After spending an afternoon “On the Couch with Clifford” – a broad-ranging and perfectly-paced  interview between Richard Whiteley and Clifford Rainey on the latter’s history, methods, teaching philosophies and opinions of dragon-stemmed Venetian goblets – and an exceptionally thought-provoking Keynote by Janet Koplos on “What Glass Wants to Be When It Grows Up”, the  first day of BECon 2009 came to its lively conclusion at the gallery reception.

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The BAM (Button Art Match) game drove inquisitive party-goers through both floors of the gallery searching for their “matches” – anyone wearing a button with art picture matching his/her own.

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Back in the mid-90s we got the idea that watching someone else work would be a great way to celebrate Thanksgiving.

1995…Dan: “Got any plans for the next ten Thanksgivings?”
Dante: “Hmmm. Where’s this going?”

The decade of the Dante Circles (1995-2004) is fast becoming history. But like lots of history, it only seems to get grander in its passing.

So it is that this weekend I am again fondly remembering all those years that Dante, Janusz and Paul came down to Portland for the three days following Thanksgiving to blow “cups” while we drank champagne and brunched on the bleachers. It was our celebration of glass. Humored by Dante & Friends we got to sit in front of the furnaces watching them work.

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Time is racing by. I can’t seem to get back to the factory tour I started weeks ago. Victim to some malfunctioning reverse gear on my internal time machine, this morning I found myself staring at this…

Rolling glass circa 1978. The height of fashion on the casting floor? Velvet bellbottoms?

Not today. But who notices apparel in 2008? You can’t see the pants for the tattoos.

Well, back to working out the timelines for the real tours that are coming through next week. If you want to know more about these and other activities that Bullseye has planned for the GAS conference, check out the SEE BE info that Mary Kay’s group put together.

Like everything else they do, it’s just brilliant.

As heady as it is to think that we could conserve 6 million gallons of water a year with Daren’s recycling system, Bullseye is still a factory that is defined more by daily individual effort than by the periodic super-projects.

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The humble factory drinking fountain. One little revolutionary idea.

Which is how the filtered water fountains happened.

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Clearly tree-planting along SE 21st Avenue doesn’t begin to address the environmental impact of glass manufacturing today.

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What’s water got to do with it?

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Once upon an Earth Day. (OK, Gary, you asked: that’s our sales manager Jim Jones – not long out of college – on the far left. On the far right is Mary Kay’s oldest, now long past college – and thumb-sucking)

When I arrived at Bullseye in 1983 Dan & Company had been struggling to make colored art glass from recycled bottles for almost a decade.

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Get real. I bet you scrub and polish all your mayo jars before tossing them in the recycle bin.

Recycling is only this squeaky clean in iStock photos.

In truth, what a factory like Bullseye gets when it orders in recycled bottle cullet is just enough fragments of ceramic, pyrex cookware, metal contaminants and other assorted oddities to ruin entire melts of furnace glass.

This was the major obstacle to the use of post-consumer glass in Bullseye’s manufacturing operation by the late 1980s’s. The original idea made perfect sense: recycled bottles replaced the virgin sand, soda and lime in the factory’s formulas. A shorter melt cycle means lower fuel costs and less environmental impact. Ecologically and socially it was the right thing to do.

But by the 1980s mass container manufacturing plants like Owens-Illinois were competing more aggressively for the limited sources of recycled bottle cullet in the Pacific Northwest. (Originally these operations had only used about 10% recycle in their melts; today their usage is as high as 80%). Good news for the environment. Bad news for a small factory competing in the supply chain.

Meanwhile Bullseye’s color palette was becoming more sophisticated, necessitating greater control in formulation – not easy with an unpredictable raw material like recycled bottles. And most importantly, an emphasis on fusible glass meant tightened tolerances in compatibility testing – also not easy to achieve with the vagaries of post-consumer waste.

End result: by the 1990s Bullseye had reformulated its entire line to virgin raw materials. In doing so, we instituted some of the tightest raw materials testing in our industry and improved the glass for kilnforming.

But what about the values behind the original commitment to recycle?

Well, Bullseye’s never been a place without ideas. Some that are brilliant. Some that are all wet.

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Stay tuned for Earth Days at Bullseye in the ’80s….

For Gary, Toni and Cynthia: a few more “where we came from” pictures on the way to Talking Values.

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This one is Dan – SPF clueless – in 1974. He, Ray and Boyce were building the Bullseye factory, brick by recycled brick.

Most of the building materials for the furnace room came from Zidel’s, a salvage yard in Portland’s south waterfront, a junk-lover’s paradise where dismantled naval vessels gave up their innards to the inveterate artist-tinkerers whose recipe for glassblowing, commerce, and hard-partying pretty much summed up the Zeitgeist of Portland’s ‘60s-sprouted entrepreneurs.
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An short ode to guys with the b—s to take it on the chin.

Yesterday I promised a discussion of the Values History of Bullseye and started with mention of some of the old staples: ingenuity, candor, frugality etc. etc. – the diet that many so-called “Americans” were raised on in the ‘50s.

But first, a quick detour North.

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Recycling values. In the Beginning (1973) Bullseye glass was made of recycled bottle cullet. Thirty-five years later, a lot has changed. And a lot has not.

If you happened to grow up in America in the 1950’s as I did, you’re probably familiar with the self-congratulatory litany of virtues we were raised to believe were uniquely (US) American: inventiveness (aka “Yankee Ingenuity”), self-sufficiency, frugality, honesty, candor – all the Honest Abe stuff we truly believed contrasted us to “Old Europe” (even before a moron among us put a name to our arrogance).

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