Buy a bong, support a Latino craftsman through this stylish LA brand

by Danielle F. Winter

I’ve had plenty of bongs over the years; long, short, glass, plastic, fancy, useful, you name it. One of the most memorable was made of solid brass. Another was made from a single bamboo stem. I never knew – or didn’t care – 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 convert molten glass into a sturdy goblet bong. Every time I see a bong in the wild, I wonder where it came from and who made it.

Buy a bong, support a Latino craftsman through this stylish LA brand

And that’s pretty much what Susie Plascencia and Bobby Lady were hoping for when the duo (personally and professional partners) launched LA-based Mota Glass in November 2020. The name, Plascencia explained, has a double meaning. First, the word “mota,” which means “dust” in Spanish, is also a slang term for weed. It is also an acronym that refers to the brand’s greater purpose. “It acts for Minorities for Opportunity, Transparency, and Accountability,” she said.

“MOTA Glass was created to address two key things in the cannabis industry,” she said. “This massive import of functional glass from abroad that devalues ​​local production, [and] the continued marginalization of an overworked and underpaid minority population.”

They said they were motivated by misrepresentations they found in the current market. Plascencia, 32, is an entrepreneur, activist, and cannabis advocate who recently helped launch the Latino community-focused cannabis label Humo and led last year’s effort to make September 30 National Latinas into Cannabis Day. Lady, 40, is a general contractor and US Air Force veteran who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“In many cases,” said Lady, “you have importers who do nothing but order finished pieces from abroad, label them locally, and then distribute them to stores or customers across the country. The worst culprits will be their decals.” paste it here on the piece and then say, ‘Oh, it’s made in the USA.’

“That message is then passed on to the retailer,” he said. “The retailer is happy to repeat it because it increases the possibility of a sale for them. But the reality is that the piece is not made here in the US, and it undermines the value of glassblowers in Los Angeles.”

The Mota Glass business is also an opportunity, Plascencia said, to highlight a community — their community (she’s Mexican-American, Lady’s son of Honduran American parents) — that has a visibility problem in today’s cannabis industry. “Often Latinos are the backbone of this industry, but they don’t get that representation,” she said. “So with Mota Glass, we’re putting Latinos at the forefront and showing that they’ve not just been in the industry, they’re the backbone — and deserve that recognition.”

LA-made 12-inch cup bongs ($155 each) in white, left, and mint from Mota Glass. Launched in November 2020, the brand partnered with a network of independent Latino glass artists to produce sleek, sturdy bongs.

(Mota glass)

The company primarily sells its line of straight tubing and cup bongs online (prices range from $85 for a mini cup bong to $230 for an 18-inch-tall version with red heart accents). It currently works with a network of four local, independent Latino glassmakers, including Gonzales.

During a visit to his Gardena workshop, the Peruvian Gonzales, while Lady translates from Spanish, explained that glassware is 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 that lifelong fame with studies in mechatronics (a combination of mechanics and electronics), he could craft exactly the specialized equipment he needed to make Mota’s water pipes over about a year.

The result is a room about the size of a studio apartment, filled with lathes, burners, ovens, torches, and what looks like miles of colored wire running in and out of enough circuitry and switches to store a Fry’s Electronics. Gonzales said his setup would allow him to produce about 30 of Mota’s beaker bongs daily.

Watching him turn a raw Schott borosilicate glass cylinder into an artisan smoking utensil is a beauty from start to finish. Still, the most mesmerizing thing is to watch him gently tease the narrow base of the bong in a cup-like glow. With a torch in one hand, a paddle-shaped implement in the other, and a thin plastic tube clamped between his teeth, he deftly molds the hot glass and fills it with his breath.

In some ways, the 18-month-old Mota Glass company, which Lady said has sold “a few thousand” pieces since launch, isn’t much different from any of the molten globs of glass in Gonzales’ safety gloves; it’s a work in progress still taking shape as a target’s breath fills it.

The green room

The green room

Episodes of the second season of The Times video series focusing on the California cannabis trade and culture appear every other Wednesday on

The most recent episode of “The Green Room”, in which glass artist Hector Gonzales creates a MOTA Glass cup bong, can be viewed above.

“The long-term goal from a production and operational standpoint is to grow into a business that employs several glassblowers in thtraditionallyid Lady. †[One] that gives them a fair living wage, benefits, and some of the standard expectations one would expect from any job that is their livelihood. And that’s something we don’t feel exists, especially within this community.”

Getting there – which Lady hopes will take another one to two years – will depend on ramping up production to handle the increased demand associated with expanding the company’s original direct-to-consumer business. B(Mota Glass pieces are currently in about a dozen stores, including a pharmacy owned by Green Thumb in Mundelein, Illinois, and a headshop called Taimado in Tokyo.) brand to wholesaler to physical stores.

When Mota’s in-house glass factory in LA becomes a reality — regardless of the time frame — Lady said the scale of the manufacturing facility would allow them to make not only Mota Glass bongs but private-label pieces for other bong brands seeking to take advantage of the “made in the USA” cachet.

Which, given the reason for founding the company in the first place, is a delightful bit of irony.

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