5000 Shades of a Fairytale – Visiting the World Market Leader Glashütte Lamberts
After a six hour train ride through the rough winter of the German countryside and a short car drive we are finally here: The little town of Waldsassen in Bavaria. A charming place in the Upper Palatinate, where one is not offered much except for a hospitable monastery, a few B&Bs and unspoiled nature. But do not let the quiet fool you, there is something at this place that attracts international artists and architects from all over the world: the Glashütte Lamberts.
When entering the glass manufactory two impressions take over you: remorseless heat and great fascination. The tropical temperatures in the factory already indicate the hard work and the passion of the glass makers that lay at the base of their craftsmanship. For 112 years now Glashütte Lamberts has been manufacturing mouth-blown sheet glass that is peerless in the world market. Only two other glass manufactories in France and in Poland produce glass in a similar manner. Yet Lamberts is the world market leader and occupies the biggest number of employees and is capable of creating shades of colors only reserved to them.
Wearing our safety goggles with shaded glasses, we observe different steps of glass making closely. A so called “beginner” – who is given this label not because of his level of skills, but because he is the one initiating the manufacturing process – pulls the liquid glass out of the furnace. This liquid is then cautiously blown into a glass balloon to be further processed by the next glass artisans. These create in a series of work a one meter long cylinder which then is flattened into a sheet glass. Seeing this magical creation happen right in front of our eyes leaves us speechless!
Very soon during our visit it becomes clear why artists such as Alfur Eliasson and Gerhard Richter have obtained the glass for their artworks here. With high exertion and extraordinary artisanal skills Glashütte Lamberts’ 70 employees create glass that is absolutely striking. Well-known artists appreciate Lamberts’ glass because of its uncompromised high quality. “The effects that are achieved with light and mouth-blown glass cannot be obtained with industrially produced glass” explains Robert Christ, commissioner at Glashütte Lamberts. “After all, van Gogh did not paint on baking paper but on exquisite canvas.” Anyone who has ever stood in front of the Gerhard Richter window in the Cologne Cathedral knows he is right.
Other landmarks and sights such as Westminster Abbey and cathedrals, museums, airports and public buildings from New York to Taiwan have been provided with the Bavarian glass. 80% of the company’s production is exported abroad.
Due to the craft’s rarity, there exists no occupational apprenticeship that is embedded in the standard German educational system. All employees are individually trained here at Lamberts Glashütte and are required, to not only have artisan skills, but also to be highly heat resistant. Standing in front of a furnace for more than two minutes will give you an idea of why this is crucial. Every morning at 4am the first work shift begins in the manufactory to benefit from the cool in the early hours the day.
Looking from the outside little has changed in the kiln hall since glass manufactory’s foundation 112 years ago. But a closer look reveals that new innovations are developed frequently. For example, a new technique allows to laminate sheet glass onto safety glass which makes it possible to furnish exteriors. “In Florida we can offer glass-fronts which withstand even hurricanes”, says Robert Christ.
Glashütte Lamberts’ storage appears like a “candy store for artists” – as a customer once said. Glass in 5000 different shades of colors is to be found here and even though many colors have been created intentionally, some have occurred as a beautiful surprise during the process of the making. “Shades of colors can come off differently each time when glass is mouth-blown, this is one of the reasons for our broad color spectrum” explains Rainer Meindl, executive partner at Glashütte Lamberts. Nine years ago he bought the glassworks and has not regretted it once – since it is not often that one finds such a perfect symbiosis between tradition and innovation, as it is given at Lamberts.
Equipped with great impressions which will leave lasting images in our heads and emotions in our hearts, we now start on our journey back to Berlin. The six hours that had felt like an eternity on the way there, seem to simply fly by on the way back.
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