Changes are never easy and if, like me, you are wandering into your middle age, changes are harder to take. Little changes like a new phone or a new laptop, as I am having to deal with at the moment are something that you soon learn to deal with and these are not major events. Bigger changes however are happening right now in the glass producing industry and the consequences of those changes are going to be far reaching and long lasting.
In and around the Portland area of Oregon in the USA are most of the major glass producers whose glass is used by glass artists and companies throughout the world. Spectrum Glass is one of these companies and yesterday it was announced by their owners that they will be ceasing production within the next 70 days. This is because of some changes that have been brought in by the American version of the Environmental Health Department. Local residents living in the area surrounding the glass factories became concerned about the waste output from the chimneys of these factories and made a complant to their environmental health department with particular regard to the use of cadmium and lead used to produce certain colours of glass.
The glass factories were told to stop all production of the range of colours using these elements and tests were carried out on the soil and plants and air surrounding the factories. The tests revealed that there was no significant danger to the residents from the levels that were found, however all the factories were strongly advised that if they wanted to continue production of the full range of colours of glass then they would have to "bag" their chimneys; that is to fit special ventilation units to stop any fumes emitting at all. All of the factories have complied and they had been allowed to restart full production. However the vast cost of this coming on top of the recession has simply been too much for Spectrum glass who feel they can no longer continue.
This means changes for the owners, and for the workers, many of whom are local residents and also these changes are then spreading outwards like ripples on a pond to reach the glass supply companies, like the one here in the UK that I use which sell only Spectrum Glass, and I wonder what effect this is going to have on their business as some of their stocks are already low due to the period of time that the factories were out of production, and thereafter to the glass artists who use those suppliers.
You may say "Ok well just buy a different type of glass". Yes of course, personally I use Bullseye glass for my fusing glass but its not that simple. Spectrum 96 which is the fusing glass has a different COE or coefficient of expansion which means that you cannot use it with Bullseye as their COE is 90. The coe is the rate at which the glass fuses together in the kiln and if you tried to fuse two pieces of the different glasses together then the result would be that either the glass cracked or split apart. Any artist using only Spectrum will then have to change their entire glass range, not just the sheet glass but the accessory glasses too, the frits (crushed glasses that are used for decoration) and the stringers (thin rods of glass also used for décor). And that can be quite an expensive thing to have to do.
I use Spectrum stained glass which for me is more easily replaceable with other makes of stained glass, Urobos for example are another small glass maker but it is rumoured that without Spectrum glass then Urobos too will fold. I begin to wonder how many other glassmakers will go under because of these changes.
I am all in favour of cleaner air and soil and some companies have gotten away with polluting our air for far too long but none of the tests have proved that the glass factories are actually causing serious harm.
So changes, I have no idea how far they will spread in this instance but I hope with all my heart that the glass making industry can recover from this setback and all those affected by it also.