Editor’s Note: Welcome to our newest bi-weekly column, High Folks: the cannabis-infused version of Humans of New York, in which we take an intimate look at people’s relationships with our most beloved plant. The connection between humans and cannabis is primal, dynamic, and profound. But it’s something that’s increasingly overlooked in the new age of weed. So in an effort to combat the superficiality of cannabis in the social media-age, High Times is proud to present to you a collection of work that highlights one of life’s most beautiful gifts: connection.
In the North Philadelphia neighborhood of Port Richmond, Jessica Wolfert (26) is a Renaissance woman fusing the realms of glass-blowing and cannabis into her body positivity project Lady Pipes. The glass smoking pipes are an ode to Wolfert’s younger self: a suburban girl from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, who once struggled with social anxiety and body image issues.
“When my social anxiety was at its worst I was terrified of being judged,” Wolfert tells High Times. “I wanted to physically disappear, and I think that negatively affected the way I viewed and treated my body.”
Always thinking about what she was doing with her hands, her word choice, and breathing pattern made it painfully difficult for Wolfert to interact in social settings. It wasn’t until her first semester at Temple University’s Tyler College in 2010 that she decided to face her social anxiety disorder.
She smoked cannabis recreationally three or four times with some classmates when she realized it eased the overwhelming social discomfort.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, nearly 6.8 percent of the U.S. population suffers from social anxiety disorder (SAD), and there have been studies suggesting that cannabis is the cause of SAD. But a 2015 report shows that patients dealing with social anxiety disorder experienced greatly improved moods after consuming cannabis.
“I felt peaceful and euphoric,” she says. “I was laughing and joking with my friends and not thinking about all of the stupid little insecurities I had. It was very freeing. It took some effort to follow conversation but I realized that If I could do that while I was high then I could learn to do it [while being] sober as well.”
Wolfert is grateful that cannabis helped her deal with her social anxiety, but she also recognizes she wouldn’t have been as focused on her art without it. “I had trouble connecting with people socially, so art became a way for me to connect without going too far out of my comfort zone.”
Finding peace within her comfort zone and body prompted Wolfert to create Lady Pipes, an artistic glass project aimed at rewriting beauty’s narrow narrative.
“When I looked around at my friends, including myself, I didn’t know anybody who didn’t struggle with body image issues,” Wolfert tells High Times. “Pretty much everybody I know does. Even women you think are the societal ideal don’t feel good enough, and that’s pretty crazy to me. So I thought to myself that I wanted to depict a greater spectrum of beauty because when you see your own body represented in art and you see people commenting and calling it beautiful, it’s really empowering.”
Wolfert completed her first Lady Pipe in April of 2018.
But in 2017, prior to the inception of this project, Wolfert met Terasina Bonanini (32) an art director and curator for Ruckus Gallery in Philadelphia. Bonanini says Wolfert’s relationship with glass grew tremendously while working at the gallery.
“Challenged by the skill level of what was being showcased in the gallery, [Wolfert] worked hard to develop her technique as a glass blower and broaden her perspective of what glass is ‘supposed to be,'” says Bonanini.
On Valentine’s Day of 2017, Wolfert’s sculpture “Skeleton Siren Presented on a White Dinner Plate” debuted at Impossible Standards, a show curated by Bonanini.
“It was beautiful and delicate,” Bonanini tells High Times. “The presentation made you think, ‘why a dinner plate?’ She explained it represented the temptation to achieve an ‘ideal’ body through harmful and dangerous means.”
Wolfert believes life imitates art. But she also explains that media conditions people to have a dangerously one-sided view of beauty.
“If we can show the world that beauty is diverse then we can change the way we experience our bodies and the way that we experience life,” Wolfert says. “It’s changing the way that I experience my own body for sure.”
Wolfert plans to get some of her friends to model for her as she continues to make more Lady Pipes.
Jessica Hintchey (27) a friend of Wolfert’s since 2014, is excited about the future of Lady Pipes because it gives different women permission to feel beautiful and validated by having a Lady Pipe shaped like them.
“Body image and diet culture are something that [Wolfert] and I have always struggled with,” says Hintchey. “And fitting that ideal, what always ends up being European beauty standards of a thin body and small features, and the whole social determination of beauty. Wrapped up in that is also [Wolfert’s] relationship with cannabis because of anxiety, her use of cannabis to calm her anxiety and her anxiety regarding her body image in a rotating diet culture. I think Lady Pipes is helping [Wolfert] figure out her relationship to her own body, what the ideal body type is and how to navigate that in a healthy way.”
Through the Lady Pipes project, Wolfert reminds us how synonymous cannabis legalization and women’s liberation are because, as a country, we’re being forced to rethink what makes women feel good, loved, accepted, and respected in a place that has a one dimensional perspective of beauty.
Thus, Lady Pipes is an ode to understanding that we all develop through continued acts of faith and self-love.
“It takes a lot of confidence to go against the grain so to speak,” she says. “That includes looking different from the accepted ideal…”
Working as an entrepreneur, Wolfert plans to continue taking Lady Pipe commissions and building upon her work as a glass blower and ceramics artist.