How a Local Company Brings Artistry to the Glass Pipe Biz

Ken Kulow might just be the Da Vinci of glassmakers: He's an engineer, an army veteran, and was a GE operations manager back in his hometown of Cleveland. Since 2001, Kulow has owned Chameleon Glass, a manufacturer of high-quality bowls and hookahs, and one of the last major pipe suppliers still based in the U.S. Far from a giggly burnout, Kulow is gregarious and opinionated, and he's as conversant in international politics as he is in the precise chemistry of glass coloration. But the pipe trade is hard these days. Anti-paraphernalia laws continue to pester Chameleon, while the exploding demand for glass pipes has saturated the market with cheap imports from China. We visited Kulow to talk about artisanal glass, predatory distributors from abroad, and the beauty of buying local in the era of gas station chillums.