able to acquire a tank of liquid oxygen just a few weeks ago, and so he can begin creating larger pieces that require more heat than what can be provided by propane mixtures alone. In the future Level Up Glass intends to pursue larger, more elaborate creations with more complex sculptural forms. You can check out more of Level Up Glass' work over at the Level Up Glass Instagram page.