Volume 37, Issue 12, December 2002


The Art of Gift-Giving
Thereís More to Some Gifts Than Meets the Eye
by Dez Farnady

Many years ago, in an attempt to repay a debt, I had the idea to give a customer a half-inch glass tabletop for a conference table. In the glass business, glass gifts are gauche. But since the debt was not all that great and since I was in the business and the cheapest gift I had to give was glass, glass it was to be. Since the customer was in San Francisco and it was during the Forty-Ninersí hey-day, I thought that a Niner logo in the center of a tabletop would be a nice touch. 

So, I copied a Niner logo, cut out a stencil and painted the logo with spandrel frit on to a large glass lite with polished edges and ran it through the furnace. I felt as though I had just re-invented the wheel. 

Truth Be Told
It seems that I had not invented anything. PPG had long before published documentation on a product called Patternlite. It was a cool idea. The silk-screen application of ceramic glaze in line or dot patterns when fired on to the glass becomes a permanent decorative way of controlling light transmission. The effectiveness of the process obviously depends on the building orientation and the type of glaze and pattern used.
After a couple of years the Patternlite documentation disappeared from the PPG publications, but re-surfaced under names like Etch-Mat as a fabricatorís product. The high-quality opacifying glaze was permanent, cleanable and, unlike spandrel glass, free of pinholes and color and density inconsistencies. It became the perfect product to substitute for sandblasting on commercial interior office partitions. 

I once specified and supplied silk-screened frit on a heavy glass shower door and side panel. First it was fabricated with holes and notches for hardware and polished edges, then it was silkscreen opacified with a lava bronze frit.

The customer was an attorney remodeling a multimillion-dollar house on the coast and every piece of material going into the project went through a quality inspection done with a magnifying glass. I was not quite sure that the shower door could withstand that kind of scrutiny. So I told all parties concerned that I would not supply a product typically limited to spandrel glass standards unless they agreed that I would be the ultimate arbiter of the final quality. I got the owner (the attorney), the general contractor and the glazing contractor to sign off on a letter of agreement. I was to be the final and only one to determine if the finished product was of the best possible quality and had to be accepted. 

The Ground Rules 
I told my supplier the ground rules and he told me he could do it. Obviously, we priced it according to the care that would be required to make it. It was pretty clear that we were not going to mess with the customer and would give him our best shotówe just wanted to be sure that we were not going to be held to an impossible standard. I donít recall the exact number, but the final cost was somewhere near five figures. 

After about a month, the shower doors were delivered, installed and accepted without question and the bill was paid. I never saw them, and I am still sorry about that. It was not only the most expensive shower door I ever sold, but also the only case in which everyone agreed to let me be the sole judge and jury. Fortunately I was never called on to pass judgment. 

The shower door experience made it pretty clear that both the application and the possibilities of silk-screened glass go beyond their current uses. That shower door was expensive because the quality standard was extraordinarily high, but standard screen patterns are more reasonable. 
As for my tabletop it never made it on to the table. I found it one day in a dirty stack of old glass in the back of their warehouse. I guess I was not the only one who thought glass gifts in the glass business were gauche. But thatís all right, because it was my last one.


DEZ Dez Farnady serves as general manager of Royalite Manufacturing, a skylight manufacturer in San Carlos, Calif. His column appears monthly. 


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