DID WE LOSE TOUCH WITH OUR INNER HIPPY? | Bullseye Glass Co. | Bullseye Glass Co

DID WE LOSE TOUCH WITH OUR INNER HIPPY?

Dan-Ray-HippiesSm.jpg

BEFORE: Ray Ahlgren & Dan Schwoerer, 1973.

After 33 years in business, Bullseye looks a lot different from the outside. But the soul is the same. So now, finally, I get around to the point of this first week of blogs: who we are, who Bullseye is.

Who we are is who we’ve always been: a slightly eccentric little factory driven by people with a lot of energy, passion about glass, some oddball ideas and a commitment to learning. In a serious, relatively professional way.

So imagine our surprise when last month during a Teachers’ Forum at our factory a visiting instructor from a Midwestern university told us that his students were suspicious of Bullseye, – they thought we were CORPORATE.

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AFTER: Dan, 1997 (OK, bad enough that he turned into “a suit”,
but did it have to be such a bad suit?)

Clearly our self-image, based on who we’ve been for decades and how we see ourselves inside Bullseye, is not how we look to a lot of people from the outside.

I promise that this blog is not going to be a continuous confessional about Bullseye’s identity. I hope that in the future I can use it to test ideas and pass on stuff I think is meaningful (or irrelevant) that falls in Bullseye’s crosshairs. But before we get there I just thought I should let you know who we – still – are.

Now that you think you know who what that is, tomorrow I’ll reveal why it’s actually even weirder.

And if you’ve got a really different idea of what Bullseye is, I’d love to hear it…as soon as we can get the COMMENTS thingy going…

17 Responses to DID WE LOSE TOUCH WITH OUR INNER HIPPY?

  1. sparky says:

    As someone in touch with their inner hippy, but who also has had many positive contacts with Bullseye Glass Company I can assure that bewildered instructor from the Midwestern university that indeed a company can keep touch with their hippy roots(peace and love and sharing the wealth) and still have a totally professional and upscale operation. I have often marveled that Bullseye has managed to walk that line between “corporateness” and “commune”. All I can say is “Ride on Bullseye! Keep on keeping on!”

  2. cattmr says:

    Thank you for setting up this site. We have been using your product for quite a few years and i have just started doing fused glass using BE. It is great material. I will keep checking your blogs to learn all i can about your company. Also keep it coming and get greater all the time.

  3. Lani says:

    Thank you both for your support of Bullseye and its products.

    Martha, I like the image of walking a line between corporate and commune. Bullseye has been around just long enough that its origins are almost starting to phase back into social acceptability – not that that fact stops the company’s “youngsters” (to us, that’s anyone under 45) from rolling their eyes every time Dan trots out another story about Madison, Wisconsin in the sixties. – Lani

  4. pdx-ogg says:

    I think its become almost a cultural touchstone to sneer at companies of this area, founded by hippy boomers made good. Eg rei, starbucks, etc. because its fun to find hypocrisy in the idealism of the 60′s. Really its not so inconsistent–business and political or social idealism. And lots of those companies have given back to the community.
    But I do think in recent years Bullseye has deserved this reputation for bullying corporate behaviour. The percetion is in the collective zeitgeist of the glass community. And one might well wonder why this should be the case, given bullseyes roots and relatively small size compared to other glass companies. I have my theories.
    This is Lani’s blog so if asked I could share those theories. But I think one very basic thing is, artists are very wary of being bullshitted and/or taken advantage of–by suppliers, promoters, galleries, etc. It ain’t easy doing this! it can be risky and expensive. So anyway you can see how this would be fertile ground for even the perception–if not the reality–of “corporate” behaviour.

    Good luck on your blog Lani. Now you have to be your own censor!

    David Williams

  5. Lani says:

    David,
    Given that you’re the reason the bulletin board BAN button was invented, approving your post here wasn’t an easy decision for me. And since, except for you, I haven’t heard this perception of us as a “bully” in the “collective zeitgeist of the glass community”, it wasn’t on my list of Un-beautiful Things to deal with this month (2/24/07).

    But I swore to myself when I started this blog that I’d respond to whatever came at me – within reason. So here you are, again, on the edge of reason as usual.

