All About Glass

All About Glass

This is your resource for exploring various topics in glass: delve deeper with this collection of articles, multimedia, and virtual books all about glass. Content is frequently added to the area, so check back for new items. If you have a topic you'd like to see covered, send us your suggestion. If you have a specific question, Ask a Glass Question at our Rakow Research Library.

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Countless Variations: Lens Combinations
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The world began to realize that so far it had only toyed with glass. Now a brand new material was born.     — Walter Kioulehn, Odyssey of the 41 Glassmakers, 1959 By the mid-1800s, there were still only two kinds of optical glass: soda-lime crown glass and lead-containing flint glass. Opticians

Reflections on Glass: Telescope Mirrors
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I contrived heretofore, a perspective by Reflexion.       — Sir Isaac Newton, c. 1668 The refracting telescope gave astronomers their first up-close glimpses of the heavens. Then, it began to frustrate them. At higher magnifications, the instrument’s glass lenses produced distorted images.

The Quest to See More: Glass Lenses
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Where the telescope ends, the microscope begins.    — Victor Hugo, Les Misérables, 1862 A glass lens. It’s nothing more than a curved piece of glass. So simple. So familiar. It’s changed the way we perceive the world. In 1608, when Dutch spectacle maker Hans Lippershey held up two lenses, one

Staying On-line: Coated Glass
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Glass windows are great, but they waste energy. A glass pane provides only slightly more insulation than nothing at all. Even so, builders were using more, and bigger, windows. Then, in 1973, the energy crisis hit. Harvard University chemist Roy Gordon knew that a tin oxide coating would make

The Long Road to Success: Fusion Draw Glass
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Both companies were chasing the same thing: the enormous market for flat glass. While Pilkington was working to develop flat glass, Corning Glass Works was developing a process of its own. Fusion draw produced a continuous sheet of exceptionally thin, pristine glass, but it was too slow to compete.

A Pressing Solution: Shaped Glass
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Glass manufacturers had spent centuries learning how to make flat glass. Now, they wanted to bend it into complex shapes—without marring its surface. Anything that touched the surface of the hot glass could leave a mark. The first curved windows were made by slumping. A glass sheet was placed in a

From a Broken Flask: Laminated Safety Glass
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Edouard Benedictus, a set and costume designer for a French theater, wanted to make glass safer. He was disturbed by reports of people being disfigured by broken windshield glass during automobile accidents. How could windshields be made less dangerous? He recalled a curious incident that had

The Precise Moment: Tempered Glass
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Glass breaks. But if it’s strengthened by thermal tempering, it breaks less easily and more safely. By 1920, architects and European car designers wanted more and more tempered glass—and in large sheets. Glassmakers could successfully temper only one sheet in ten. There’s a trick to tempering: heat

On a Pool of Tin: Float Glass
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The auto and building industries boomed after World War II. Plate glass was in extremely short supply. Twin-grinding—used all over the world to make the glass—was too costly and too slow to keep up with the demand. Could high-quality glass be made without grinding and polishing? Alastair Pilkington

The Window Machines: Sheet & Plate Glass
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The mighty glowing columns that stand like pillars in a ghostly cathedral...     — Anonymous At the beginning of the 20th century, there was no way to mass-produce flat glass. Although glass cylinders could be drawn by machine, they had to be opened and flattened by hand. What was needed was a way

Making Window Glass by Hand: Crown & Cylinder Glass
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When you think of a window, you think of a flat piece of glass. But window glass didn’t always start out flat. It once began as a massive bubble on the end of a glassblower’s pipe. To flatten the bubble, the glassblower could spin it rapidly into a huge disk called a crown. After it was cool, the

Musler Cityscape
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Listen as curator Tina Oldknow describes Cityscape, created by artist Jay Musler. He chose a spherical container blown of industrial Pyrex glass, which he cut in half. He then cut the rim of the hemisphere into a jagged edge, sandblasted it, and airbrushed it with oil paint. The sculpture's

Richard Wistar Bottle
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Listen as curator Jane Shadel Spillman describes the Richard Wistar bottle. The first successful glass factory in the Colonies was established by Caspar Wistar near Alloway, New Jersey, in 1739. Its principal products were window glass and bottles, which were in great demand. More than 15,000

Libenský Red Pyramid
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Listen as curator Tina Oldknow, describes Red Pyramid  by Czech artists Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová. Libenský and Brychtová pioneered, explored, developed, and defined glass as a medium for sculpture. Their art explores ideas about light, space, transparency, and volume. Their career

Side Arm Press (Family App)
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The mass production of glass began in the 1820s, when the side-arm press was introduced. Using a press and a mold, two men could make about 100 glasses in an hour. Gift of Debra Ortello in loving memory of her husband, Vincent Ortello.

