The heart of the fusing industry seems to lie in America. All the fusing glass suppliers in this country get their glass from America, the most popular being Bullseye Glass, Spectrum and Uroboros. There is a reason for this: all glass is fusible however not all glass can be compatibly fused together. This is due to the Coefficient of Expansion (also known as COE). When glass is heated, it expands and contracts as it heats and cools. Glasses that aren’t compatible will expand and contract at different levels. This causes stress in the glass and any items fused using incompatible glasses will always crack. It may crack in the kiln, or it may crack a few hours coming out of the kiln. In some cases it can even crack many months later, but it will crack. To stop this. glass fusers have to use glass which is of the same COE. Bullseye glasses are always COE 90; System 96 glasses are COE96 – the two cannot be fused together as they are not compatible. The American factories work hard to produce glass with COEs which are always the same and in buying their products, you are guaranteed compatibility. This is why the glass artist usually only buys from the one factory – it avoids breakages due to incompatibility.
This brings me to the title of this blog. In the last few months of this year, glass industries in America have had to agree to strict environmental guidelines when they make their glass. Of course environmental issues have to be adhered to in industry and the glass companies in the US have always complied with the environmental guidelines. However, on this occasion, Bullseye Glass has had to instal new filtering systems on their furnaces at a great cost, and this is a cost which has had to be passed on to their customers. (Sadly, Spectrum have decided the cost of this new filtration system is too great and therefore after 40 years, have closed their factory which is a huge loss to the glass industry). Costs of glass is due to rise by 12% in August this year.
That in itself is a large increase which is to be swallowed by the glass artist however in the UK, it’s much, much worse. Since this country voted to leave the EU, the pound has crashed against the dollar in a new 31-year low. There is, at the moment, no sign of this rising. This means that the cost of importing glass from America to Britain has risen massively. As an indication, let me share this with you: back in January 2016, I made an order from the excellent AAE Glass in Florida. The cost of that order was $269.64, equating to £185.42. That same order today would cost £208.18. This is a rise of just over 12%. If you add this to the rise in the cost of sheet glass, the UK glass artist is looking at a price increase of over 24%, just to buy basic materials.
Of course, this could be temporary – I am not an economist and wouldn’t pretend to be however there ARE experts in this country and some of them are predicting a parity with the dollar in the coming weeks. That is not good news and if this continues, the UK glass artist is in serious trouble. As I write this, sterling is currently the worst performing currency in the markets.
I sincerely hope this is just a blip. Rich and I love our craft and to think of losing it is distressing. I wish all the other UK Glass fusers out there the very best of luck.
In the meantime, we are trying to carry on as normal. Rich and I have been in the studio and have lots of new things to add to the website in the next few weeks. I have remade some old favourites which have sold well, and created new items using new techniques.
That’s the thing with glass fusing: there is alway something new to try, a new product to test, a new technique and that’s what makes it so addictive. I am attending a week-long course in September at the fabulous Warm Glass studios in Wrington so I can learn even more.
We are exhibiting in a few places over the next few months as follows:
Forest and Wye Valley Open Studios – from now until July 24th. We are open every weekend and each Tuesday and Thursday. Please come and visit our studio in the garden at our home. There are 39 crafters participating in this year’s Open Studios: visit www.fandvos.org.uk to see the brochure.
3 Choirs Show at Gloucester Cathedral – exhibiting with the Herefordshire Guild of Craftsmen from 23rd – 30th July
h.Art – exhibiting at the Market House, Ledbury as part of h.Art, from 10th – 18th September
Malvern Autumn Show – at the Three Counties Showground with Herefordshire Guild on 24th and 25th September.
We do hope to see you at any (or all!) of these. Currently we do not know our plans for the Christmas period but I will post them as soon as I know.
Bye for now,