[PA-NJ Glassblowers] The Global Reach Of Bullseye Glass
gaffer at glassblower.info
Sat Feb 27 10:50:44 EST 2016
Another post about intersection of business and glass and heavy metals.
<p>Supplies from Catharine Newell's studio.</p>
The Global Reach Of Bullseye Glass
Glass artists are coming to terms with a world that has a bit less color in
Over the past few weeks you've heard us
uroboros-glass-emissions/> report on the emissions tests that revealed
unhealthy levels of heavy metals near the Bullseye and Uroboros glass plants
in Portland. Both companies suspended production of some colors. It's making
ripples in the supply available to artists far beyond Oregon.
Catharine Newell stands in studio built into the basement of her home in
Portland's Laurelhurst neighborhood. You can hear the quiet clicking of her
two kilns as Newell adjusts a fine layer of golden yellow sandy stuff
sprinkled on a square of sheet glass.
"So, basically I've sifted the powder onto the panel, wearing a mask,"
Newell said, "and once I have some down, then I'll sometimes use a bit of
cardboard or poster board and just kind of sweep it across."
Once this piece goes into the kiln, that yellow powder - frit, glassmakers
call it - will bake down to form a matte, almost ceramic-looking finish.
"Colors are so emotive," Newell said. "When I choose a color, it's not
because it's going to be pretty. I'll want something that maybe gives a
punch of solidity or something to hold the piece down. Or I'll want to quiet
it with another color. I don't use color wildly. So when I need it, I need
Newell's supplies came from Bullseye, the industry leader in art glass for
fusing projects. She's taught at Bullseye's resource center in Southeast
Portland (always using Bullseye products, she says), and she's shown her
work five times at Bulleye galleries (there are four, nationwide) -
including one that opened this week at Bullseye's New York space.
The supply of that particular yellow she's using is shrinking. On Feb. 4,
Bullseye suspended production of 46 colors after environmental testing
revealed unhealthy levels of cadmium and arsenic near their plants. Shades
like Garnet Red, Spring Green and Burnt Orange are dwindling. Uroboros made
The effect on the global supply of art glass was immediate. Brenda Page runs
Blue Dog Glass in Victoria, Australia. Her studio holds classes and is also
a distributor for glass supplies.
"The story broke around in the colors that were being suspended. We're
pretty much sold out of our reds and yellow glasses at the moment."
Page does have one more shipment coming, but after that, there's no telling
when she'll get more.
"And there's some artists who - that's the only color palette they'll use,"
Page's story isn't the only one. Bullseye's British distributor informed
customers via its website it is auditing all orders, rejecting those that
appear to be examples of blatant color hoarding.
To understand why Bullseye's emissions problem is affecting artists
worldwide, it's helpful to know how the company captured so much market
Shawn Waggoner is the editor of Glass Art Magazine. She's interviewed two of
the company's co-founders, and notes Bullseye's origins, 30 years ago, were
"Dan Schwoerer and one of his original partner Boyce Lundstrom drove up and
down the West Coast selling glass out of the trunk of the VW Microbus,"
The team was making supplies for fused glass projects - mostly stuff that's
assembled and baked in a kiln; glassblowers use different raw materials.
In addition to developing their line of sheet glass, Bullseye's founders
worked with kiln makers to get fusion-friendly models to market. They taught
classes all over the world.
Waggoner says Bullseye's reputation is grounded in making a broad range of
colors that would fuse reliably. Many kinds of art glass before this were
subject to minute variations in how they melted and combined. Even colors by
the same maker sometimes could not be used together. The result, Waggoner
says, was a lot of cracked final products.
"Most of them required testing prior to using them, which for anyone renting
a studio or making art for a living, time is money," she said. "And so to
have a line of glasses that you could fuse together without experiencing
breakage due to this incompatibility of the coefficient of expansion was
Suddenly, artists could do different things with glass, and work in a more
vibrant colors. Fused glass took a bigger role in the contemporary art
Bullseye funded residencies and sponsored exhibitions. And it added
additional production in Portland, color after color.
Bullseye was well within
detected-for-so-long/> the terms of its air permits.
