Start-up Workshop and Plenary Meeting: Into the Future!

In our online plenary meeting on March 26 we reviewed the project and started looking to the future. Heinz called for re-adjustments: Glass Works is more than start-ups, but connects European glass regions and their models of regional development!
Mark outlined core results of the 2nd training phase: Start-up tutoring in glass means supporting autonomous glass makers, not teaching students. And: With changing markets, careers potentials of glass artist/makers between craft and conceptual art get more and more wide-ranging. With this in mind, our emphasis turns even stronger towards sustainable, craft-based pathways in glass.
Troels pointed out the necessity of business competence in glass. Bornholm will stay on the ball, to develop new teaching materials for entrepreneurship in glass, and course formats in collaboration with Bild-Werk.
The startup-workshop on March 27 put it all in a nutshell: All trainees presented their achievements during the training period, and received external and internal expert critique with view of realising their career ideas and future development. In return, Bild-Werk was given valuable feedback, praise and criticism about the training phase.

Frauenau as a Hub for the Future of Glass

“After the conclusion of the project, the project partners and regional funders aim to establish the European Networking Platform and start-up activities (…) on a permanent base. It is expected that from an initial focus on former Glass Works trainees, the platform will gradually grow and integrate individual artists and artisans, as well as new businesses, and other institutions in glass on a border-crossing base. A coordination and international communication hub will be located at Bild-Werk Frauenau with the help of regional and trans-regional funding (…).”

This was stated in 2018 in the EU project application for Glass-Works. We are working on it in Frauenau, Graz and on Bornholm! In Frauenau, our goal is to continue assisting young artists to become fit for self-employment. In addition, we want to build a new institutional infrastructure for collaborative work with glass, as well as for networking and marketing of glass workers. In parallel with the international summer academy Bild-Werk Frauenau, we seek to expand our artistic programs. In the hot glass studio, small-scale manufacturing (e.g. in work residencies) shall be made possible. We would like to collect knowledge and know-how on energy-efficient glassmaking through contacts in European scenes for studio furnace construction. Results, information and contacts would be documented and fed back into practice.

Since the summer of 2021, we have had extensive discussions with experts from regional management and regional politics, from art funding and intangible cultural heritage in Bavaria. Here we find open ears: In Frauenau, old glass culture and studio glass come together. The international network and the open teaching concept of Bild-Werk offers unique future potential that we intend to develop. Where, if not here; when, if not now, can it continue in the glass?

Trainees Present: Open Studio

Perhaps due the hygiene measures and the disciplined behavior of those involved, the pandemic, which accompanied us especially in the second and third training phase, luckily left us relatively unaffected. When planning a public open studio day on March 19, however, the pandemic threw a spanner in our plans after all. The participants of the annual members meeting of the German networking platform “glass pool” were invited, as were a large number of local and regional players. But as the event drew closer, another Covid wave hit, forcing us to limit the participants to the most important regional representatives of the glass scene. A top-class group was formed from the nearby Zwiesel Glass School, the Frauenau Glass Museum, our cooperation partner from Graz University as well as the press. Four trainees not only put their own projects up for discussion, but because of the intensive co-operation within the group, they were also able to provide information about the work of their absent colleagues (who were either sick or in quarantine) in terms of techniques employed and content / intention.
It was very interesting to see and experience how the project ideas have developed over the past six months, and with what aplomb the protagonists presented their portfolios to the public.
Hats off!

Top in Europe: the Coburg Glass Prize

The third training phase was completed on April 9th with a highlight, the joint participation in the award ceremony for the “Coburg European Glass Prize”. Despite Covid-related admission restrictions, we attended with several trainees and the management team. At the Veste Coburg and in the European Museum for Modern Glass in Rödenthal, our project caught on with the international glass scene, a nice feeling for all!
It was particularly pleasing that four of our trainees from the last three years were selected from 700 applications, one of which was even among the prize winners. A great success!

Concluding the Training: The Start-up Workshop

Each training phase ended with an online start-up workshop. Due to Covid and of necessity this took place in a much-reduced form. The management team as well as representatives from the tutors and trainees participated. The learning processes of the trainees were discussed, and strategies for the future path of both trainees and our project in general developed. The discussion was assisted by reports of the trainees’ experiences in all parts of our training program, and information about their planning for the next steps into professional life were shared.
It was shown from all sides that we can offer trainees a very necessary and meaningful in-depth training, even with restrictions in place, and the success of our three rounds has already shown that our concept professionally prepares young emerging artists for careers in glass, where they can take root into the regional glass scenes, and continue the exciting culture of glass. This is the tip of the iceberg. The trainees Glass Works time does not finish, it goes on after they leave us. The outcomes are not a few pieces of glass, but the ideas and inspiration gained, combined with the networks created and business models studied. The trainees also learnt to take more risks, to try daring positions and explore alternatives, even crazy directions and to have courage, for example, to knock on doors requesting exhibition possibilities.
Interesting conclusions could be reached, perhaps too many for this brief report. But for example, we were surprised that from the trainees side an emphasis on quality craftsmanship was very much approved of. This matches our own observations, and although artistic goals will always play a part, the groundwork for a life time in glass must be based on good technical mastery.
We concluded with great pride in the quality of our trainees, and the wish to continue our relationship for years to come. We watch them develop with joy.

