Point #60: Award Winner for Technical Innovation – Jason Pfohl – Gorilla Glass

By Jimmy Buddha

JIMMY: How did you ever come up with an original idea like o-ring grooves on the back of a single flare plug?
JASON: Most of my best ideas come from my customers. Piercers have been asking for this particular design for quite some time; I just had to get off my ass and start making them!

JIMMY: When you change designs from a functional or technical standpoint, is this usually based on feedback you get from piercers and customers?
JASON: Dude, I already answered that question. Pay attention.

JIMMY: How does your personal experience in body modification influence your work?
JASON: I had my flats punched by Zak Zito at 10mm and healed them with glass in under a month. That helped me to better understand the healing process and also in designing jewelry for conches, flats, and septums. Lobes are so much more flexible than cartilage, and the flares and wearing lengths are completely different.

JIMMY: Do you think there is much more room for “technical innovation” when it comes to jewelry, or are things tapped out? Where do we go from here?
JASON: I think there will always be room for technical innovation. Major breakthroughs such as internally threaded jewelry and surface anchors are landmark events in the modern piercing industry, but there are more subtle technical innovations in jewelry design happening all the time. Check out Morton Manley’s hoop variations, or Quetzalli’s soulful experiments. The jewelry companies and designers are more sophisticated now than at any time in our history.

JIMMY: Now that you are over 40, really old in other words, maybe you could take a minute to reflect…do you feel you have gained some wisdom and insight into why we are all in this industry?
JASON: I can’t speak for you, but I love making jewelry and working with glass…plus there are some great perks like getting to travel all over the world and hang out with my awesome friends.

JIMMY: Since you are in Oaxaca, Mexico full time, do you find it difficult to stay up to date and in touch with how the piercing scene changes and progresses? What do you do to stay current and relevant?
JASON: Luckily for the rest of the planet, Texas has never been the center of the universe. Plus the Internet has really transformed the piercing scene and created an amazing international on-line community that continues to grow. You should check it out! When I design jewelry I don’t follow existing trends, but make technical experiments with glass production techniques.

JIMMY: What other challenges do being set up in Mexico pose for you when it comes to manufacturing your jewelry?
JASON: My main challenges are importing raw materials and exporting finished goods.

JIMMY: I was lucky enough to have visited your new glass facility in Oaxaca recently and was very impressed. Will this allow Gorilla Glass to expand?
JASON: Gorilla Glass has been growing steadily every year since we started in 2002. We won’t slow down as long as there is more and more demand for our jewelry. Owning my own land and production studio is incredible. Thanks to all my customers for helping make that dream real! My newest project is a downtown art gallery to promote glass art in Mexico.

JIMMY: Should we expect to see a lot of new and exciting things from you?
JASON: Stop asking dumb questions.

JIMMY: You have put together an amazing team of workers in Mexico in your office and manufacturing. What are some of the challenges you face managing such a diverse group of individuals?
JASON: The diversity of people working with me has never presented a problem. Generally I try to find what an individual is good at and enjoys doing, and then give them responsibilities that match their strengths and background.

JIMMY: How did you get into glass?
JASON: In 1992 I was living in my van in California and made friends with a group of stoner surfer kids who introduced me to my first glass bong. That inspired me to enroll in a glass-blowing class at Santa Barbara City College. I was attracted to the heat and physicality of working with the material. Later on I met Dale Chihuly and he invited me to study at his famous glass school, Pilchuck. I ended up getting a job there and that’s when things got interesting.

JIMMY: Did you ever imagine that you would be making body jewelry in Mexico?
JASON: Gorilla Glass was born in Mexico City. I don’t think I imagined it. I focus on doing things.

JIMMY: As Gorilla Glass faces more competition from “cheap foreign-made glass,” specifically Indian and Chinese, what is your game plan to stay competitive?
JASON: There has been “cheap foreign-made glass” on the market for at least five years and I have never seen them as competition. My customer base is the best-of-the-best piercing shops that are proud to carry brand name jewelry. Plus we are constantly innovating with new designs and custom work, so we always have something fresh and different for our customers.

JIMMY: How does your company and its products differ from the “cheap foreign made” glass?
JASON: We are a quality company that has been around for ten years; we are passionate about what we do and we take care of our customers.

JIMMY: Knowing that I blazed the glass body jewelry trail in the mid 90s for you with Jimmy Buddha’s Glassware, do you think you would have been as successful as you have been with your jewelry had I not been there to open the door up for you, so to speak?
JASON: I never heard of Jimmy Buddha’s Glassware before…it must not have been very successful. That’s understandable; glass is a difficult material to work with and takes a lot of patience and skill. I’m glad you had better luck with organics, Jimmy!

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| Placed by Dann Berg