With dreadlocks flowing to her knees, Julie Riggs fires up her torch, takes a bong hit and sets out to create her amazingly fanciful pieces of art. Her work consists of sculptures, jewelry and sculptural pipes featuring sexy figures, fairies, angels, exotic flowers, trees, psychedelic mushrooms, skulls, creatures and, of course, her well known and incredibly lifelike eyeballs.
She says her childhood was immersed in art of one form or another. But upon discovering the world of glass 13 years ago, Julie became obsessed. She approached local shops in her hometown of Virginia Beach, VA to seek out training, but she wasn’t taken seriously. “Girls don't usually blow glass because they’re afraid of burning themselves,” head shop owners scoffed.
But artistic drive — coupled with her lifelong love of cannabis — enabled her to overcome obstacles. She set up a small metal shed, got some books, tools, a crappy video and taught herself for the first year. Her urge to learn motivated her to seek out top glass schools, classes, projects and competitions. She even trekked to Lauscha, Germany to learn their original techniques for creating prosthetic glass eyeballs.
Julie credits a wonderfully supportive family, amazing teachers and the "glass family" for helping her become one of the top female artists in the industry today. She now lives and works with her family deep in the majestic mountains of beautiful Oregon. Check out her work below!
Cirque du Soleil
This piece was a collaboration for the International Hot Glass Invitational where many of the top glass artists came together in teams to Las Vegas to compete. Team Scientific Splash consisted of three scientific glass workers and Julie. Julies 'Cirque du Soleil theme ideas -- contorting figures and mermaids -- meshed with the scientific blowers' technical skills and made this piece come to life quite literally. The six circles with free moving figures inside are hooked up to a motor and move in opposite directions.
This is one of Julie's more eclectic pieces entitled "The Birth of Imagination" Or as Julies daughter Lilith calls it: "The Dr. Seuss piece."
Dancing with a Butterfly
Measuring over 14 inches tall, this is an example of Julie's solid sculpture work.
Julie makes custom wedding bouquets featuring glass flowers with Swarovski crystal accents, glass swirls, and feathers. The best thing about these bouquets is that they're "smokeable flowers." That's right! Several of the beautiful flowers also double as pipes for enjoyment before, after, or even during the ceremony!
The Eyes Have It!
Glass eyes were originally developed in Lauscha, Germany in 1832. Julie traveled to Lauscha for the sole purpose of learning from a fourth-generation master prosthetic eyeball maker. She used the techniques she learned and translated them from the soft Lauscha glass into borosilicate glass. After many years of practice she began putting them on pipes, slides, domes, pendants, rings, and jars. She uses many different designs, colors and expressions to make the eyes "come to life." She even feature the different colored "whites" of the eyes that change colors with use. Julie's eyes are well known as the most realistic and sought after eyeballs in the pipe world today.
Whoopzip is a glassblowing clothing company that features the top artists in the industry. Julie (JULZ) was the very first female glass artist to be represented in the Whoopzip clothing line. The main design is a Giger-style self portrait infused with Julie's glass skulls, mushrooms, flowers, and an eyeball (limited edition). The front of the shirts either portray Julie as a "tree of life goddess" or the dancing fairy.