Sunday, February 19, 2017

Still More Glass History - ASK

The aforementioned North Star Precision 104 glass, and the TAG - Trautman Art Glass - both lines of exotic, high-end art glasses manufactured by Boro glass companies, should not be confused with ASK glass. That is a story unto itself.

ASK was originally an Arrow Springs - Kugler joint venture. Arrow Springs is one of the largest lampwork glass and tool suppliers in North America (don't let the web site fool you), and Kugler is a venerated German manufacturer.

The ASK glass was manufactured by Kugler and shipped to Arrow Springs. But after the initial runs, it came to light that they were some issues with compatibility - especially with subsequent batches. Arrow Springs, being well plugged into the bead-making community, knew that incompatibility issues were not acceptable at all to the average bead-maker, and started rejecting batches of glass. (Because it is deeply discouraging to find an entire days worth of production beads cracking. Ask me how I know that.)

However, Kugler does not come from the same tradition of glass-working as the bead-making community. They make primarily 96 COE glass and glass for production glass manufacturing (i.e. pressed glass beads), architectural applications. They possibly thought the North American market was being too picky. They were loathe to toss out manufactured glass, and they re-branded it, and shipped it to another re-seller in the US. This glass has a wide variation in COE - from 98 to 108. There are even variations within a colour, meaning that a colour may not necessarily be compatible with itself. In some cases, the Kugler glass is more compatible with the System 96 (96 COE) glass, or Spruce batch (COE 98). After all - Kugler makes 96 COE glass - so it is reasonable that is where their expertise lays.

While there is still ASK glass kicking around, and some of it is pretty darn cool - you can imagine that this did not bode well for the Arrow Springs - Kugler relationship. 

So - two things to bear in mind.

  • Glass labeled as ASK has passed through the Arrow Springs quality control and is a consistent 104 COE.
  • It is easy to complain about a manufacturer's decision, without knowing the full story behind what happened. Why is this out of stock? Why is it out of production? Well - for a very good reason. 
Making glass is tricky business. Natural raw glass - a slightly greenish bottle green colour - is one thing. When you make a paint, you take your base mixture of oil and filler and add some pigments and tweak it a bit and you have your colour. When you start to change the colour of the glass, you don't just throw in pigments - because whatever you add it going to be heated very hot, and who knows what will happen then, but also, because whatever you add to change the colour can also effect the COE. Not a problem when you are slapping paint on a canvas.  But a huge problem for us.

I know I have had students in the past (back before Creation is Messy colours) that have taken a lampwork class because "there are no good pink beads. I really want to buy pink beads and nobody makes them, so I'm going to learn to make beads so I can make pink ones." I leave that to your imagination.

But the raw materials aren't the only part of it. I have heard stories of colours that can not be made in certain climates, or in one season versus another, or with the humidity high or low. (Hey - that big air conditioning system we just installed so that we're not dying in here - turn it off - we can't get the same results that we used to - actual example!) Changing the source of the compounds being added to the glass can introduce or eliminate some vital element that influenced the colour or workability.

So, anyway, as I think I said before, one does not simply mix colours. ;-) 

And I'll try and dig up some ASK colours from my stash so you can see what I mean.

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