My name is Eric Goldschmidt, and I am the Properties of Glass Programs Supervisor for The Corning Museum of Glass. I am a flameworker, glassblower, and I develop some of our demonstrations for the Museum. Last summer, a very talented German artist, André Gutgesell, was teaching at our Studio, and he was nice enough to invite me to visit him in his hometown of Lauscha.
Lauscha is located in the Thuringian mountain region, and it has a centuries old glassmaking tradition. In fact, Lauscha is where the Christmas ornament was invented. Nowadays, there are also several contemporary artists in Lauscha as well. André’s invitation presented me with a very special opportunity to explore this amazing town and its rich history and traditions. So, I began this glass pilgrimage, and will be sharing the experience through some blog posts.
I arrived in Lauscha via train from Nuremberg, and André and his wife Rebekkah (also a glassmaker) received me at the station. We went for a quick driving tour around the area, and then they settled me in at their house, where I stayed for the next few days. André and Rebekkah had been nice enough to arrange times for me to visit with several of the glassmakers here.
The Gutgesells live high above the main town. My morning began with about a 3 kilometer walk down into town. Thank goodness German coffee is strong. As I walked down into town, it occurred to me that Lauscha is similar to dropping all of the flameworking studios from Murano, Italy into a small Colorado ski town. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with a picture-perfect day.
My first appointment was a visit with Michael Haberland. Michael represents the fourth generation of glassmakers in his family, and he specializes in the traditional Christmas ornaments. It was great to have an opportunity to see how this tradition has advanced through the years. Michael demonstrated the traditional method of flamework mold-blowing for me. Then he put me on the torch to give it a shot. I consider myself a very experienced flameworker, and I have 17 years of experience working largely with borosilicate glass. I found the mold-blowing takes some practice. Most of the flame workers here use glass from the factory in town. This has been the tradition here for quite some time. It’s a 104 COE glass, and it moves very differently from the borosilicate with which I am accustomed. Luckily, I love a challenge, and Michael had plenty of glass for me to ruin before I got the hang of it.
When we were done laughing at my struggles with the mold-blowing, Michael showed me his process for silvering and decorating the glass. Lauscha-style ornaments are easily recognized by their metallic sheen, which comes from a chemical process. They often have glitter glued to them as well.
My next appointment was with Mike Bäz Dölle, a very talented solid sculptor. I should point out that these artists all have their studios in their homes. So, Michael walked me across the street from his home/studio to Mike’s home/studio. I think it may have been about 50 yards away. Mike was busy making a goblet stem with two intertwined flamingos. It was a stunning piece.
My third appointment of the day was with Falk Bauer. So, I made the walk around a corner, through an alley, and up Falk’s driveway. Falk is well-known and respected for his accurately-detailed insects. His work is life-sized and takes an incredible amount of manual dexterity…not to mention good eyesight.
My fourth appointment was a visit to the Lauscha glass museum, where they have a collection of objects detailing the town’s history and tradition of glass.
It was an action packed first day. On day two, André took me to a glass-making tool manufacturer in the town of Ilmenau, and we visited the glass museum in the nearby city of Coburg. Stay tuned…