Volume 35, Number 6, June 2000




Take a Closer Look

“glass” is a must read for those in the industry

by Dez Farnady


There was a small package under the Christmas tree with my name on it and it was not opened until late in the day when all of the other packages had been unwrapped. I knew it was a book—you could feel it through the wrapping. I did not rush to open it because books are difficult gifts for me. My taste in reading is somewhat eclectic and not predictable even for those who know me well. I do not feel committed to finish a book that I have started if nothing grabs me and holds on to my interest. I seldom feel obligated to read a book that someone may recommend as a “must read.” This time I did. The book title was simply “Glass.”

The material that is responsible for putting food on my table and a roof over the heads of my children has always fascinated me. I have always made an effort to keep up with new developments and products in my industry and have always realized that glass, in some way, is special. I never stopped to think just how special. We tend to have difficulty, as the saying goes, in seeing the forest through the trees, which is why I have taken glass for granted. Among the stoce packs and the cases of plate, I have forgotten to see the glass.

William S. Ellis, a former editorial staff member from National Geographic, wrote “Glass,” published by Avon Books, and distributed in paperback in 1999. I suppose the book title established some sort of an obligation, but it was the content that grabbed my interest. The nearly complete overview of glass covers its every possible use and application from the beginning when a Mesopotamian potter kicked some of the fire into the sand to the present, “Translucent Yellow Seaform …,” to the glass sculpture of Dale Chihuly. The description of the product and process is placed into context of time and usage, including the stained glass windows of gothic cathedrals to glass paper-weights, and the tilt glass chalices from Murano to high-rise curtainwall skyscrapers.

Unfortunately, the 286 pages cannot do justice to one of the oldest and most extensively-used products, not only in the world, but also in the history of mankind. Fortunately, the same number of pages may be all that some of us in the glass business are prepared to read. And read them we should.

Because topics are covered briefly, the book may inspire us to investigate further details about specific industry areas we are interested in. For example, in my opinion, the discussion of float glass was not done justice. The sheer volume of float glass in all of its forms around us and its new technology, while mentioned, left me looking for more. But, that is my business and my natural interest. I suppose it made me think about learning more from additional sources. On the other hand, I read about as much as I could ever want on fiber optics and medical applications using minute quantities of glass, where futuristic speculations received more attention than the glass. My curiosity was piqued by some of the artistic glass techniques of flameworking and glassblowing. And as much PPG glass as I have sold, I never once thought of seeing the PPG “Crystal Cathedral” corporate offices in Pittsburgh. I suppose the Corning Museum is a must as well.

For better or worse, we are glass people. We should know something about it, and where we fit into the history of the material that provides our livelihood. Certainly more than just what we see in the looking glass … Read it.

wpe15.jpg (3343 bytes)   Dez Farnady is manager of architectural products for ACI Distribution in Santa Clara, CA. His column appears monthly.


Copyright 2000 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.