Buy a bong, support a Latino artisan through this stylish L.A. brand

I’ve had many bubbles over the years; tall ones, short ones, glass ones, plastic ones, fancy, handy, you name it. One of the more memorable is made of solid brass. Another is made from a bamboo stalk. I never knew – or was particularly interested – where they came from, and I certainly didn’t think about who made them.

That was until I spent a few hours watching glass artist Hector Gonzales use his breath and considerable skill to transform molten glass into a sturdy beaked bubble. Now, every time I see a medicinal plant in the wild, I can’t help but wonder where it came from and who made it.

And that’s what Susie Plascencia and Bobby Lady were hoping for when the duo (partners both personally and professionally) launched LA-based Mota Glass in November 2020. The name, Plascencia explains, has a dual meaning. First, the word “mota,” which means “dust grain” in Spanish, is also a slang word for weeds. It’s also an acronym that hints at the brand’s larger purpose. “It actually stands for Minority for Opportunity, Transparency and Accountability,” she said.

“MOTA Glass was created to solve two key problems in the cannabis industry,” she said. “The massive import of functional glasses from abroad reduces the value of domestic 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 the Latino-focused cannabis brand Humo and last year spearheaded efforts to organize September 30 National Latinas on Cannabis Day. Lady, 40, is a general contractor and US Air Force veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. They say they are motivated by misinformation they find in the current market.

“In many cases,” said Lady, “you will have importers who actually do nothing more than order finished products from abroad, apply decals domestically and then distribute them to stores.” customers or customers across the country. The worst culprits will stick their decals on the piece here and then say, ‘Oh, it’s made in the USA’

“That message is then delivered to the retailer,” he said. “Retailers are happy to say it because it increases their chances of making a sale. But the fact is that this piece is not made in the US, and it reduces the value of the Los Angeles glass blowers here. “

The Mota Glass business, says Plascencia, is also an opportunity to highlight a community — theirs (she is Mexican-American, Lady is the son of Honduran-American parents) — that has problems. vision in today’s cannabis industry. “Many times Latinos are the mainstay of this industry but don’t really bring that representation,” she said. “So with Mota Glass, we are putting Latinos first and showing that they are not just industry insiders but a mainstay – and deserving of recognition.”

Two goblet bubbles in the foreground with the beach and palm trees in the background.

LA-made 12-inch beaked balloons ($155 each) are white, fruity, and mint from Mota Glass. The brand, launched in November 2020, partners with a network of independent Latino glassmakers to produce a line of sleek, sturdy plumbing fixtures.

(Dear Mota)

The company sells straight tubes and beaked balloons primarily online (prices range from $85 for a mini beaked balloon to $230 for an 18-inch-tall version with red heart accents) . It currently works with a network of four independent, local Latino glass artists, one of whom is Gonzales.

During a visit to his Gardena studio, Gonzales, who hails from Peru, explained that, with Lady translating from Spanish, the glasswork was in his blood. “This is a family tradition,” said the 60-year-old. “I was born surrounded by glass. My parents had a glass factory. “Combining a lifelong familiarity with mechatronics (combining mechanics and electronics) studies meant that in about a year he was able to create exactly the specialized equipment he needed to Mota’s plumbing.

The result is a space, about the size of a studio apartment, filled with lathes, burners, ovens and blowers and what looks like miles of colored wire running in and out of all sorts of electrical circuits and moved to Fry’s Electronics warehouse. Gonzales says the setup he created allows him to produce about 30 Mota beaked balloons per day.

Watching him transform a cylinder of raw Schott borosilicate glass into a craft smoker is amazing from start to finish, but the most fascinating part is watching him gently poke the narrow base of the balloon into a cup-like flame. With a torch in hand, a paddle-shaped tool in the other, and a thin piece of plastic pipe clamped between his teeth, he deftly molded the hot cup into shape, filling it with his breath.

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

Green room

Green room

Episodes of the second season of The Times video series focusing on California’s cannabis commerce and culture drop every Wednesday at youtube.com/c/latimes.

You can check out the most recent episode of “The Green Room,” which featured glass artist Hector Gonzales making bubbles using MOTA glass, which can be viewed above.

“The long-term goal from a production and operations standpoint is to grow into a business that uses a lot of traditional glass blowers,” said Lady. “[One] providing them with a fair living wage that benefits them, gives them some of the standard expectations one would expect from any job that is their livelihood. And that’s something that we don’t really feel exist for, especially in this community. ”

Getting there – which Lady hopes is one to two years away – depends on ramping up production to meet the increased demand that comes with expanding beyond the direct-to-consumer business. original use of the brand to wholesale for brick-and-mortar stores. (Mota Glass is currently available in more than a dozen stores, including one owned by Green Thumb in Mundelein, I’ll., and a hairdresser called Taimado in Tokyo.)

When Mota, LA-based in-house glass creations become a reality – regardless of the timeframe – Lady says the size of the production facility will allow them to produce more than just Mota Glass bubbles but also private label products for other bubble brands that capitalize the word cache “made in the USA”.

This, given what drove the company’s founding in the first place, is ironic.

https://www.latimes.com/lifestyle/story/2022-06-15/mota-glass-latino-bong-makers-us-waterpipes Buy a bong, support a Latino artisan through this stylish L.A. brand

Russell Falcon

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