    Deal me in. Are you implying that we bullshit and/or take advantage of artists? If you are, can you cite examples?

    - Lani

  6. pdx-ogg says:

    Hey ease up now, there’s part of the problem–you’re on a hair trigger. You sent me an email invite to this blog, right? If you really want my advice, I’m happy to offer it in a positive way of moving forward. But I’m not interested in screwing up my vibe (hippy talk) by revisiting the old Bullshit. I don’t have anything to prove, just thoughts. I do think, in light of the grim business climate for domestic manufacturers in general and the art glass world in particular, I have some good insight. But its up to you.

    I think what I meant by BS was just maybe a caution against laying it on too thick in your apparent mission of correcting misperceptions. Corporate PR is a delicate thing.

    David

  7. Lani says:

    Thanks for the advice, David. I’ll do my best to keep my corporate BS as thin as I can. But I can’t promise that my thin won’t be your thick.

    As ever, Lani

  8. pdx-ogg says:

    Seriously though, if I can play your straight man for a second, what are your thoughts on the question you asked, the title of the thread? Because its kind of universal question that I wold think people/compaies/artists do or should ask themselves often. Ie have I lost touch with something about my roots or a philosophy. If so, is there a reason, is it positive growth or just neglect or whatever?

    How do you think the BE company is different now? You often see company founders of this era move on when the business becomes more established and I guess more marketing than creative/product focused. Again, like starbucks, microsoft, internet cmpanies, etc. I even think of guys who ran glass companies like our family friend Adamson. He just wasn’t really into running that business at some point becase it had chaged so much. And of course two original founders did leave BE. And there were some lawsuits, right? So, I wonder what you think, did you lose touch with your inner hippy, or are you (the company) still hippy-like in some ways?

    David

  9. Lani says:

    David,

    Thanks for the question – it’s a good one.

    In the interests of blogginess, I’m obviously being somewhat flip about Bullseye’s roots. Yeah, I can call Dan, Ray, and Boyce “hippies”, but for that statement to have any meaning, I’d need to define “hippy” and beyond the outward badges of headbands, bell-bottoms and a policy manual that administrated the smoking of pot in the factory, Bullseye’s founders likely had more in common with the tinkerers, putterers and small entrepreneurs of many other eras than with any specific ‘60’s counterculture. Sure, the THC probably made their visions a little more vivid, but they weren’t dreaming of peace, love (well, I won’t speak for Boyce) or Eastern religion. They were mostly just high on the Adventure of Glass.

    And as “corporate” as Bullseye may look today, those roots are still deep here. We engage in a lot of very un-businesslike activity that is driven largely by a simple curiosity about material and process. I’m really proud of that. I know you think I’m the High Priestess of some sinister PR machine, but I’m not honestly smart enough for that job.

    The bottom line here is that we don’t have shareholders demanding huge returns and most of us here have chosen to work in a place that has just enough businesss savvy to stay afloat and more than enough adventure to make the journey a Trip.

    Ick. I’m sorry that last line sounds like it came direct from Marketing. Like I said, David, my thin will probably always be your thick. – Lani

  10. pdx-ogg says:

    Ah! “administrator of weed” I love it! I can think of a few old college roomates who would be perfec for that job. No very interesting post. I want to say I’m on “msn tv” now and I have to type on a remote keyboard so its really a drag to write on. It misses letters, you can’t compose, etc. So I’m going to post later but I do have some thoughts on your post. Also I wanted to say the bullying comment was inflammatory and I apologize. Have a good day wherever you are. I enjoyed reading about your travels. I got back to Maui a few weeks ago after an extended stay in the coast range (do you know where the huge cutout of Paul Bunyan is on hwy 26?) Nice. I had to fix everything here and the jungle is so thick I needed a gps to find the house!
    David

  11. pdx-ogg says:

    Hey. So here’s a couple things. You vastly oversimplify my estimation of you and your role at BE. First, I realize you are in a complicated situation in combining your persoal and business life. It really is hard to hear the intimate hopes and dreams of a partner and then be equivocal when that work product or entity or whatever is on the line. I hope you don’t think that’s sexist. Its not a male or female thing.