From the Czech Republic to the World: The Industrial Internships

The North Bohemian glass region in and around Novy Bor is a shining example and model of successful regional development in the field of glass. There is a wide range of synergies in glass crafts, design and art, and a great diversity of business and marketing models, which are primarily based on active regional and international co-operation.
The opportunity to immerse themselves in this scene as part of an internship was of great importance to the trainees. The heterogeneous range of hosts is too large to go into detail here, ranging from specialists in every glass craft area, to design-based classic glassworks, to micro-enterprises of the studio glass type.
This year there were no longer any Covid-related obstacles to starting the industrial internships, and even most of the internships from the first training phases that were prevented due to the pandemic could finally be realised during this time. Some of the trainees were no longer dependent on the support of the organisation team in this regard and expanded their choice of internship to our network in Denmark, Austria and Italy, a development that made us very happy!

Glass Works Goes South-East: The Stoelze Glass-Center Bärnbach

The old glassworks in Bärnbach in Styria is a household name in the glass world thanks to the Styrian state exhibition “Glass & Coal” in 1988. Today, Slovenian glassmakers work there on high-end glass goblets, and Bärnbach masters produce colorful handicraft souvenirs. Stoelzle will continue to expand manual production with solar energy creating the melt. Next door, in the striking Kada glass museum building, the lovingly tended glass museum maintains lively exchanges with Croatia. School classes and groups are introduced to the glass with great commitment. The Glass Works exhibition with its didactic tour through the cross-border history of glass making (with digitally prepared exhibition materials) fits right in here: This is how the diverse guests at the vernissage on May 19 experienced it.

The exhibition can be seen here, in the Stoelzle Glass Center with its active operator KommR Ing. Martin Hittaller, until August 19, 2022. From there it moves onto its last location in the Frauenau Glass Museum.

Glass Works Goes Industry: The Styrian Chamber of Commerce

In the spring of 2022, our glass-historical exhibition returned to where it was created in 2018 – 2020: to Styria in Austria, which is portrayed as one of five glass landscapes in the exhibition. Styria and glass? In fact, in this old mining and industrial region we encounter a very distinct glass tradition. In the present, this is expressed in the tension between the Stoelzle Group as a global player, which has a highly automated glass production site in Köflach in Styria, and active arts and crafts studios.

First of all, the exhibition was a guest from March 1st to April 28th in the representative foyer of the Styrian Chamber of Commerce in Graz. “A pleasant art exhibition, a bit of distraction in the pulsating heart of the economy, which is faced with completely different, global challenges?”

This was an expectation at the opening, on invitation of the President of the Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Karl-Heinz Dernoscheg on April 4th, and greeted by Georg Feith, GEO of the Stoelzle Group, on behalf of the Styrian glass industry. However, during the guided tour of the exhibition with Katharina Eisch-Angus, there was a lively discussion about how productive glass is as a material in the dialogue between art and business. The spirit of the age and the economy are reflected in glass. With art, design, craftsmanship and manufacturing interacting, glass becomes an innovative economic factor.

Cross-border Cultural Heritage Glass – What Next?

That was the name of a well-attended event at the Munich Chamber of Crafts on January 10, 2022, despite Covid restrictions. The occasion was our touring exhibition “Glass Works. European Glass Lives in Craft, Art and Industry”, which stopped there over the Christmas and New Year period. In the Joseph-Wild-Hall, in the middle of Munich’s old art district Schwabing, and illustrated with pictures and stories from the Glass Museum in Frauenau, cultural anthropologist Katharina Eisch-Angus traced how European glass people always crossed borders, always breaking new ground – and how the international studio glass movement did just that from the hotspot Frauenau.

Afterwards there was an exciting panel discussion with Prof. Dr. Daniel Drascek and Wolfgang Loesche from the Bavarian Commission of Experts for UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, together with Heinz Fischer and Sarah Höchstetter from Glass Works/Bild-Werk, and Selina Weber and Patricia Mund as Glass Works Trainees from the winter of 2019/2020 intake. The latter both described how they had used the Glass Works training as a stepping stone into self-employment.

Perhaps the most important message was that the era of the large glassworks in the Bavarian Forest is largely over. However, in small units, and with new structures, , glass still has a chance. And it is exactly here that Bild-Werk, with its experience and connections, is exactly right in time: here we can create a “turning point” that is currently not only emerging in East Bavaria, and that opens up new perspectives for regional development.

The Third Training Phase

Each training phase has its own dynamic in its structure, and can develop and build on the experiences of the previous training phases. Each trainees’ group has its own character, which is formed from the dialogue between the selected trainees, with their individual profiles and projects on the one hand, and the changing tutors on the other. Learning from each other at eye level, in the interaction of craftsmanship, art and design is a key point of the training phases.
It was very pleasing that at the start of our third training phase, the number of applications had more than doubled compared to the previous time. When selecting the trainees this time more attention was paid to the technical basics. As a result, there were four trained glassblowers from three countries in the group!
Another novelty was the tutoring. Kit Paulson, a glass artist from the USA, supervised the project on site in Frauenau. Whilst B. Jane Cowie, glass artist and project manager from Singapore, was regularly connected to the group via the web, and was also available to the trainees individually as required. Both tutors were no strangers to Bild-Werk due to their work as summer academy teachers in previous years. In addition to the broad quality of their artistic content, they were also very valuable for the trainees because of their professional market presence in the digital age.
The trainees particularly benefited from the wider intercontinental contacts of the two tutors. The training was again accompanied by online lectures and discussions with successful players in the international glass scene.
The marketing courses could again take place as planned on the glass island of Bornholm. As a result, the trainees not only brought new “business skills” back to Frauenau, but also exciting insights into a region that offers studios and companies, especially of artisans, a structural base.