Talking Roadside Whisky and Wild Elegance with Goodbeast’s Jesse Bromm

A screenshot of the Pocket Flask from the Goodbeast website.

Jesse Bromm is the one-man brand known as Goodbeast, a line of elegant yet utilitarian hand-blown glassware, including bud vases, decanters, bottles and flasks.

When he’s not in the studio, Bromm’s camper van lifestyle makes him a difficult fellow to pin down. Luckily, you can track him and his wares down at the Maritime Labour Centre on December 8th and 9th, when he’ll be participating in the annual Got Craft? Holiday Edition market.

What is your neighbourhood and what makes it home? I live in a truck camper so my neighbourhood varies but I usually hang around Gastown. I’m actually very new to Vancouver. I’ve been in town for almost a year but before then I spent a large part of the previous year traveling across Canada as part of a research grant I received (to check out glass studios across Canada). Originally/most recently I’m from Toronto but I’ve moved more than 60 times in my life, so a sense of home is a little foreign to me.

What is your educational background? I went to Sheridan Collage in Oakville, Ontario for drawing and painting, but then wanted to do something more physical so I switched to the Craft and Design program, specializing in Glass.

What turned you onto working with glass? I was getting bored with two dimensional work. I walked past the glass studio once a week at school. I took a tour of the studio on a whim and then decided to go for it. Originally the program let you choose two practises between woodworking, ceramic, textiles, and glass. I decided to do woodworking and glass, and was actually a bit more stoked for wood. But when they cut it back to only one material I figured I could learn woodworking later and more flexibly. When I chose glass I thought I was going to make decorative vessels but ended up spending three years making the most creepy sculpture. After being a TA for a year I landed a residency at Harbourfront Centre in downtown Toronto and that’s where I really learned to blow glass well (before that it was mostly casting).

“Glass is very unforgiving and ‘remembers’ when you miss a step or let it go off balance… A good analogy would be if you blow a bubble in your chewing gum and want it to be 4” but you blow it 5” then there’s no taking that air back because the bubble will just collapse.”

What is the piece of advice and/or most invaluable skill that you’ve learned outside of a classroom or workshop? It took me many years to reach a work/life balance and even longer to realize that it can change.

Describe your studio space. I have two; one is a spacious room under a gallery and it’s mostly for the business end of Goodbeast (as well as my sculptural practice); the other is a shared studio called Terminal City Glass Co-op. Both have very distinct vibes. My own studio is a little cold and quiet and, frankly, pretty messy. Whenever I’m there I’m either working insanely long and hard or purely there to chill. I haven’t found a balance yet. The co-op is still very new to me. I had a lot of stock left over from Toronto, but so far it is very lovely, teeming with different people and always so warm (figuratively and literally).

What are the benefits to using glass versus other materials? None. Glass is the absolute worst because it’s expensive and takes decades to gain any notable proficiency.

What is the most technically challenging part of working with glass, so far? The learning curve. Specifically, making things similar sizes/proportions is the hardest part for me since I don’t like to use molds.

How about the biggest mental or creative hurdle you’ve encountered thus far? To me creating these functional pieces is a break from creating more cerebral and mentally demanding work. It’s a way for me to keep my skills up and just turn off my brain and turn out product as efficiently as possible.

How difficult is it to correct a mistake during the glassblowing process? There are some things that you cannot undo. Glass is very unforgiving and “remembers” when you miss a step or let it go off balance. But because the learning curve is so steep and it takes years to make what you actually want to make, you get adept at correcting minor mistakes or “saving” something (by changing it into something else or manhandling it back into shape). A good analogy would be if you blow a bubble in your chewing gum and want it to be 4” but you blow it 5” then there’s no taking that air back because the bubble will just collapse.

What is the biggest misconception about glassblowing? That it’s dangerous, or remotely comparable to any other material.

What is your most invaluable tool? My hands!

Describe Goodbeast in ten words or less. Thoughtful, simple hand blown glassware.

What inspired you to start Goodbeast? I started making glass flasks for myself and a couple friends. More people saw them and wanted them, then a few stores got interested and wanted different products, so I designed some whiskey glasses and then decanters, and just went from there.

How does Vancouver influence Goodbeast (for better or worse)? My brand is all about simplicity and being outside. Vancouver has been so great for that. In Toronto it was impossible to escape the city for the day, so it’s surreal that I can drive 20 minutes here and be in a forest or by a lake. I’ve found myself using my objects more and more on hikes or bringing flowers home for my bud vases while exploring, thus influencing new designs.

