Grit & Wheels in Schiesheim last year set the course for new horizons. Peter Kuchinke brought several thick blown glass blanks for us cold workers to sink our teeth into. What a treat! A sluice of possibilities opened at this first international cold workers get-together! Through sharing, doing and conversing we explored the juncture between tradition and craftsmanship, and the freedom to do what you want.
A few months later and I found myself in Zwiesel, enrolled at the Glasfachschule for my Meisterkurs.
Logic, available resources and the challenge of exploring the unknown opened a fertile delta of new work . Deep cuts and sculpturally reshaping thick blown glass combined ancient techniques with a contemporary flavour.
To test our proficiency we had to design and manufacture a Meisterstück (a master’s piece). This final work must reflect your experience and prowess as master glass cutter.
Sifting through the vast glass stores at the school, I found several blanks which suited my concept. These blanks were thick, heavy glass bubbles without colour. Josef Reitberger, our course master, advised me to have a blank blown with colour inclusion at the school’s hot shop.
Off I went and explained to the blowers what I wanted: a thick heavy bubble as big as the 5kg sample…
What I got was a 8kg beast of a blank! Holy moly!! Well, the big test will only be towards the end of the course. “Excercise! Keep in shape!” I told myself. 🙂
I packed the blue beast away and continued with the clear bubbles, cutting and shaping them, testing my cuts and concepts. Having the luxury to practice and hone your skills is invaluable. Taking risks and making mistakes lets you understand your limits. It is during this time you learn!
We had five days from start to finish to complete our Meisterstück. Planning your time is imperative and there is no space for any mistakes.
I successfully completed my Meisterstück on time!
I needed to continue with deep cut works once I returned home. Together with Mike Hyam we blew several blanks at Smelt in January. Combining tradition and craftsmanship, and the freedom to do what you want, these blobby babies have been transformed into something new.
These new works I titled the Bohemian Series.
Bohemian loosely refers to my time in Zwiesel, which borders southern Bohemia in the Czech Republic.
Bohemian also refers to a free spirit, of disregarding norms and delving fearlessly into new endeavours.
This is what makes this series so exciting! Each bulbous bubble of glass is transformed through traditional means into an avant-garde delight for the eyes.
Each Bohemian is unique, exploring a combination of visual melody, rythm and a good dose of Rock ’n Roll!
Bavarian and Bohemian Forest
The Czech Republic is a mere fifteen minutes drive from Zwiesel on the B11 through the Bayrischer Wald (German side). Once across, you are in the Bömischer Wald or Bohemian Forest (as this border mountain range is known in the Czech Republic).
Mountains and forests are key geographical considerations for historic glass, dating back to Waldhütten and Waldglas (indigenous glass production which followed resources such as wood). Wood supplied fuel and pot-ash to melt the abundant silica into clear glass with a green tinge. Growth and demand for glass from this region already started in the 14th century with small manufacturers. Over sixty formal glass factories were established by the end of the 17th century.
Even after the Second World War, more than four-thousand people were employed in the glass industry throughout the area, making hand-made glass a viable and important economic driver. This lasted till the advent of large industry and mass production, serving the appetite of the modern consumer society, at a fraction of the costs!
By 1975 the Freiherr von Poschinger Glasmanufaktur in Frauenau had 231 employees, Theresienthal in Zwiesel 227 and Valentin Eisch glassworks 209. This was about to change, drastically…
In the 1980s borders opened to Central and Eastern Europe, pushing traditions aside and profit driven economics to the fore. Cheaper labour and competitive costs in the East made the local glass industry suffer immensely.
The flames of tradition and craftsmanship are kept alive. Through schools and institutions, such as the Glasfachschule Zwiesel and the world renowned Glasmuseum Frauenau, these flames of knowledge will be passed on to future generations.