And it spent millions on handling hazards inside the factory - water
systems, energy controls, and more. This week Bullseye suspended use of
arsenic, indefinitely. It hired a consultant to recommend pollution control
But Bullseye CEO Dan Schwoerer told EarthFix in mid-February he was not
aware of what other factories in the U.S. or internationally were doing
about furnace emissions.
"I don't know specifically enough about other manufacturers," he said during
an interview at Bullseye's headquarters. "We're working with our
environmental consultant and another engineering firm to see how can we
solve this problem, what's available."
While Schwoerer claims he was not aware of what was happening in Europe,
Europe certainly was aware of the lack of regulation at Bullseye.
Peter Kuchinke is a glass artist based in Denmark. He's a glassblower and
doesn't use Bullseye's products, but he's been to the factory in Portland.
"We could never understand in Europe how they could get around without any
filters or controls," he told us, in an interview this week.
For the past few decades, everyone from Czech glass bead factories to the
historic studios of Venice have been retooling their operations, responding
to gradually tightening environmental rules.
"We actually don't have many color melting places left," Kuchinke said.
Most of the European Union's rules have to do with carbon emissions, but a
2004 EU directive set up a target value for cadmium and arsenic in ambient
air. According to a spokeswoman for the European Commission, EU glass makers
are not considered a major contributor to heavy metals emissions. But they
still had to follow the rules. Factories added expensive filters to
Kuchinke says he hopes the public does not assign all blame to Bullseye and
Uroboros. The northwest's glass factories, he says, have done artists a
great service with their products.
But he's baffled at how no one - state regulators especially, asked what was
coming out Bullseye and Uroboros' chimneys.
Beyond the regulation, Kuchinke has a theory about what's fundamentally
different about the US and European glass makers. In America, he notes, the
studio glass movement was driven by artists striking out trying to make
their own materials.
"While the studio glass business in America was people like Marvin Lipofsky
or Dale Chihuly," Kuchinke said. "In Europe, we had mostly manufacturing
businesses doing glass. Even if they were doing glass, it was manufacturing
businesses. And it wasn't small studios."
Kuchinke thinks the European art glass studios, coming out of the industrial
base, had a stronger grasp of chemistry, and environmental regulation, and
perhaps a more finely-tuned sense of what emissions would be problematic.
Durk Valkema is a glass artist who has worked in a variety of studio
settings throughout Europe. His father was one of the founders of Europe's
studio glass movement. The younger Valkema now runs a company that makes
compact furnaces and kilns.
"The art glass movement was restricted to whoever found their way into the
existing factories," Valkema says.. "It wasn't until the late '60s when
glass was introduced at an academic level at art schools ... that studio
glass became developed in Europe in small-scale production started."
Valkema says he thinks leaders at Bullseye and Uroboros will work to reach a
OPB reached out to Bullseye to ask about the apparent disparity in how
emissions are handled on either side of the Atlantic. Spokesman Chris
Edmonds wrote back:
"We are worldwide experts at glass making, not experts in worldwide
regulations. Like most companies, we have an expectation that the
regulations established by the Federal Government, the Oregon Department of
Environmental Quality and the Oregon Legislature are protective. It would be
impossible for Oregon companies, already subject to local, state and federal
regulations, to be up-to-date, much less to follow whatever different rules
might apply outside Oregon, in the European Union, or other nations."
For the present, red, yellows, and orange fused glass supplies are in limbo.
Some manufacturing operations in China offer fused glass supplies. But those
who have become accustomed to Bullseye's products don't sound ready to
Instead, they're thinking about what the work will look like without half
the available color spectrum. Portland artist Catharine Newell says the
scarcity would mean re-thinking her practice.
"Initially I would think that it's a pretty good exercise, you know, having
to adapt to what is available," she said. "That's always a good exercise.
But I think after a while, things would begin to feel very narrow. Color is
an emotional choice. It triggers emotion. That's why you use it."
And for the moment, as one art dealer said, everyone's thankful for cobalt
blue - one of the colors not affected by the production shutdown.
EarthFix's Cassandra Profita contributed to this report.
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