Volume 40,   Issue 8                                  August  2005

A New View

The Changing World of Decorative Glass

by Jill Foxworth

It used to be that when a customer called in an order for glass it was easy to quote. The only question glass suppliers had to ask was “what are the thickness, type and size of the glass?” Glass companies cannot survive today simply by being order-takers. Sales personnel need to be knowledgeable and willing to research and locate whatever the customer requests, and an experienced glass fabricator can be a valuable resource.

Not Just for Windows
The decorative glass industry is exploding in the United States. Glass is no longer just for windows and doors; it has become a designer statement in buildings. Windows can be specified as laminated, textured, colored, privacy, curved, bent and even used as display screens for video projection. Exterior glass canopies, used both residentially and commercially, are making statements in entranceways. Interior walls, partitions, floors and stair treads can be made of decorative glass. Countertops, bars and service desks are being specified in glass textures such as iced and crackled. Showers and bathrooms are becoming showplaces for what can be done with glass. Everyday, it seems, someone is creating a new application for glass. Many projects’ artistic considerations are just as important as design functionality and code compliance.

So Many Choices
Homeowners, architects and interior designers are demanding more and more customization in their glass projects. They research the Internet to find the latest glass trends around the world. They learn about custom interlayers, the variety of textures, the specialty finishing and the security and safety factors. They find something they like and then add their own touch to create a unique glass project. 

Bidding the Job 
Getting an accurate bid on decorative glass can be complicated. When bidding your projects, make sure the fabricator is knowledgeable and asks you the correct questions when providing a quote to you. Questions to be answered include:

• What’s the quantity of each type of glass by thickness, type and size? 
• What color or texture is required for each type of glass?
• What are the edge requirements for each finished piece?
• What is the final application for the glass?

These questions will aid in determining pricing factors. The following questions should also be considered:

• Is the glass available in the United States or does it need to be imported?
• Do the finished sizes conform to the sheet sizes available?
• Do the textures and patterns require directional cuts?
• Do the edgework, blasting and custom interlayers require additional time, labor and materials?

Additionally, a glazing contractor would be wise to ask the following before choosing a glass fabricator:

• Does the fabricator, upon review of the specifications, provide feedback on alternatives and make recommendations with pricing options to meet your budget?
• Is the fabricator knowledgeable and experienced in working with the custom specifications?
• Does the fabricator provide access to previous project applications that show it has the resources and abilities to complete the project for you?
• Are you made aware of lead times for product availability and product fabrication complexity, which could impact meeting deadlines?

All of these questions and considerations can be an assurance that the production and installation of your project will proceed easily and successfully. It is the unknown, unclear and unasked questions that tend to make glass companies veer away from custom decorative glass projects.

Changing Times
One example of a custom decorative application was in a recent museum project. The architect wished to incorporate old photographs from 1910 through the 1950s into the stair railings. The glass fabricator worked with the architect and a graphic design firm to have the photos digitized, greatly enlarged, converted to sepia-tone and imprinted onto a film interlayer. This interlayer was then laminated to the glass and edged for installation into the railing system to meet the customer’s artistic and practical expectations for this historical building renovation. 

New technologies, such as digital printing, can enhance the performance characteristics and design flexibility of glass, and are making it a product of choice for both the retail and commercial markets. Industry professionals, from installers to fabricators to manufacturers, will benefit from cooperative interaction and increased product knowledge.

Showroom displays of special glass products fabricated for previous projects, or a portfolio of project photos, can be valuable sales tools and serve as inspirations for your customers. Every decorative glass project you complete adds to your level of experience and knowledge, and will help bring in the next one.

It may take a bit more time and effort to research and consult with an experienced glass fabricator before submitting your bid proposals, but in the end, it can expand your sales potential, increase customer satisfaction and take care of your bottom line.

The Author:
Jill Foxworth is the owner/sales manager for Dependable Glass Works in Covington, La.

© Copyright 2005 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.