Updated: Sep 17, 2021
I am excited to be talking about the next phase of the work on the Michael Lax moulds. As you recall in a prior blog post, Michael Lax worked with Fenton designing a modern glass collection in 1957. Fenton was hesitant to go forward and it was another year before Fenton did a wide release of "Horizon designed by Michael Lax for Fenton". Part of the Fenton promotion described the collection thusly, "as new as tomorrow, functional and beautiful, truly a pace setting achievement that has long been our forte'"
As you can see, this collection got the full treatment and it was beautifully presented to the public. However, Fenton was soon to discover that this collection looked very different from what Fenton was currently doing and the public did not respond to advertisements. After 6 months the collection was withdrawn.
It is hard to believe as we look back that this collection was a dud. It is so much a part of it's time, now lovingly referred to as Mid-Century Modern, that we in 2021 cannot fathom how it failed. Michael was a well known and respected designer who spent decades working with various industries lending his talent to the promotion of modern design.
Coming forward to 2021 and Emporium is resurrecting this collection. It has been renamed "HORIZON Collection- Designed by Michael Lax". An Exclusive Design By Emporium Limited Edition. Through special license of the current owner of moulds we will be presenting all 20 pieces in this collection. Today we will talk about how each piece is made.
If you have never toured a hand made glass factory, I highly recommend you do so at every opportunity. You will develop a higher sense of understanding and an appreciation of the hard work that goes into making hand made glass. The initial four pieces of the collection that have been made are all pressed mould pieces. I will attempt to break this down simply.
MOULD: These are one piece moulds, no hinges or moving parts. You have the mould itself, the plunger which when activated pushes the glass into the desired shape and thickness. The ring, which is the top of the mould. When the plunger is activated, the glass is spread and ends just at the edge of the ring.
PROCESS: GATHER, PRESS, TIP, FIRE POLISH, LEHR In the hot metal shop work starts with the gatherer who picks up a blob of molten glass on the end of a punty rod and brings it over to the presser who allows a certain amount of glass to drop into the mould and then uses a large pair of shears to cut the glass. The presser then moves the mould to a set position under the plunger and pulls a lever pushing the plunger into the molten glass creating the shape. After holding the plunger in place for a few seconds to allow the glass to start cooling and assuming the shape of the mould, the presser releases the plunger.
The mould with the glass inside must now cool down for a few more seconds to give it stability as it hardens. The next step for this mould is to flip it over onto a large "fork" held by another member of the hot shop who then lets the piece rest and further cool and harden. The piece is then lifted up and by using a second fork, the piece is flipped over and carried over to a turntable with gas jets to be fire polished. This step removes any mould marks or lines. In a hinged mould this step would also soften and mostly remove the seam lines left by the mould. After a short fire polish the piece is carried over to the Lehr where it is slowly cooled down to help alleviate internal stresses in the glass. This slow "curing" hardens the glass to make it more resilient.
As the piece comes out of the Lehr, another worker gathers the pieces, inspects them and then boxes up the product. It takes approximately 6 minutes to make each piece and then the Lehr trip takes 4 to 6 hours. On average a hot metal shop can make around 30 pieces per hour with a four hour turn yielding 120 to 130 pieces total.
I am exhausted just thinking about this, how about you?