Working Glass | Bullseye Glass Co. | Bullseye Glass Co

Working Glass

Possibly the most remarkable thing about the Bullseye Glass factory is that it exists at all.

It is the 21st century. Stuff is made in China, Indonesia and Vietnam.  That any product can be made by hand on an industrial scale in America today defies the economic odds. That many of those same hands – in their off hours – also make art, is the second miracle of Bullseye.


Last night I went to the awards reception for the factory’s eighth annual show of glassworks made by its people.

The Working Glass exhibition is always fun. This year the minds, eyes and hearts that schedule, ladle, roll, build, sell and teach with Bullseye glass delivered up some of the most engaging pieces I’ve seen in years.

As much as I love the artwork, it’s often the accompanying informational cards with their nuggets of background on the makers that really grab my interest. I’m intrigued by where we’ve all come from on our journey to this place.

A few of the pieces and histories that especially caught my eye this year:


Geraldine works in sales. (I recognize the computer, but I’m a little baffled by the cullet basket!) No less intriguing is her history. I’d never have guessed that the woman with the disarmingly sexy French accent  had a former life as a “goat herder in New Zealand”

Among the most over-worn bits of parental advice we all grew up with is undoubtedly “Don’t major in art – you’ll end up working in a factory” (Substitute “waiting tables, washing cars, marrying a hedge fund trader”).  Well – for better or worse – a good number of Bullies fulfilled that parental warning/prophecy.


First prize this year went to Stacy, our School of the Art Institute of Chicago graduate, with a jaw-dropping piece called “Selection” that was designed with the intent of being broken, one tab at a time, by viewers who were invited to do so.


Anton and friends accepted the invitation. I hesitated.

The awareness that Stacy had worked on the piece for a year paralyzed my ability to interact. But my brain – if not my hand – engaged on so many levels with the piece.

Another art school grad, Erika, created Dan’s whimsical President’s Prize-winning piece.


Dan’s had a love/hate relationship with rabbits his whole life. I’m sure he was as conflicted over this piece as I was over Stacy’s.

Only employees were eligible to cast ballots for the First, Second and Third place prizewinners. There didn’t seem to be much conflict in the voting. Both Second and Third place went to furnace builder Anton for kilncarved Jean Harlow RIP and frit-cast Gyotaku.


(sorry, technical difficulties are only allowing me to post the top half of the piece – Anton’s department should be glad I don’t build furnaces!)

An artist statement that includes a list of one’s favorite bricks (in order of priority: Kricor, Visil, Zircon, IFG and “the classic” silica) could only have broken out of a mind at least as profound as Damian Hirst’s.

And Anton’s fish (Gyotaku – sorry my photo was hopelessly muddy) is available for at least $12,000,000 less than Damian’s.

Something must be going on in the Research and Education department for so many of our teachers to have taken such a textural and pattern-based direction this season. I was as curious about the trend as about each individual entry.


Bonnie, a self-confessed “gatherer and collector” and former “ice cream scooper”, regularly creates captivatingly precious small objects. This year’s buttons did not disappoint.

I was likewise impressed by Jim’s explorations in pattern and reaction in “Compartmentalization” and “Meander”


But I was equally intrigued by his past history. What – pray tell – is a “freight lumper”?

Nathan’s “Pastille”, a kilncast, coldworked and slumped form, skillfully upheld the current Zeitgeist of the R&E Department .


Is this the aftereffect of that fancy schmantsy microscope you guys got last year?

Just about the time I think I can’t take another Stars & Stripes candy dish, one comes along that stops me in my tracks. The fusion of Walter’s background as  “Infantryman, Nuclear Biological Chemical Warefare Sergeant” with the simple Yankee patriotism of these lines and colors AND the thought of eating candy out of this vessel is the kind of irony I adore in my art.


Brilliant, Walter!

So, those are just a few of my impressions of this remarkable show. I feel hugely proud to be associated, in whatever small way, with the people who are the Bullseye factory team.

