Glass

Glass

Trójstyk / Dreiländereck / Trojzemí

»A story about the glassmakers of the Lusatian Mountains«

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The three ovens are heated with gas. The lehr runs electrically. The glassworks has modern furnishings. Today it is, of course, very comfortable. In the past, several cubic meters of wood would have had to be burned every day. The slow cooling of the finished glass pieces was very problematic.

Jiří Haidl in Svojkov knows the history of glassworks in Bohemia and the technical developments very well. He became very interested in the history during his studies to become a glassblower. From him we learn that there are records of glassworks in North Bohemia since the beginning of the 15th century. Probably they have existed in the area even longer. Here they found what was needed for glass production, the right sand and enough wood. Quartz sand with the natural admixture of lime. The ash of the beeches served as plant ash. They had their huts in the forests around Nový Bor. When the wood ran out, the glassworks closed down and were rebuilt elsewhere in the forest. Even for the traders it was not always easy to find them.

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And while we talk about glass making and techniques, many very skillful hand movements follow each other. One glass after the other is created. The counter with the wooden beads on the wall shows 22. After all the passes, the next steps and the tool that will be used next can be guessed in advance. Now a glowing blank is blown on. A short roll on a metal table. A short swing upwards, again a little bit of blowing. In the meantime, the opened mold is held ready. In it, the blank is blown into the intended shape. Father and son are perfectly attuned to each other. There is something deeply relaxing about the whole process.

In the meantime, Mrs. Haidl brings water and pastries and while I stand like this and my gaze wanders out over the countryside, I realize that I am holding one of the drinking glasses that are being created here. Created by the hands of the two glassblowers and their skills, thought through and with the concentrated knowledge of centuries.

In the workshop of the Haidls, glasses are created according to models from the Celts, from the Renaissance period, from the Bohemian royal court and the Vikings. Viking glasses are especially in demand in Scandinavia. Among them are also the only multicolored vessels. Sixty percent of Sklárna Svojkov's production goes to the north of Europe.

Just now, scissors are again used to pull a glass plug taken from the furnace into length. The pointed end is pinned to the bottom of the finished glass body. Twisting releases a uniform thread from the glowing mass. Rolled up, it creates the base of the drinking cup. It looks easy. And yet it requires a great deal of experience and skill. Shortly afterwards, the cup is ready and placed in the refrigerator. We learn that its temperature may only be 30 degrees cooler than the processing temperature of the glass. At a temperature above that, the jar would collapse. Below that, the freshly formed glass can easily crack, because it has stresses.

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Jiří Pačinek © Sven Müller

And with this glassmaking family, the glassworks and around it a garden has been created, a world of glass. "At first, we just put broken or unclaimed glass objects in the front garden because we didn't want to throw them away. Later, we deliberately created the garden. Planted shrubs. Planted trees." Meanwhile, the garden has grown as if into an outdoor showroom. Shimmering bluish bubbles sway in the wind, clinking softly together. A path winds down from the Dream Magic Tree, past towering ice crystals and ever-changing shrubs and huge blue blossoms to the flamingos in the now-dried riverbed. "In spring and summer, the creations made of glass go together with nature. Now the plants made of glass dominate. Sometimes they transplant some pieces to customers' gardens. This makes room for new things and the garden transforms over time." He sees the glassworks and the place as an overall experience. "From the visitor's point of view, it should be beautiful, inviting for a day trip."

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It looks like the togetherness is succeeding. People talk about their church and they enjoy coming to the workshop - including the children. "I hope I can inspire a few of them, like I was inspired back when I was a kid. Actually, I was a wrestler, Greco-Roman style. And then they showed this series on TV. 'Jakub the Glassmaker'. I saw all the parts. And then a friend invited me to Nový Bor and we went to one of the glassworks. And then it was clear that I would become a glassmaker. Well, and then at 15 I went into apprenticeship." And as he talks, you can feel that none of his enthusiasm has been lost.

Petr Červený is one of those who started working as an independent glassmaker after the fall of communism. Until '94 he worked in one of the glass factories in Nový Bor. Some of his colleagues stayed there. He himself took the chance and founded the Florianova Hut' in Častolovice. Today, he is familiar with numerous types of making, with glass types and manufacturing processes from different eras. And that's not all. In his glassworks he employs pewterers and glass cutters, with whose help even elaborate figures, combinations of metal and glass, are possible.

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Żyrandole sufitowe w Elbphilharmonie (Filharmonia nad Łabą) w Hamburgu powstały m.in. w hucie Florianova. © Sven Müller

He's in a good mood, and as he talks, it's obvious that his enthusiasm keeps presenting him with new tasks. "The workshop has been running for eleven months without a break." And in response to our questioning looks, he replies, "My second shift is about to start. My son is now loading the furnace and then the glass melting begins. Sand, lime, potash and, depending on the color, the appropriate metal oxide. We make our own glass. At one o'clock in the night, I turn up the temperature as the last operation." And with a wink, he adds, "August is free."

And while the Florianova Hut' is feverishly trying to fulfill all its customers' wishes in time for the holidays, Jiří Pačinek and his colleagues are preparing for a very special Christmas. This year, the church in Kunratice is getting a nativity scene. Mary and the child are already ready. On Christmas morning, the glassmaking family gathers in front of the furnaces to create Joseph together, before Christmas Eve begins later.

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