So who's right?
Well unless you are biased towards one side, it's really hard to say. There is not a white or black answer. Anyone would be hard presses to argue that local "Made in America" glass is not better, higher quality, more artistic, and made with people who are truly passionate about their work. But at the same time, everyone understands the appeal of cheaper glass that can seem more affordable for consumers on a budget. So really there is no right or wrong, both sides have logical points and opinions.
Example of 'Bug's Life Spoon' by Empire Glassworks
Why is local glass more special?
This question does have a simple answer, and that is because it is so straightforward. Local "American" glassblowers are not only blowing pipes for money, absolutely not. It is true they do make money, but they are blowing glass because of many reasons. They are passionate about their work, they want their work to stand out, they believe in artistic expression, they believe in craftsmanship, and they believe in putting out the best work they possibly can. Plus American color rod (used to make pipes) is better than Chinese color rod, because dark colors are darker, bright colors are brighter. In fact many Chinese factories now import American color rod to their factories in China so they can try to compete with American made pipes.
It's a no brainer, people focused on quality, who are passionate about their work will produce better products versus people looking to push out volumes of pipes. Simple.
Why the price difference?
This has a simple answer also, no matter what area or what sectors Americans are looking to improve in economically or socially, one thing is for sure. America is the greatest nation on Earth with much higher quality of life versus other developing countries. This is due to many things, many organizations in place, and many support structures in place, higher incomes. Oh yes, higher income. Income and wage regulations allow Americans to have that better quality of life. Low income, in fact very low income in China and low wages allows for low production costs. Less red tape, rules and standards also contribute to lower production costs. So technically higher costs of products in America are not that high when you look at the overall picture, but if you put a local pipe next to a "cheaper" pipe the stark price difference is apparent.
So what's a business owner or a consumer to do?
Well as a consumer you really have to look at both your pocket and your desires and balance them both, and the right answer is buy what suits you. But as a business it is a little more complicated. Business owners can’t disregard the market present for high quality local glass at the right price. But the hard part here is understanding that even local glass has to be priced right. Obviously the cost will be higher when compared to "cheaper" glass, but it has to make sense. People are not going to pay an outrageous price for a pipe just because Jimmy there loves reggae music and is a hippie at heart and spent a long time making it. Businesses should try to understand that they should try to carry both high-end and low-end glass and make sure to have local glass in their stores so they don't lose business from folks who understand the difference and don't mind paying a higher price for a quality product.
So remember, if the quality is your concern, look for "local glass" and be prepared to spend a little bit more, but in the long run, the extra cost of your piece will be worth it.