Just before the start of the pandemic, the artist Jordan Fine felt drawn to the idea of making hand-blown glass cups. Fine, who is based in Cleveland, Ohio, had been producing glass jewelry and pipes for years, but felt the urge to branch out right around the time their grandmother — one of their greatest champions — passed away, in February of 2020. Surrounded at home by their grandmother’s art, and fresh from a tarot reading that indicated she would continue to have a major impact in their life, Fine started blowing small, exuberantly colored cups and selling them on Instagram. To Fine’s surprise, the cups were a hit.
The day I visited Fine at Superior Hot Glass, a co-op in Cleveland’s Asiatown neighborhood where Fine is a member, they were busy making sets of cups inspired by magnolias and cherry blossoms, which had just exploded into bloom at the nearby Cleveland Museum of Art. Fine’s workspace was dominated by a neat array of color bars (glass rods that can be chopped into smaller pieces to add color to clear glass), and strewn with little piles of scraps, finished jewelry, and glass pipes waiting to be wrapped and shipped. Cups from a previous workday — with a ’90s palette of teal, black, and purple, shot through with streaks of shimmering silver glitter, that reminded me of a Trapper Keeper I once cherished — were perched on a communal table, awaiting their turn on Fine’s Instagram feed. Posted a few days later with the caption “Moody Miami Glitter DRAMA,” they sold out in minutes.
Fine, who defines themselves not as a glassblower but as “an artist who uses glass,” sees color as their true medium. Even a brief scroll through Fine’s body of work makes that evident: Their cups are experiments in light and color, ranging from the dark jewel tones of the Moody Miami cups to ’70s-era day-glo orange and avocado green. Some colors are opaque, others more transparent, allowing light to transform each cup, as you rotate it in your hand, into a kaleidoscope of shifting and overlapping shades.
Fine typically sells cups — now on their website rather than Instagram — in groups of two ($95-$125) and four ($190), with the occasional single or set of three. They also offer pipes, bud vases, and catch-all bowls at similar price points. The cups are irregularly sized but tend to measure around 3 to 4 inches tall, perfect for a modest serving of juice or a mini-cocktail. (They also work beautifully as pen or makeup brush holders.)
Though small, the cups are not overly delicate. “My cups are thick and heavy and I like that about them,” Fine told me, noting that they don’t believe skill in glass-blowing can only be demonstrated by making vessels as thin as possible. The heft and sturdiness of the cups gives them a sense of objecthood; they look just as attractive sitting on a shelf or dresser as they do in your hand, and they make even a mini-cocktail feel substantial.
Over boba tea from a nearby Taiwenese shop, Fine explained that producing the cups during the hardest months of the pandemic wasn’t just a welcome source of income (especially in the absence of craft shows), but, almost more importantly, an opportunity to be part of the tight-knit community at Superior Hot Glass. Operated by former textile conservator Sue Berry, Superior has, in Fine’s estimation, an “open, supportive environment” that is “very uncommon” in glass studios.
That sense of openness and generosity is one that Fine wants to pay forward. Increasing sales over the last year have allowed Fine to do more for others through mutual aid and donations to Last Prisoner Project, a cannabis reform advocacy group, and Reparations Now Cleveland, which supports Black and indigenous Clevelanders. Fine doesn’t use social justice as a marketing tactic, but potential buyers of their glass works might like to know: success isn’t something Fine wants to hoard.