My own Gallery Director’s Prize went to a seductively quiet little piece hanging white against a white wall, its tack-fused black dots beckoning my hand.

Unlike the ambivalent and intellectual engagement I felt on Stacy’s invitation to break “Selection”, I reached out instantly and almost unconsciously to run my fingers over the cool, clean surface of Charlie’s tile.

Not understanding Braille, I was clueless, until reading the adjacent card, that the dots spell out the message, “Do not touch artwork”


Charlie, I am SO happy that you gave up grass farming in The Palouse to come work at Bullseye!

12 Responses to Working Glass

  1. Dots 2 4 5 6
    Dots 1 3 5
    Dots 2 4 5 6

    and thanks. you never fail to be an inspiration.

  2. And THIS is why I love you guys at BE. Remember me when I sell the software business and The Dot and I move out there to glassland .

  3. Marshall says:

    Wow, you are truly lucky to have such a brilliant group to spend your days with. I know several of the team, and they are talented and clever indeed. And nice, they are genuinely nice people. And generous with their knowledge, too. The list could go on and on…
    I agree with the director’s choice, simple, funny, like Bob Hope winking at the camera, breaking the barrier. Reminds me of a friend in Seattle, who put up didactic title cards outside the rooms in her house: “Guest Room,” 2002, mixed media, 10′ x 9′ x 8′ , interior arrangement variable.

  4. Lani says:

    I LOVE the title cards for rooms idea! Gotta do that!

  5. Mary Kay says:

    Here is a collection of images of the works in the exhibition, plus snapshots from Awards Night. I believe we have found a new headshot of Jim Weiler for the next class schedule!

    Mary Kay

  6. Oh gosh. Several gorgeous things here–what an impressive body of work. Stacy’s piece is incredible. Sigh. This means I need to get back down to the RC to see it–how long is the exhibit up?

    And I sure as heck wish customers could vote on these, too. Be kinda interesting to see how (or if) the votes differ…

  7. Mary Kay says:

    You have plenty of time–the show is up until December 31 during Bullseye Resource Center hours:
    10am-6pm M-F
    10am-5pm SAT
    Noon-5pm SUN

  8. Thankyou for sharing this event and for the slideshow of Mary-Kay’s great images which allowed us to feel as if we were actually there. The impact of these inspiring works are already being felt across the pond; as a Bullseye dealer, we have always encouraged our staff to learn about kilnwork, make their own pieces and have free use of the studio and materials in their spare time. This morning, we had our usual Tuesday morning “10@10″ (10 minutes at 10am) when we chew the fat, touch base with each other and generally make sure that we all know what’s going on and I played the slideshow which was met with gasps of awe and delight (and that was just Corinna’s lovely new baby!) So inspired were the team that they have decided we should run our own “in-house” exhibition of our work sob “Bring it on!”

  9. Cynthia, when you go to the wonderfully inspiring employee’s show, can you select a piece of Stacey’s “SELECTION” and break it off for me, all the while no one will know it is for me!!!! but don’t tell anyone. O.K. , OH yes , and move one of the glass laddler’s around to face the camera and take a picture, but don’t get caught. Our little secret. Maybe you can even peek at one of the files on Geraldine’s desk. Hmmm! that might be abit much.
    Wonderful show. !!!! I am tipping a glass of wine , (oh I know it is only 8:00 in the morning, !!!!!!!!) but no one can see me. WEll done to all.

  10. OK. Saw the exhibit and I think Andre’s cartoons are my favorites…except for Stacy’s, which just completely blew me away. I love work that interacts with light, and as the tabs break off the shadow and light patterns change…fascinating. (And no, I couldn’t bring myself to break one off.) Definitely worth a visit. But it was all good, solid stuff. Congrats.

  11. How fun is that!

  12. What a great idea, and fantastic end products. Loved Stacy’s, and Charlie’s braille. Inspired.
    I’ve just watched a DVD about the sad demise of glass factories in Bavaria, and one of the thing that struck me was the creativity of the workers, making artworks during their lunch-breaks and after work.
    You obviously can’t keep a good artist down.

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