Born in Houston Texas in 1973, Ryan’s family relocated to Oakland, California at age 3 and again to Korea from age 5 to 8, eventually settling near Huntington Beach, California where he spent his youth at the beach surfing and skate boarding. Ryan relocated up to Humboldt County for his last year of high school and graduated from Petrolia High School in 1991. After 6 months back home in Southern California working 12 hour days at at machine factory job he up and hitchhiked to Alaska and spent the next 6 months working the salmon fisheries. Winter came and the redwoods called him back. He stayed in Humboldt for the next 20 years.
Embracing the Humboldt lifestyle Ryan quickly became an Arcata local. In the early 90's, managing the town head shop, Pacific Paradise, he was introduced to borosilicate glass art mainly in the form of glass pipes. Seeing the demand for such art and lack of reliable supply, Ryan parted ways with retail, purchased a Carlisle torch and some raw materials and began a self taught craft in his backyard shed.
The 101 North Era
101 North Glass was born circa 1996 when road trips on the 101 freeway to Southern California and the Bay Area to sell his glass became a frequent event. In keeping up with demand, Ryan trained family, friends and interested acquaintances to blow glass his way, which was arguably more time effective and production oriented than much of the competition. Pioneering the way for shops all over the country to have access to high quality American hand made glass pipes, 101 North grew to become one of the largest manufacturing companies of its kind employing over 50 individuals most of whom he personally trained.
Wanting to share 101 North's success, Ryan offered 10% ownership to three of his then close friends and employees and they incorporated. As business continued to grow, they launched a year-long road sales campaign across America and opened up a glass blowing supply retail outlet, The Glass House, which still remains in business today.
In 2003 101 North Glass Inc. was shut down by Operation Pipe Dreams, a nationwide investigation targeting businesses selling drug paraphernalia. All assets were seized, Ryan and his two business partners were incarcerated and prosecuted by US district attorneys under the direction of Attorney General John Ashcroft. Ryan spent the months during and following the court trial picking up the pieces, paying off subsequent debt and ensuring his former employees received benefits all while serving house arrest and community service.
New Humble Beginnings
When the dust settled, Ryan turned back to his torch and spent the next several years diving into research and development and redefining his artistry making anything but pipes. He taught classes and continued community service well beyond his mandate. In 2008 he was re-joined by a close friend and former 101 North office manager, Brenna Byrne who left a research job at the Maine State Legislature to move back to Humboldt and partner with Ryan on a new adventure in glass. For the next two years they operated Blackstone Glass, a small scale wholesale production business based out of their garage selling Ryan’s handblown glass art to retail shops across the country.
Living the Dream
Founded in 23 years of close friendship the two business partners dove head first into the cliche and finally allowed themselves to fall in love. In 2010, they relocated to Sebastopol, California and built West County Glass, a boutique flameworking studio where inspiration and collaboration in glass continues to thrive among the local glass artists who call it home. Tying the knot in 2013, Ryan and Brenna continue their partnership in business, love, life and the pursuit of happiness through glass art.
Considered among his peers as a jack-of-all-trades flame worker, Ryan creates a myriad of unique, one-of-a-kind pieces of art that take various shapes and forms including lighting, tableware, paperweights, marbles and pendants to name a few. His glass working skills and his obsession with millefiori and murrine drove him to excel in creating Franchini style image cane and develop linework pattern implosion technique. Inspired by sacred geometry and clean hard lines, the process of creating 'honeycomb mille' has allowed him to explore various patterns while achieving unsurpassed precision and scale. Most of his recent work is centered around the use of his honeycomb cane and exploring what he calls 'the art of technique'.
Add together Ryan's 26 years of experience, many more hours of trial and experimentation, the hard work and enthusiasm of his cold worker Andrew Benson and apprentice Justin Zimmerman, and the methodology for making Honeyglass is perfected. Brenna's keen eye for quality and photography by Amanda Meadors complete the team that makes Ryan's longtime dream of the Honeyglass Jewelry Collection a reality.