Where else do you find inspiration? Honestly, I just fill a function I personally need in my life and hope others respond. When designing an object I don’t add anything that doesn’t have a purpose; bubbles hide imperfections/greasy hands and clear glass allows you to see the contents while black glass let’s you hide it. Simple shapes are easy to make and don’t confuse your eyes or hands. Lately, I’ve been working more and more with stores. So sometimes I’m told what the market may want and then see what I’m comfortable with making.

What does Goodbeast mean, anyways? It’s mostly a reference to Redwall, a series of children’s fantasy novels by Brian Jacques where animals are anthropomorphized in a medieval setting. I was reading one when I was thinking of brand names and one character referred to another as a goodbeast. It’s something of a saying in a number of the books, I think. It struck me as a pleasant way to embody a wild elegance that I was trying to hit with my simple and useful shapes.

What has been the most rewarding experience with Goodbeast, so far? Designing new objects and having people really like them. It’s nice when someone gets excited about an object in the same way you’re excited. I struggle with owning things in general and for a long time I didn’t see the value of making objects when places like China are just cramming them down our throats at such a dispensable rate/value. But connecting with people about the feeling of hand made objects is very rewarding.

What’s in your Goodbeast flask? Cheap whiskey! Though actually one of my flasks has a number of gold flakes (or gold looking flakes) I panned when I was in Dawson City this fall.

Where is the most interesting/unusual place that you’ve taken your bottle or flask? I’ve been all over Canada with them. I recently went to Tuktoyaktuk and the Arctic with a few flasks and bottles and it was amazing. Drinking whiskey out of one of my glasses on the side of the Demster Highway was a highlight, the barren and harsh environment pairs well with simple objects.

I sold a few of these wider mouthed bottles that a family in Ontario used to grow an apple inside. They hung it on the tree and then the apple grew inside as a neat trick, I suppose.

How long does it take to complete a glass piece? It depends; on the low end a bud vase is 5-7 minutes and a decanter is up to 20 minutes. This is after years of making these particular shapes. Every minute in the glass studio costs between 50 cents to a dollar so it pays to be as quick and efficient as possible. Truthfully I’m still getting used to making these shapes in an unfamiliar studio/outside of the studio they were designed in.

So far, your designs include a flask, bottles, decanter and vases. What sort of vessels do you plan to venture into in the future? I have some container prototypes I’m always playing with as well as some other higher end items I’m debating. Similar themes just more time-consuming shapes.

What is the most creative or unusual use that your bottle design has been used for? I sold a few of these wider mouthed bottles that a family in Ontario used to grow an apple inside. They hung it on the tree and then the apple grew inside as a neat trick, I suppose.

What sets Goodbeast apart from other glassware designs? I would say that there’s no gimmick and no crazy colour pallets. A lot of Canadian “studio glass” is routed in the past. I mean the people that brought it over from Europe are still alive. If anything I try to emulate modern ceramic design not glass. I’m not a big fan of most glassware.

If you could fashion anything out of glass, what would it be? I think I live that dream already, so I would just like to be better. Making thinner and more uniform cups would always be great. I have one from a mentor that is so thin it visibly flexes when you squeeze it.

What has been your experience with the craft and/or glassblowing community in Vancouver? I don’t have a lot of experience so far with the community in Vancouver but the glass community in Canada in general is very small so I do still feel connected. In Toronto there was a bit more of a contemporary feel and in Vancouver it seems to have more of a hobbyist vibe, which I’m struggling with a tiny bit. That being said, Goodbeast is a side hustle for me at the moment, plus at my day job I blow glass with some of the most talented and contemporary glassblowers I know. I think I just need to get out there and find more people interested in craft and design.

Where do you see Goodbeast in the next year? Five years? In the next year I want to transition Goodbeast out of side hustle territory and get into more stores in Vancouver, since most of my sales and connections are still in Toronto. In five years I want my own glass studio out in the woods somewhere making stock all winter as a hermit and then traveling and doing shows in the summer.

Who else at Got Craft? are you excited to check out this year? I suppose I’m most excited to see what ceramics Cardamom brings, as well as some of the contemporary jewelry a few vendors make.

What advice do you have for someone interested in trying out glassblowing for themselves? Swing by Terminal City Glass Co-op or Vancouver Studio Glass and take a class!

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