It’s so hard to describe HighTide Santa Barbara in a nutshell-it’s one part glass blowing studio, one part art gallery, and one part CBD/smoke shop. The vibe is decidedly warm, fun, and creative.
On the day I went over to HighTide to check out their CBD products and glass wares for this article, Wil Glass, the artist owner of High Tide told me while smiling big, “I’m just so grateful that I get to be on this little corner in Santa Barbara!”
As I hung out at the shop I noticed that not only is HighTide Santa Barbara a mini emporium for CBD, hand blown glass pieces, and eclectic, original art, it’s a community hub for creatives, aspiring glass artists, and anyone who decides they want to become a regular. Everyone is welcome, and Wil serves as a positive, encouraging force for those around him, especially, his customers.
I browsed the CBD products at HighTide which include tinctures, vape cartridges/juices, isolate crystals, topicals, edibles, pet products, and flower you can smoke that is high in CBD but contains no THC.
Wil said that some of his customers favorites are CBD gummies, Breaking Dabs tinctures, and a mysterious balm that customer after customer has reported magically melts their pain away. This topical, a favorite of High Tide customers, is simply named, “The Balm.”
Some users of “The Balm” have even reported being able to reduce or eliminate traditional pain meds after getting relief from this topical that combines CBD with an array of other medicinal ingredients such as various mushrooms, stinging nettles, St. John’s Wort, calendula, and dandelion root. “The Balm” also works wonders on other sundry ailments, such as cold sores (hurray!).
Surrounded by glass pieces sparkling in the afternoon sunlight, I was curious about how HighTide came to be and how Wil got into glass blowing.
When did you open HighTide Santa Barbara?
Wil: HighTide opened in August of 2010. I had been making and selling glass on a wholesale level for years and I knew I wanted a gallery to be able to sell my work for retail price points. Santa Barbara had fully pulled my attention away from any other cities I had contemplated living in. And then it all came together.
I remember the morning I received the call from my now 8.5 year landlord asking me if I would like to rent the retail space at 334 Anacapa St. I replied YES!!! I sent messages to the clients that were waiting for their wholesale orders and let them know I was going to be a bit behind schedule as I now had a retail space to fill.
I gathered what I had, about 20 pipes, 10 bongs, and 10 glass jars. I brought them to the gallery, paid my first months rent and was handed the keys to the Gallery. As we unpacked somebody came in to buy a pipe (the location had been a pipe store previously so it came with a bit of a built in clientele) and we made our first official sale!
We brainstormed on a name for a couple weeks. After many many many ideas HighTide was thrown into the mix. BOOM that was it. HighTide Santa Barbara was born!!!
8.5 years later we have had many artists come through to work with us, we have hosted many classes, and I really couldn’t be any happier with the flow of our business. Great Artists, Great Customers, and a Great Staff make HighTideSB a great place.
How and when did you get into glass blowing?
Wil: According to my mom I have always been mesmerized by glass blowing. At the local fair I would spend hours watching an artist make small animal sculptures. Back then, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride had a glass artist making sculptures and I would stop there and just stare at the flame forgetting about all of the other adventures the park offered.
I started blowing glass in Eugene, OR in 1995 when I was 19. I had seen some glass pipes at Grateful Dead shows, and I knew somewhere in my heart pipe making was something I really wanted to try out. I first took a very basic weekend workshop where I learned a little bit about safety and how to set up a small studio.
At this workshop I met a few other beginning artists and we set up a studio space together and began learning from each other and teaching each other all the new things we figured out day by day. We were there reinventing the wheel, although in hindsight we were also inventing the wheel as we went, exploring all the different ways you could manipulate glass.
There were basically no lessons to take, and definitely no YouTube or Facebook groups to learn from. I’m pretty sure what took me 5 years to learn somebody starting as a glass blower today could pick up in about 5 months because of all the resources available.
About 6 months into my career an artist I greatly looked up to and still consider a mentor to this day needed a shop space and ended up working out of the studio my friends and I had built. This was huge for the three of us novice glass blowers because now we had an example of “doing it right” and we all became much better artists very quickly.
After Eugene, I built and worked in studios in Portland, Vancouver BC, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara. The studios have ranged in size from 1 station to 15 stations. I currently work in the HighTide SB studio and am actively looking for a larger shop space in the Santa Barbara area so we can drop into flow and create larger projects.
Working at HighTide has been amazing so far because we get to give the customer a glimpse of our creation process.
And maybe, just maybe, it will inspire someone to pick up the art, just as it did for me :)!
Wil’s shop makes me happy—there’s a sweet soulfulness that’s hard to come by in this day in age of modern commerce. HighTide bucks the trends of impersonal service and cookie cutter merchandising by offering a really delightful, one-of-a-kind space in which to browse, chat, and take in original creativity everywhere you look.
If you want to experience a Santa Barbara gem, wander on over to HighTide and pick up some CBD or a new glass piece for your collection.
You may just decide to become a regular of this special shop that sits on a little corner of paradise we call Santa Barbara 🙂