Caithness Glass crafted by hand by our master craftsmen – parts 1, 2 & 3.



the glasses houses a strange medium to what like a ruble in the end of blowing up sputum it looks like if you're looking into secret worlds and when you're seeing us our backgrounds we know like a treasure glass has been part of our world for some 6,000 years the Romans used it making the first windows fragments of pain some 2 centimeters thick have been found in the ruins of Pompeii the first bottles appeared around 1300 when class workers had the added stress of knowing that if they revealed any of their special formulas they might pay for the indiscretion with their lives in the 16th century the material still have the same elevated status window panes were so expensive that when the Lord of the Chateau was away servants used to take them out and put them in storage in case they got broken through all the years the fascination which this unique substance holds has continued working and shaping it still carries a mystique that links today's glass makers with those of 16th century Venice or 19th century France this is Scotland on the edge of the 21st century these are the makers of Caithness glass despite the fact that glass is manufactured from a variety of raw ingredients it's seen as a pure natural substance far removed from the qualities of the synthetic materials that try to emulate it right from the beginnings in her first factory in Witte Caithness glass enhance that close natural connection by working together their products a look which was characteristic of the very special countryside which surrounded them you this is the wig Factory today but the story began in a much smaller Factory in 1961 the original designs were conceived along the same lines as the well-established Scandinavian styles but by creating vases and bowls touched with the colours of Heather Pete and locks the unique identity of Caithness glass was quickly assured the innovative impulse continued through the 60s producing artifacts that were clear departures from traditional glass designs the range gradually expanded and the markets kept on responding to the initiatives with enthusiasm in 1968 the company's preeminence was acknowledged in the granting of a royal warrant by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Caithness glass was obviously by now a major player in the whole area of glass making it was time to set up its own engraving studio it was a move that led to some rather surprising and certainly unforeseen developments in the same year 1969 a new factory was opened and open on the west coast it was a response to the continuing demand for the company's products and originally it produced art where especially the type known as open ware with its distinctive colored stripes floating inside the glass a year later another avenue was opened with the launching of Caithness jewelry which began producing miniature paperweights set in hallmarked silver by 1974 the company was 13 years old and had been producing paperweights for only five years but interest in their designs was now worldwide two factories were no longer enough to meet the markets needs and in 1979 the company expanded further opening another Factory this time in Perth every decade has continued to add to the momentum established in those early days and the one small factory up in WIC the success of each generation of paperweights has been relentless it's meant that more and more manufacturing space has had to be found to satisfy the growing demand in 1992 new factories and visitors centers were opened in both urban and WIC and 1994 is a very special date marking the Silver Jubilee of that very first set of Caithness paperweights as in all industries the years have brought more mechanization new processes and techniques but there's no machine anywhere that can make the objects that are being created here in this case there's no substitute for the artistic skills of the designers and the makers column Telus is in no doubt as to the primary ingredient in the company's success the de segura this whole operation is people we have a lot of things going for us we have a young workforce who do not think as the old twinkling eyed classmen used to do they give that back to themselves it wouldn't pass anything on in the old days you would say to somebody right I want to try this I want to get this effect in this effect and they receive no Canada we don't have that attitude our glass makers don't have that attitude because there was such a great tradition there 25 years of all these fantastic effects behind them so what actually goes on here how do these people make such desirable objects what are the elements and processes involved the raw materials represent an international mix Sam from Scotland colors from Germany sodium nitrate from South America sodium carbonate from Europe in an ordinary working day the makers will take something like a thousand kilos of glass from the pots and the furnaces it's the job of the duty furnace man to make sure that there's always enough to meet their needs when they've all gone home he starts his night's work first of all he has to turn up the furnaces ready to melt the next batch of raw materials it takes about two hours for the furnace to reach 1,400 degrees centigrade that's the temperature that's needed to make sure that the melt is effective two hours later it's topped up again but the melting continues into the night by 4:30 a.m. the pots have all been topped up and the furnaces now have to be turned down to cool slowly by the time the glass makers arrive the molten glass will be between eleven hundred and fifty at eleven hundred and ninety degrees the glass which the makers work with must be free of all impurities fragments of clay or dirt could ruin a whole batch and so the pots which contain it mustn't crack or crumble they're hand made out of special clay which is formulated to withstand up to 1500 degrees heating firing and setting a new pot needs precise skills and an ability to work in up to 1,100 degrees of radiant heat and in the end all the care and all the preparations are designed to complement the skill of the makers they're creating swirls patterns and combinations that they won't actually see until the following day when the weights have cooled off to the untrained eye the orange and black blob on the end of their blowing iron looks like just that but it could be anything from the most complex of limited editions to the simplest design it's the precision and artistry of the makers that controls its gradual evolution the various stages of the process combine to produce complexity but they're easy enough to recognize basically each weight is built up of a series of layers before starting production needs are translated into measured amounts of colored glass chips powders rods and all the other substances which will be used for that day's batch of paperweights everything's now ready for the first gather of glass the gather has to be accurate if it's