Fused Glass Manufacturers

This blog entry (my first in a long time) is being written in the midst of a watershed moment in colored art glass industry.  Recent environmental testing has raised legitimate concerns about factory emissions and public health. Today we have far more questions than answers.  What does seem clear is that the rules established at all levels of government – city through federal – were created with insufficient understanding of the industry they regulate.

For those following this, and especially for the understandably concerned residents who live near Bullseye and Uroboros glass companies, an avalanche of information – not all helpful or even accurate – is made more confusing by the difficulty understanding some of the nuances of the fused glass industry that Bullseye and Uroboros support. Understanding those details, though, is critical to understanding both the current circumstances and how to drive change.

The need for change is something that citizens, government, and the glass companies agree must occur.

This article is intended to help everyone understand the roles of Spectrum (Washington State), Uroboros (Portland, Oregon), and Bullseye Glass (Portland, Oregon) within the fused glass industry and show how those roles help shape the current Portland situation.

You Need Special Glass for Fusing

Glass from the stained glass store, your local Home Depot, or bottles out of the recycling bin, cannot be melted together without almost certain compatibility

problems (usually breakage).

To successfully fuse two or more different pieces of glass together, the formula for the glass must be developed for that purpose.  This kind of glass, widely known as fusible glass, is manufactured by a tiny number of companies.  In fact, Bullseye, Uroboros, and Spectrum are the only fusible glass manufacturers of consequence.

Three Companies, Two Product Lines

Fusible glass manufactured by Spectrum, is marketed as “System 96″ glass. Any piece of System 96 glass can be fused to any other piece of System 96 glass.  Glass manufactured by Bullseye is marketed as “Bullseye Compatible” (often referred to as “90 glass”). Any two pieces of Bullseye Compatible glass can be successfully fused together.  System 96 glass and Bullseye Compatible glass are NOT compatible with each other.  Most fused glass artists pick one of the two families and and use only that type.

Uroboros manufactures two kinds of glass, one intended to work with Bullseye and one intended to work with System 96.  But the relationships Uroboros has with Bullseye and Spectrum couldn’t be more different.

Uroboros makes only a few glass styles that are intended for use by Bullseye artists and they do so with no help or input from Bullseye.  They make a large number of glass styles for use with System 96 glass and they coordinate closely with Spectrum, in many ways acting as a single company.  For example, Spectrum’s catalog of System 96 glass shows a unified view of glass made by both Spectrum and Uroboros:

image

The above is a screen capture from a catalog page of the Spectrum website.  The (U) and (S) under each glass indicates who is the manufacturer.

A Fusible Glass Line Must Be Complete to Be Competitive

The most important take-away from this arrangement is that neither company, Uroboros nor Spectrum, offers a complete color palette that most artists would consider necessary for fusing.  Specifically, Spectrum relies on Uroboros for all red and orange opal (non-transparent) glass, many other colors, black, and all thin glass (except white) sheet glass.  When you hear that Uroboros has stopped producing cadmium-based glass colors that means those colors are not available for all System 96 customers unless Spectrum decides to manufacture them.

Although they are separate companies, the relationship is intensely symbiotic.

There are two critical byproducts of the close relationship between Uroboros and Spectrum:

  • Collectively the companies can shift production between two state regulatory jurisdictions: Oregon and Washington.
  • Neither company must produce a complete palette to remain viable.

The situation for Bullseye is very different.  They must produce a complete color palette themselves to remain competitive. And they must do it in Oregon. If, for any reason, they could no longer produce a primary part of their palette, say reds and oranges, they would almost certainly cease to be a viable business entity.

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