Where does glass come from?
After a successful gallery outing, I was curious how the glass supplies we use are created. Besides knowing that the tanks at PGC are magically full of glass, I didn’t know where the glass came from or how it was made. After a tour at Bullseye Glass Co., I can assure you that our frit, rods and plate glass products are not delivered by a white stork.
Just to backtrack a bit, the first time I saw a hot glass demo at the Pittsburgh Glass Center, I was blown away (this week’s cheesy pun is brought to you by my dad’s sense of humor). Watching the group of artists manipulate glass and work together as a well choreographed team was impressive to say the least. What I didn’t realize is that beginning with the mixing and melting of chemicals to make colored glass, even glass production involves a well timed process carried out by a highly skilled group of people.
In addition to exhibiting glass art (see the previous post), Bullseye produces glass for art and architecture in a variety of forms. If you buy supplies at PGC, you are using Bullseye products (we are an official Bullseye distributor). In their enormous factory in SE Portland, staff members mix batches of different colored glass, melt it, scoop it out and press into sheets, form into rods or even stringers. Throughout this process, the glass needs to be careful monitored for fusing compatibility, correct color and probably a few other things I’m not aware of.
My favorite part of the process was watching the glass come out of the tanks and prepared for sheets. One person would use a giant ladle to scoop out glass onto a table top. A second person would take that blob of glass and fold it over and over again getting it into the right shape before feeding it into rollers that pressed the glass into a sheet. Then the glass sheet was picked up with two tongs and placed on a tray to feed into the lehr – a long oven used for slowly cooling (down firing) the glass as it moves through on a conveyor belt.
The entire process was fascinating to watch and made me more appreciative of the materials we use and the time and precision necessary to create them. Hooray for the glass stork!
This Saturday I start my Coldworking class at Pittsburgh Glass Center - check back for lessons learned.