too fast bubbles may form if it's too slow the heat will be unbearable with exactly the right amount of glass gathered its next piloted into shape depending on the design colors or other layers are picked up and taken to what's called the glory hole to be melted into the original gather another gather surrounds the first with a sort of envelope of clear glass the weights then locked and smoothed and finally separated from the iron ready to be sent to the annealing kill where it will be cooled down over a period of some 14 hours weights with a regular pattern of bubbles like this seemed to provoke most questions the way they are made again shows what an accommodating material molten glass actually is the inside wall of this mold has a raised regular pattern on it by lowering a gather into it the glass has lots of little hollows forced into it when the next gather is taken these hollows don't get filled but simply remain as bubbles it looks simple enough but if the temperature isn't right pieces of glass can stick to the mold that means taking it apart and laborious lis chipping it all off once again success depends on the skill of the maker there are 10 grades and it takes some seven or eight years to get to level 10 but whatever level they're at they're making one of the Caithness designs number of weights produced in the course of a day by any individual can be affected by many things but it's mainly dependent on his or her skill just how difficult the design is with some of the less complicated examples makers can produce well over 80 but when it comes to the limited editions the process is involved a much more time-consuming and the discard rate is much higher after her visit to the Perth glass house Herschel asifa the secretary of the Swiss collectors Club wrote that the whole that the makers work was my hell-like birthplace from heavenly creations it's an apt description with four furnaces each carrying molten glass held at a temperature around eleven hundred and ninety degrees centigrade white heat threads of molten glass noise sweat busyness all of these make up the inferno that's needed to produce the cool beauty of the typical cazness paperweight so what's it like working here almost is but you do get used to certain extent although you're you're always sweet it's not not glamorous the same is not true but no he's not like sustaining that's just the first nine years I've been young stop sweating yet oh it's not as you can see that's hot well I'm not one of the best of people for taking up here anyway I like to stay in the shade I have the best seat in the factory although in the winter time I sneeze today's the big doors open the bottom for here for everyone else and I get the AC blasting so I'm toasting it once I do freezing on the yellow you can't walk up the fight to the street Lane great for James people come into glory halls barely hold class and if it does get too bad what to do is lifted eyes in the coat the window and you see somebody watch something fascinated makes it worthwhile watching new faces new rescan week twice a year and then you get chained up and on deck I still remember the first time I saw favorite be made you know I was just entranced by it because it's so different from anything else I've got the grass exhibition of the year and we put hooding designs in and this year one of my designs actually way through it's great to have a paper of it everybody's going to buy us got your name on it the swirls and bubbles of the modern designs are very different for the miniature worlds inside the more traditional ones creating these tiny objects and precise patterns needs special techniques that are part of glass making history the miniature glass sculptures inside these weights are the result of another traditional technique called lampworking it involves heating and shaping rods and filaments of glass in this case the flat rods will become the petals of a flower first the petal shape is created leaving excess glass at each end of it one end is then heated and pulled off thin lines of color are added to provide the detail in the petal design the center of the flower itself is set on a rod and the petals are added one by one as before the final petal shape is created by pulling away the excess glass the butterflies and leaves of this design are created using the same technique they're then placed upside down on separate plates and taken into the glass house there asleep is placed over them to form an enclosed mode glass is gathered and lowered into the mold to pick up first the flower this is heated in the glory hole and another thin layer of clear glass is added to provide a space between the flower and the butterfly which will hover above it the iron is marked to make sure that the design is correctly orientated and the butterflys picked up melted in and then enclosed in a final gather of glass and this is the result whatever style of weight is being made they all have to be cooled very gradually in a controlled environment to prevent cracking or distortions this happens in the annealing kilns it's the process that turns the orange and black blob into something that looks more like the paper weights we know but before it can leave the factory there's still more work to be done on it some types need faceting and all have their bases ground of diamond wheel polished cleaned and inspected to make sure they passed the stringent quality controls if they don't pass muster nothing's left to chance Caithness glass are too proud of their reputation to risk letting any flawed weights find their way out of the factory so the limited-edition rejects are comprehensively destroyed by having molten glass straight from the furnace poured over them and from all the heat the noise the bustle come objects like this I start maybe with an idea put it down on paper and discuss with maybe Franco or some of the glass people to find out what colors are actually available and then experiment with how one color maybe looks on top of another together give me the completely different color yeah you yeah time doesn't stop everything in life is in a state of flux each of its strands made up of sequences of moments chasing one another away waves break branches and grasses wave in the wind plants grow perhaps one of the attractions of the works of art produced by the designers and makers of Caithness glass is that somehow they seem to catch the instantaneous trap a transitional moment and suspend it but in such a way that it still expresses the movement the blending and mixing of things the ongoing processes of living it's a per will during correspondence on the static on the dynamic these are no longer simply things that stop paper blowing about their dreams caught in crystal

One Comments

  • Gary Hamilton

    April 15, 2019

    Its a shame that the people you show making it are no longer doing it as this was partly filmed in Wick. A waste of alot of Talent 🙁

    Reply

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