Several months ago, when searching for world's best glass brands, we stumbled upon a true hidden gem.Abraxian is the name behind a group of talented glassblowers from southern England, who filled the gap in glass manufacturing by offering luxury pieces wrapped in a display worthy package. When seeing their gorgeous water pipes we had to reach out to them, and they were just as passionate as we imagined them to be. This inspired us to set up an interview with Liam, Abraxian founder, who was more than happy to give us more insights about their beginnings, growth and future plans. Read along if you want to find out how a small team of enthusiasts managed to create some of the most beautiful pieces we’ve ever seen.
What does Abraxian stand for?
Abraxian stands for Quality. Yes, this sounds rather cliché. Every company like's to say that they stand for Quality and integrity etc. But we really mean it when we say it. It's not just the quality of our products that is important to us, its the whole experience of shopping with us. We have put a lot of effort into the little things that make the big difference.
Presentation and customer care are hugely important to us. When you buy an Abraxian piece you are buying more than just a piece of glass. Your glass piece will arrive beautifully packaged in a robust foam lined storage box, including a full range of complementary accessories. You are also automatically enrolled in our "Legacy promise". This means that we will replace any of your glass accessories completely free of charge if they get damaged or broken (including shipping costs).
We have always said that the three pillar stones of Abraxian are Design, Function and Customer satisfaction. This is what matters to us. We love what we do and we know that it's the customers that make a company great.
When did you guys start? Where are you located?
Abraxian Glassware was officially founded in 2016 with the dream of creating a range of beautiful hand-crafted glass pieces that would stand out as something truly special. In order to do this, we had to find and build the best team possible. We quickly began the search for a team of glassblowers who shared our enthusiasm. After searching the country, we eventually found a group who clearly shared a mutual passion for the ethos of the company: quality and functionality. The team had years of combined experience in scientific glassblowing giving them an excellent understanding of the intricacies of borosilicate glass.
After several months of designs, prototypes and long nights we finished our first piece; The Meraki. Thanks to the elegant design and hard work of our artisans the Meraki caught the attention of our peers who all wanted their own. Abraxian was born. Gaining momentum with the success of our first product, we soon found our feet and began the inception of our second design, The Elysian. With its sleek lines and robust feel, it soon became a favorite amongst our customers.
At Abraxian we pride ourselves on usability and creating the highest quality products. As a result, we thought it vital to maximize the experience of our products by including every Abraxian piece with the Borosilicate Heat-Wand. This allows the user to activate their glassware with ease whilst avoiding the pollutants of a conventional wick or lighter. With each success, we’ve stepped closer to launching our passion into the mainstream market. Abraxian is here now, and we have so much more to come. Our main headquarters is a few miles outside of Brighton on the south coast of England.
When have you decided to start designing glassware? What was the moment when you realized that?
It was in late 2014, after ordering and receiving my latest glass purchase from a local headshop, a piece that had set me back several hundred pounds. I remember looking at the plain brown box filled with cheap polystyrene peanuts which contained the glass that somebody had attempted to wrap in bubble wrap. I only say "attempted" as more than half the glass was in fact not even covered. Iremember thinking to myself, this product just cost me the equivalent of a good quality watch or a nice new pair of shoes... How can these glass companies possibly take pride in their products when they make a beautiful piece of glass and then simply throw it in any old box that they had to hand?
I started thinking, through my own personal experience. The industry as a whole didn't seem to have much of a "luxury" aspect to it, yes some glass companies have tried to make the presentation of their products better but I still felt it could be done better.
I already had some good connections in the glass blowing industry and decided to give them a call and have a talk about the idea. They loved it. After many months of design, prototypes, testing we finally had the design for our first piece the Meraki. Abraxian was born.
The Abraxian Meraki (pictured left) and the Abraxian Elysian (pictured right)
What does your current product lineup look like?
Our current lineup is somewhat of a tip of the cap to the old school styles of glass where bongs were based on the shapes of glass you might find in a laboratory or scientific setting. We loved the conical shapes and the straight shooter designs so decided this would be a good place to start. We are still working hard and in early 2019 we are extremely excited to show the world our two latest additions to the Abraxian range, the "Nepenthe" and the "Atlas".
How does the creative process work in Abraxian? From ideas to the final product - what kind of tooling/manufacturing are you involved in?