    Second, I guess my opinion of BE is somewhat informed by my experince at the glass eye. Because, I think in alot of ways the companies were very similar, formed by guys of the same generation and cultural bent. Though of course the products are different. But what it seemed to me is the people who formed these companies (of this era and maybe, creative, inventive,) really didn’t know squat about management. Its a drag, baby. So they knew they had to have people to run the company at some point. But the real problem with their lack of understanding of management was, they didn’t know who to pick as managers. So they picked the people they knew with the strongest opinions on management–as opposed to the BEST opinions. I could go into how ridiculous the management was at the GE. It was almost as if these (nice people don’t get me wrong) folks were just apeing what they thought managers were supposed to do.

    Which is why I guess some companies get sold evetually like the GE did. It just becomes an exercise in managerial competence at some point.

    So, its not simple. I’m not that dismissive. I understand you have huge passion for glass and very strong ideas about management pr etc. I also appreciate the fact that you ave always been willing to talk and not been threatened by a good debate. But you have alot more on the line than I do, too. This is just an interesting distracion for me. For you it encompasses your whole personal and proffesional life. I understand that.

    David

  12. pdx-ogg says:

    Okay and while I’m logged in –three words one forward slash:

    indoor/outdoor carpet

    Here’s what you do. You take that salon de la foo foo down there on Powell and move it back to the west side. The lady who is always on the phone right next to the door ala Spagos can go to the west side too. I call her the the Bullseye maitre’d (I kid! she’s very nice). Believe me, I’ve been in there enough times to know you aren’t going to lose any of those customers in the move–they’re all coming over from the westside anyway.

    Then, you go down Yeon to the home depot and get yourself some real funky funky carpet. And you even could distress it a little bit. Put it outside in the (tobacco) smokers break area first.

    Then you open for business with salespeople who only wear denim and corduroy. And you sell LOTS of uncats, seconds, curious, etc and you sell lots of machine rolled, cheaply produced internationally (China) yet still tested glass, next to your fine domestic product. And, instead of spending lots of resources dedicated to rarefied high end work for the ultra rich (actually an infitessimal part of your potential market) you focus on the real commerce that is happening in the glass market which is mostly populated by small businesses. Even hobbyists want to be able to sell stuff eventually. Those people have to be able to make it commercially with THEIR product for YOU to make it with YOUR product.

    David

  13. pdx-ogg says:

    Seriously though Bullseye MUST be producing machine rolled colors five years from now–prefferably much much sooner. Idon’t see how you survive otherwise. Handrolled was perfect when you were producing stained glass that wasn’t being fired. For kiln work handrolled glass makes zero sense on any number of levels. And the smart people (aka the survivors) soon hip to the fact that you can’t tell between expensive handrolled glass and cheap machine rolled once its been fired. Easier to transport, easier to cut, more uniformity in every dimension, cheaper, come on these aren’t really debateable points are they?

    If I was going to leave you with one thing, thats it. And electric furnaces with molybdenum elements would be a smart idea too. Gas is way old school.

    Okay I’ll shut the blowhole now.

    DW

  14. Lani says:

    David,

    We’re just going to have to disagree on this one. What we hear from users is that the most important qualities of a line of compatible glasses are: 1) a broad palette; 2) sophisticated color and 3} ready availability.

    Sure, a lower price is always at the top of everyone’s wish list – until they have to give something up in its place. Like quality, service or availability.

    Cheap glass in large quantities of limited colors is a battle that we’ll let others fight. You can dance on my grave when we lose it.

    Now I have to go try to untangle my personal and professional life with a finely grilled burger and a sweet bottle of Oregon Pinot.

    Thanks for worrying about us,
    Lani

  15. pdx-ogg says:

    You bet Lani. Good luck to you guys. Here’s hoping for continued growth in our medium and enough $$ for everyone and mostly, interesting glass.

    Cheers, (Cragmont cola and cupanoodle)

    David

  16. sunnystrapp says:

    so wheres Lani’s 1973 foto?

    ss

  17. Brett Swenson says:

    To Dan. You are still the elegant passionate man i was familiar with when i worked there (some 7 years ago now) melting the 13,000 pounds of glass we made daily. To this day i truly wish i could return and recapture the fierce energy and passion that seemed to infuse the air on the foundry floor.

    All the best…..you have so much to be proud and i hope you know it.
    Brett Swenson

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