Marquis Marquiscarpa
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Listen as curator, Tina Oldknow, describes Marquiscarpa  by American artist Richard Marquis. Unsatisfied with the limited techniques practiced and taught in American studio glass in the 1960s, studio glass pioneer Marquis went to the Venini glassworks on Murano in 1969. There, he observed and

Glass Window Blinds
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Listen as curator Jane Shadel Spillman describes Glass Window Blinds designed by Elias Hungerford. Hungerford received a patent for these glass window blinds in 1866. They were designed, he said, "to give light which enters the room any desired tint to correspond with the color of wall paper

Lily-pad Pitcher
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Listen as curator Jane Shadel Spillman describes the Lily-pad Pitcher, produced by Lancaster Glass Works. The glass that was used to make this pitcher was also employed in the manufacture of windows because the brilliant, deep aquamarine color would not have been noticeable in thinly blown sheets

Trick Goblet (Family App)
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When you try to fill this glass with liquid, some of the tubes and bulbs remain empty. If you try to drink from the glass, the air in the tubes makes the liquid gush out when you least expect it.

Mechanical Glass Theater
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Listen as curator Dedo von Kerssenbrock-Krosigk describes this mechanical glass theater, which depicts the Wedding at Cana. Figurines in Venetian and Turkish costumes are seated in the loggia of a Rococo palace. The heads and limbs of each figure are lampworked in glass, and they can be moved by

Bertil Vallien, Unknown Destination II
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Listen as curator Tina Oldknow, describes Unknown Destination II by Swedish artist Bertil Vallien. Unknown Destination II reflects Bertil Vallien's interest in Sweden's Viking heritage. He uses boats as a metaphor for the journey (both physical and psychological), time, exploration, and

Hilton Innerland (Family App)
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Scottish artist Eric Hilton designed Innerland and master engravers at Steuben Glass translated Hilton's dream into tangible form. Wherever you look, you will find a different inner land.

Musler Cityscape (Family App)
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Artist Jay Musler took a hemisphere of industrially produced Pyrex, cut the rim in the form of an urban skyline (think of the skyscrapers of Manhattan), sandblasted it, and airbrushed it with oil paint.

Chihuly Fern Green Tower- Family
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Listen as curators Tina Oldknow and David Whitehouse describe Fern Green Tower by American artist Dale Chihuly. Northwest native Chihuly calls glass "the most magical of materials." He is probably the best-known artist working in blown glass today, and his sculptures and chandeliers are

Toso Chess Set- Family Technique
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The pieces in Gianni Toso's Chess Set, made in about 1981, are in the form of Jewish and Roman Catholic worshippers. The kings are a rabbi and a bishop. The tiny details of the figures were made by softening glass in a flame and molding it into the desired shapes.

Libenský Installation- Family Technique
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Listen as glass artist William Gudenrath describes the techniques used to create Meteor, Flower, Bird by Czech artists Stanislav Libenský and Jaroslava Brychtová. Libenský and Brychtová convey three messages with this sculpture: Meteor, on the left, represents Corning as an international center for

Ruffner Shirts, Cherries, and Snowflakes, of Course
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Curator Tina Oldknow describes Shirts, Cherries, and Snowflakes, of Course  by American artist Ginny Ruffner.

Contemporary Chairs- Family
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Some of this furniture was designed to be used, while other pieces are purely decorative. Ghost Chair, on the left, is sturdy enough for use; likewise, Danny Lane's Etruscan Chair on the far right was also designed for sitting.

Steuben Cascade Wall- Family
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Cascade Wall was designed by George Thompson and made in Corning by Steuben Glass for its New York City showroom. When it was installed in the showroom in 1959, it had a reflecting pool at the bottom. Gift of Steuben Glass, Inc.

Tagliapietra Endeavor- Family Technique
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Listen as glass artist William Gudenrath describes the techniques Italian artist Lino Tagliapietra, one of the greatest living glass artists, used to create Endeavor. These 18 boats evoke the gondolas of Tagliapietra's native Venice. Each boat was blown and then cold worked to create the

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