We would start with a simple pen and paper (and a bit of imagination). We sketch out our designs and start from there. The next stage is to prototype the glass design. Our glassblowing team will begin with a piece of Borosilicate glass, the glass is clamped into a turning lathe which rotates the glass. Then they begin to subject the glass to extremely high temperatures in order to soften the glass and make it pliable using a large blowtorch. Once the glass is at the desired temperature - this is when the magic happens. Using their breathing they blow the glass, almost becoming one with the process. When working with a tube style design such as our Elysian they must keep the pressure inside the tube consistent to stop the tube from simply collapsing into itself. This is achieved by putting rubber bungs in each end and maintaining a steady flow of air. It is quite an incredible art to watch.
Once the glass has been heated and shaped to the design, a small blow torch is brought out to add the details, i.e., the mouthpiece, the rush hole and female connection for the down stem. When they are happy with that, they will begin to shape the base. Depending on the design this can be a flat base such as the Elysian, or a conical base such as the Meraki. We blow a few sample units trying different variations here and there to make sure that the design looks great, and most importantly, smokes to the Abraxian standard.
Once we have locked down the design, we manufacture a couple of sample units that we give to our impartial testers. They will use the glass in their own settings and report to us on their experience. This is a great way to find and eliminate any possible oversights that we could have missed during the initial designs. Once the design is the best it can be in both aesthetics and function, we will send the glass to our foam manufacture to have the tooling created for the protective foam insert that will sit in the box. After that, the glass is photographed and It is ready to hit the stores.
What does a typical day at the office look like?
Busy. But, always a lot of fun - it's certainly not your average nine to five! Every day there are new challenges, ideas, and always a lot of correspondence to catch up with. Whether we are taking orders, preparing orders, working with our marketers or discussing the latest designs, there is always plenty going on. The office is wall to wall with glass, new designs, old designs and crazy designs that we have deemed are a bit too much for the world... For now.
It's organized chaos, but we love it.
What are some of the biggest challenges in glassware manufacturing?
Glass is a tricky material to work with. It's extremely temperamental at times and can be a real challenge. You can finish a piece that looks fantastic, then on your last finishing touch we make one tiny mistake... and it's back to square one!
Your company's proudest moment?
The proudest moment for me was, without a doubt, the first time I was able to bring my closest friends together and unveil the first finished Abraxian piece. It was sitting beautifully in its clean black box, with the Abraxian logo embossed in gold across the top, and opening it up to display the glass with all its accessories cut into the soft foam. Seeing their faces stare with mouths open - this was worth all the hard work.
Could you share a great story involving the Abraxian brand? Customer success stories, manufacturing EUREKA moments - that kind of stuff.
One of my favorites was when a customer brought a glass piece from us. Several months after his purchase we received a very distraught call explaining that while cleaning his piece he had broken the down stem and was desperately seeking a replacement in time for the party he had been planning. He had invited his friends over for a get together and was very upset that he might not have his Bong for the festivities. He explained he had been cleaning his glass in preparation as the party was the following day. We happily explained to him that through purchasing his Abraxian piece he was covered by the Abraxian legacy promise. This means that any glass accessories that get broken will be replaced free of charge. We immediately sent out his replacement, we tracked the parcel and were very happy to see the glass was delivered to him by noon the following day, meaning he had his glass in time for the party. The following day we received an ecstatic email thanking us profusely. Needless to say, it had been our pleasure.
How do you see the cannabis industry evolving in the next few years?
Being based in the UK, our government has made it very difficult. There has long been a stigma here around cannabis. I personally believe that through watching countries such as Canada, Uruguay, the Netherlands, and the certain US states things will begin to change. The stigma does seem to be fading away, we now know so much more about cannabis and the long-term effects. Governments that have either legalized or decriminalized cannabis have seen no major problems as a result and the money from cannabis tax brought in is simply incredible. In 2017 Colorado alone brought in over 200 million in tax on cannabis. That is quite remarkable.
I imagine that now the UK has begun to open the door to medicinal cannabis products this will begin to lower the stigma and hopefully at the very least open the debate regarding the recreational side of the market.
What are you hoping to achieve in those next few years?
We hope to establish the Abraxian brand as a true player in the glass industry. We are currently the only UK company doing what we do and we want to let the world know that the UK is here and we have a whole lot to give. As Mark Twain famously said: "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the fight in the dog."
Are there any brands you look up to as a glassware manufacturer?
Absolutely, as a consumer I always loved glass shopping, looking at the new designs and brands on the scene! Brands like Roor, Gravlabs, G-spot, Illadelph... the list goes on. There are some truly fantastic glass brands out there with some hugely talented glassblowers.
What's in store for Abraxian customers in 2019? What should we look forward to?
2019 will see a huge expansion to the Abraxian range, we have so many new products planned, including new bongs, accessories, and pipes. 2019 is going to be a very exciting year and we can't wait to show you all what’s still to come.
We want to thank Liam and the Abraxian team for this interview.