Equally part of the material and product research we’ve been doing so far, I had a closer look at glass and leaded crystal production, specifically a high-end couture glass (Versace, Red).
At the beginning of the summer I had a walk around a glass factory in Avrig. The lovely staff answered all my prying questions, and surprisingly still do whenever I call. Avrig used to have a thriving glass factory, known for high quality handmade glass and ruby leaded crystal. However, with time, the demand for the mostly decorative elements reduced and so did the amount of skilled labor available. Even though they would like to employ another 30 workers, it’s virtually impossible to find trained ones and very few people are willing to learn. Going mechanical and mass produce is not an option because the competition on the market is too high.
The production process is has remained largely the same since the 1970s. Furnaces run non-stop with workers in 3 shifts and the glass is blown by manual labour. It’s a laborious process at all its stages, from mixing the prime materials to having up to 8 people working on producing simple wine glass (including painting and cleaning). The profit margins are actually very low.
I wonder if focusing on their famous crystal would not bring them more profit: fewer ingredients, less expense, higher price. Maybe it’s something to look into.
At the moment I’m focusing on their predicament: they can’t mass produce and they’re not doing well as crafts like manufacturers – they also don’t have the numbers. In that case, a middle ground would be to combine their accumulated experience in working with prototypes and CNCed moulds with pouring/injection techniques that greatly reduces the need of workers.
There seems to be an opportunity to create a wider strategy for the clustered factories that are facing very similar difficulties and also have very similar focus and traditions. More to follow.