Pyrex from within
Gerald tells of a magical side of glassmaking only those who worked there got to witness.
For thousands of years, glass has unveiled its inner beauty with civilisations across the world. Transforming sand into objects and adornments of beauty has developed through the ages creating artforms unlike any other. My experience at James A Jobling taught me how it was made on an industrial scale and why households across the world took it into their homes with pride and appreciation. Basic kitchenware was transformed using decorative transfers burnt into the glass, creating the “must have” items for every home in the late twentieth century. Not only the items themselves held such fascination but the processes that produced them. In particular the huge glass tanks working at 1100 degrees centigrade were a wonder to behold. The molten glass was contained in an open hearth design by a refractory material which could withstand the extreme heat and corrosive atmosphere within the furnace. The aggressive nature of the heat and gases caused erosion and formations of stalactites unseen for years as the tank worked continuously to produce the glass. I was fortunate during my years at the company to witness the replacement of these internal linings during a major refit of the tank. After days of cooling down slowly so as not to collapse the structure, the day came when the rear of the tank could be opened for inspection. Inside this magical cavern was a wonderland of colours, shapes and textures unlike anything seen elsewhere. The surfaces of the refractories were transformed into wonderful shapes and colours - a thing of beauty to behold. Many employees took pieces of the brick home or placed them in their workplace striking up conversations about their shapes and hues. Standing on the bottom of the tank where the glass would normally be forming and witnessing this spectacle is a memory I hold over forty years later. My sadness is that I have no mementos or photos to share this wonder from within.
A group of people including artists, former industrial glass workers, students and collectors, all made digital stories about glass.