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Buy a bong, support a Latino artisan through this stylish LA brand

I’ve had plenty of bongs over the years; tall, short, glass, plastic, novelty, utility, etc. One of the most memorable was solid brass. Another was made from a single stalk of bamboo. I never knew – or particularly considered – where they came from, and I certainly didn’t think about who made them.

That was until I spent a few hours watching artisan glassmaker Hector Gonzales use his breath and considerable skill to shape molten glass into a sturdy beaker. Now, whenever I see a water pipe in the wild, I can’t help but wonder where it came from and who made it.

And that’s pretty much what Susie Plascencia and Bobby Lady were hoping for when the duo (partners both personally and professionally) launched Los Angeles-based Mota Glass in November 2020. The name, Plascencia explained, has a double meaning. First, the word “mota”, which means “grain of dust” in Spanish, is also a slang term for grass. Here, it’s also an acronym that alludes to the brand’s broader purpose. “It actually means minorities for opportunity, transparency and accountability,” she said.

“MOTA Glass was created to solve two major problems in the cannabis industry,” she said. “This massive import of functional glass from abroad which devalues ​​local production, [and] the continued marginalization of an overworked and underpaid minority workforce.

Plascencia, 32, is a cannabis entrepreneur, activist and advocate who recently helped launch Latino-focused cannabis label Humo, and last year led efforts to make September 30 is National Latinas Cannabis Day. Lady, 40, is a general contractor and Air Force veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. They said they were motivated by misrepresentations they found in the current market.

“In many cases,” Lady said, “you’ll have importers who do nothing more than order finished parts overseas, decal them locally, and then distribute them to stores or customers across the country. worst culprits will put their decals on the piece here and then say, “Oh, it’s made in the USA”

“That message is then passed on to the retailer,” he said. “The retailer happily echoes this because it increases the possibility of a sale for them. But the reality is that the part is not made here in the United States, and that undercuts the value of the glassblowers who are here in LA.

The Mota Glass venture is also an opportunity, Plascencia said, to highlight a community — their community (she is Mexican American, Lady is the son of Honduran American parents) — that has a visibility issue in the glass industry. cannabis today. “Often Latinos are the backbone of this industry but aren’t really represented,” she said. “So with Mota Glass, we’re putting Latinos front and center and showing not only that they’ve been in the industry, but that they’re the backbone of it – and deserve this recognition.”

Two glass bongs in the foreground with the beach and palm trees in the background.

LA-made 12-inch beaker bongs ($155 each) in white, left, and mint from Mota Glass. The brand, launched in November 2020, works with a network of independent Latin glass artisans to produce its range of elegant and robust water pipes.

(Mota glass)

The company sells its assortment of straight tubes and beaker bongs primarily online (prices range from $85 for a mini bong to $230 for an 18-inch tall version with red heart accents). He currently works with a network of four local, independent Latino glass artisans, including Gonzales.

During a visit to his Gardena workshop, Gonzales, originally from Peru, explained, with Lady translating from Spanish, that working with glass is in his blood. “It’s a family tradition,” said the 60-year-old. “I was born surrounded by glass. My parents had a glass factory. Combining this lifelong familiarity with studies in mechatronics (a combination of mechanics and electronics), he was able to create, in about a year, exactly the specialized equipment he needed to manufacture Mota’s water pipes.

The result is a space, roughly the size of a studio, filled with towers, burners, ovens and torches and what appears to be miles of colored wires running in and out of enough circuitry and switches to store a Fry’s Electronics. Gonzales said the setup he created allows him to produce around 30 Mota beaker bongs per day.

Watching him transform a crude cylinder of Schott borosilicate glass into a handcrafted smoking instrument is a thing of beauty from start to finish, but the most fascinating part is watching him gently tease the narrow base of the bong into a rocket-like rocket. cup. With a torch in one hand, a paddle-like tool in the other, and a thin piece of plastic tubing gripped between his teeth, he deftly shapes the hot glass as he fills it with his breath.

In some ways, the 18-month-old Mota Glass, which Lady says has sold “a few thousand” pieces since its launch, isn’t too different from one of the molten glass globes in the hands safety gloves from Gonzales; it is a work in progress that is still taking shape as the breath of purpose fills it.

The green room

The green room

Episodes of the second season of The Times video series about California’s cannabis trade and cultivation drop every other Wednesday at youtube.com/c/latimes.

The most recent episode of “The Green Room,” which features glass craftsman Hector Gonzales crafting a MOTA glass bong, can be viewed above.

“The long-term goal from a manufacturing and operations perspective is to become a company that employs a number of glassblowers in the traditional way,” Lady said. “[One] that provides them with fair living wages, that gives them benefits, that gives them some of the standard expectations that one would expect from any job that is their livelihood. And that’s something that we don’t really feel exists, especially within this community.

Getting there – which Lady hopes in one to two years – depends on ramping up production to handle the increased demand that comes with expanding beyond the brand’s initial direct-to-consumer business into retail. wholesale to brick and mortar stores. (Mota Glass pieces are currently in a dozen stores, including a Green Thumb-owned dispensary in Mundelein, Illinois, and a headshop called Taimado in Tokyo.)

When Mota’s Los Angeles-based in-house glassworks become a reality – whatever the time frame – Lady said the scale of the production facility will allow them to manufacture not only Mota Glass bongs, but pieces as well. private label for other bong brands looking to capitalize on the “made in the USA” cachet.

Which, considering what spurred the creation of the company in the first place, is a delightful irony.


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Post expires at 2:01pm on Monday June 27th, 2022