THREE UN-BEAUTIFUL THINGS | Bullseye Glass Co. | Bullseye Glass Co

THREE UN-BEAUTIFUL THINGS

Leaving the bucolic idyll of North Lands, I’m back in London for one drizzly Turner-esque day, a climactic decompression chamber in which to re-orient myself to the less romantic side of Bullseye, before I fly home to the daily challenges of a small business, its piffling aggravations and less than dreamy realities.

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An overcast boat ride between the Tate galleries seemed an appropriately lugubrious place to reflect on a variety of attitudes I find particularly annoying in Bullseye’s marketplace.

When I was first thinking about writing this blog, I looked at a few others that seemed pretty popular. I came upon one called “Three Beautiful Things” in which the blogger regularly noted three cheery little observations every day that enriched her life. It’s a really swell exercise. I struggled to play along for my first few days in the UK:

1. Shower pressure stronger than a leaky faucet.
2. Internet access that doesn’t cost $6 per hour.
3.An umbrella that doesn’t blow into the gutter like a dead bat carcass 30 seconds after it’s opened.

It occurred to me pretty quickly that my lists weren’t made up of beautiful things at all. They were just notations on the absence of niggling irritants. So maybe I should just bite the bullet and deal with my crap head-on rather than looking for a vision of the Virgin Mary in a pot-melt.

So, here we go. Hang on. In the next few entries, or for however long it takes, I’m going to tackle some of the more un-beautiful beasts that have charged into our arena in recent years. Call them what you will. I suppose they qualify as Pet Peeves. Whatever you call them, I’d love to hear opinions, pro and con, on these topics:

1. Dealers who think that Bullseye’s Resource Center is the Antichrist of glass commerce and is destroying our industry’s sacrosanct “3-tiered distribution system”.

2. Individuals and organizations who characterize Bullseye and specifically its Gallery wing as a band of elitist snobs who don’t care about beginners or hobbyists in the field of studio glass.

3. Kilnforming as an activity that can be wrapped up in an E-Z package and sold to the masses as an idiot-proof playground populated by kiln-programming dogs and creepy green hand-puppets.

I’ve got plenty of thoughts on this stuff. I’ll try to be as irritating as I can in discussing them.

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Waking up to a sunless Portland. Studies have shown that bloggers deprived of sunlight on multiple continents simultaneously are prone to encouraging argumentative comments on their websites.

I hope that anyone else with experience and opinion on these topics will join in. That’s what the comments section of this blog is for – it’s an opportunity for debate and for the understanding that can grow from publicly airing all sides of a controversy. Or maybe it’s just for poking the bear.

Next: Bullseye’s Resource Center – answer or anathema?

6 Responses to THREE UN-BEAUTIFUL THINGS

  1. Hey Lani… Love the posts! Nothing beats getting soggy in a delightful London winter’s drizzle, heading into a steamy over-heated pub, and downing a couple of pints! On to your requests…

    1) I look at the Resource Center as my contact for one-of-a-kind stuff. I’ll buy my day-to-day glass from my local supplier…but I look forward to the curious and short-run experimental sheets that are only at the center. Sure, my dealer gets that material on occasion, but I’m sure the short-run sheets never make it out to him. So…short story…you’re a supplement not a replacement. (And, yes, I know it ticks him off when I’ve said I’ve been out there. So, I just don’t tell him).

    2) The gallery wing shows folks at the pinnacle of their art OR practitioners of new techniques. I’ve been in training development since the late 70′s and one of the things I’ve always stressed is NOT getting set in your ways. Every time I’ve visited the gallery I’ve had a nice mental kick in the head and have felt revitalized.

    3) This is a bit tougher. Yes, there are going to be folks that’ll figure that with an “EZ” package they’ll be pros in a couple of weeks. One upside is that it means that there are going to be a lot of cheap used kilns out there in a year or so for us to use as backup units or conversion into vitrigraph kilns . The thing to remember is that a percentage of those folks WILL eventually find out they actually can cut it in the art form and will shed their cutesie stuff and start playing with the big kids. They are people that would NEVER have gotten involved at all…so look at ‘em as a bonus. Bottom line is, whether they are making drek or not, THEY ARE BUYING GLASS. Sure, most of the stuff they crank out should have stayed in sheet form. But… they are spending bucks with Bullseye. .

    Gary

  2. Lani says:

    Gary,

    Thanks for writing. Your attitude epitomizes my view of a healthy market and a strong future for kiln-glass. But I’ve got to admit that I feel kind of squeamish that you’ve got to “cheat” on your dealer with us.

    But I guess “home wrecker” is a peg down the Evil Scale from Antichrist. – ;-) Lani

  3. Tony S. says:

    Well, I guess I’m singing a different tune than I once was, but I’m currently thinking that the Resource Center was ahead of its time. With the advent of internet shopping, direct-to-customer sales have become very popular. And while not exactly an internet sales outlet, the Resource Center provides the consumer with great selection, and with moderate volume, price breaks that may not be available from their local retailer… also the sales at the Resource Center are great for the locals who can take advantage of them. The three-tiered distribution system isn’t what it once was. There are fewer retailers than ever before and very few of the surrviving retailers stock fusible glass. Some retailers will special order (full sheets only), but you have to wait a month for their next delivery. As for being the antichrist, well, maybe we’re seeing a revelation.

