Travel the world – from the U.S. to Canada and across the ocean to Amsterdam, Morocco, and Germany, and you’ll discover glass pieces created by Ray “Sea Shakes” Walmsley. Not only are his creations in smoke shop showcases, but he’s buried marbles at the four corners of the pyramids in Egypt, and he even dropped a bag of marbles into the middle of the Bermuda Triangle.
The map to being a full-time glass blower for Ray started years ago following the Grateful Dead. Back then he was peddling hemp jewelry and tie-dye T-shirts that he handmade, but it was a chance meeting at a Florida music festival with “Dan the Glass Man,” a retired Disney World glass blower, that got him into glass arts. With the skills Ray learned from his mentor, he began making marbles and pendants for his jewelry. Within a few months he transitioned full-time into creating functional glass pipes.
This was in ’04 before social media had really caught on, so along with selling to local smoke shops in Orlando, Ray established the value of his pieces at concerts, beaches and walking through downtown on party weekends.
“It was a lot of legwork. I remember coming home many times with my tips of my toes to my heels covered in blisters,” Ray recalls. “It’s turned out to be a wonderful journey, though, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Ray’s home is literally is his studio. There are no sofas or chairs, just wall-to-wall glass blowing equipment. The fireplace room is where he does his lathe work; the living room is where he keeps his supplies and wet saw; and the dining room is where he cooks his custom colors.
Most glass artists have a signature and Ray’s are whimsical bumble bees. If you’re lucky enough to collect the entire set, you’ll realize the bees are actually characters you’d see at a music show – one even represents Ray the glass blower.
“All of the bees are in human form because I’m trying to get people to realize subliminally where it all started,” Ray explains. “It’s also a way to get people to relax and have happy thoughts because when you see the bee you remember as a kid eating a bowl of Cheerios on Saturday morning and watching cartoons.”
“I would love to see glass finally find that artistic realm like a Salvador Dali painting,” he adds, “where there hidden messages deeper into the piece than what the eye perceives.”
Among Ray’s glass are scientific lathe work and sculptural pieces. Some he will electroform with copper and then swim out into the ocean and sink them to the bottom where they’ll stay for up to two weeks as they achieve a unique patina.
On occasion Ray will take pieces that he would normally smash and auction them to benefit charitable causes.
“I love what I do,” he says. “I get to provide pieces of equipment for people who really need them – cancer patients and people with PSD, I love being able to make the arty pieces because it takes them to a happy moment.”
“Glass is like a drug for me — I don’t party, I’m very straight edge and I love to work,” he adds. “Glass is a medium where I can just let go and find out who I am.”
Ray Walmsley aka Sea Shakes • Simply Exist Art • Orlando, Florida