    Having visited the gallery last fall during the SOFA preview and seeing Catherine Newell’s show during setup, I was in awe of the wonderful work being shown. The last time I visited the gallery was when Narcissus Quagliata had an exhibit… the pieces were large and dark and to be honest, overwhelming. This time, there was a wonderful mix of pieces that showed quite a variety of approaches to glass. After looking at my pictures… again, I think the gallery was inspirational to me. As far as being a band of elitist snobs who don’t care about beginners or hobbyists… There’s little doubt that you recognize talented artists, nurture them, provide them with glass, tools and other resources, but they’re not beginners or hobbyists. Most beginners that I know would feel queezy paying $50 for a sheet of glass when the outcome is so uncertain at that stage of their kiln glass careers. The $50 sheet of glass may have more to do with the economic realities of making glass than elitism, but it doesn’t help encourage new students to set up a kiln and “just try it”. The pros get the heavy discounts because they’re buying more product, but they’re making glass to sell… something a beginner can only hope for and may be way off in the distance… this is a tough one. Ideally, you would like to inspire beginners to work with your product because of quality, palette, and support, but the economics say that after buying the kiln and a few sheets of glass, they had better start selling… and that’s unlikely to happen.

    Kilnforming isn’t for dummies. I’m not sure why the kiln manufacturers ever agreed to make preprogrammed controllers, but I hope they’re giving them more headaches than they’re worth. The conundrum is once a person realizes that kilnforming isn’t simple and results aren’t guaranteed, you still want them to buy that $50 sheet of glass… better you than me.

    Tony

    ps: how did you know I’ve been reading your blog everyday?

  4. Lani says:

    Tony, watching your opinion of Bullseye shift in recent years has been gratifying. I don’t think I ever fully understood your earlier negative impression of us, and I have to wonder whether what changed was you, us, or the environment we co-habit.

    Yes, the three-tiered distribution system is not what it once was. But I don’t think it ever was what it once was. Twenty years ago it wasn’t hard to find a retailer who offered volume (wholesale) discounts (if they didn’t, they’d lose their customer to the nearest wholesaler). It was also not uncommon to find wholesalers selling retail. But almost no one would admit to it.

    If there is a major difference between what we’re seeing today and what happened in the past, I think it may just be transparency. That’s probably more a factor of the Internet than anything else in our market.

    I am a little surprised at your statement that “very few of the surviving retailers stock fusible glass.” It is my impression that fusing is finally getting into the retail market. But that’s an opinion based on watching trade fair and Internet activity. And I may be dead wrong. Again, that’s one of the things I’d hoped to get from this blog – more information from end-users about the state of studio glass in their area.

    As for the price of Bullseye. It’s what it has to be to cover the cost of manufacturing in the US combined with a massive dose of research and educational expense. And since (I’m guessing here) the majority of newbies entering this market are working on earrings and small plates, whether the glass costs $50 or $25 per sheet is insignificant in relation to the cost of their time and learning the technical skills to be able to effectively fuse up either of those sheets.

    The cost of a sheet of Bullseye includes the cost of our having developed (and continuing to develop) much of what has become common knowledge in the world of kiln-glass. Can a newbie get that knowledge for free and buy a competing cheaper glass? Of course. Does that chap us no end? Of course. Do we charge extra for the Factory Owners’ Attitude? Nah, that’s another freebie.

    But I’m getting off course….and since I hope to tackle elitism and EZ fusing in later entries, I’ll hold on to any more thoughts on your related comments until then. For now, THANK YOU for your input. I’m thrilled to find you here. – Lani

  5. Marc Hines says:

    Lani,

    I have been enjoying your blog very much. Learning the early history of BULLSEYE has been most enjoyable.

    I felt the need to chime-in while thinking about item (3) [Kilnforming as an activity that can be wrapped up in an E-Z package…].

    To my mind the very work of BULLSEYE to make a huge family of compatible glass has been the single greatest reason why beginners are able to kiln form with good success.

    Think of the effort Klaus Moje went through trying to find compatible glass before BULLSEYE created ‘tested compatible’ glass (and sent that first crate to his door). That event didn’t just change his life – it set the stage for all Kilnformers to come. That includes me!

    When friends and relatives find their way into my studio, virtually every person want’s to try fusing. Assuming I have kiln space, I always try to accommodate them with a simple project (except for my Mom; she gets about 5 projects per visit). While I keep them out of trouble to help ensure success, by and large they are only making creative decisions. Show them the sheet glass, frit and stringers and watch the fun. The most common words I hear from these visitors are: ‘There are too many choices! I don’t know where to start!’

    My point is: the glass will respond reliably for them just as it does for me. That’s not because of the kiln. That’s not just because of the Thinfire (but that helps!). It’s because of the tested compatible glass.

    Is it idiot-proof? Hardly. But I find BULLSEYE glass to be beginner friendly. That is no accident – and nothing that BULLSEYE should ever feel the need to make excuses for when people whine that it’s ‘too easy’. Be pleased at the reliability of the glass, instead.

    Marc…

  6. Lani says:

    Marc,

    Thanks for your comments and I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. I’m having a good time with it.

    And thanks for the kind words about Bullseye’s accomplishments. It’s pretty easy (and dangerous) for us to get a fat head over having brought tested compatible glass into the scene 25 years ago, but honestly what’s a lot bigger kick is constantly finding out everything we DON’T know. That’s probably the most exciting thing about this medium – that it’s NOT easy, that no matter how long we go at it, the glass will always be smarter than we are. But what a bore it’d be if it weren’t.

    - Lani

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