Saturday, May 21, 2011

Kokomo Opalescent Glass

On Thursday my sister and I took a road trip to Indiana. We left a little after 6 in the morning and it rained nearly the whole time we were in Michigan.

One of the cities we drove through on our way to Kokomo was Gas City. Home to a well known midget/sprint car race track called....you guess it....Gas City. Neither one of my sprint car drivers (husband and son) have raced there but they would love a chance to scratch Gas City off their list of must race at tracks.

The cool thing about Gas City, the city, is that all their street signs are on oil derricks. Notice the haze....we were just getting out of the rainy weather when went through Gas City.First on our list of places to go and people to see in Indiana was the Kokomo Opalescent Glass factory. Oh my...if you love glass, love history, or love to see how things are made....this is the tour for you. The price is right, too. Just 5 bucks!

Because of the rain we thought we missed the tour. The tour started at 10am and we arrived at 10:30. I missed calculated and I thought we would gain an hour because of the time change which would have put us 30 minutes ahead of schedule. The great folks at KOG hooked us up with tour guide David and off we went to see how opalescent glass is made.

We left the showroom and went outside to walk to the factory. On our way we passed the offices of KOG. Kokomo Opalescent Glass was started in 1888 and is America's oldest glass company. The factory was built 3 years prior to that and was a scissor factory before becoming Kokomo Opalescent Glass.

The factory entrance.

Here are the five furnaces that held the 5 colors of glass that were used in the glass that they were making that day. This process used 6 guys, 5 ladle carriers and one mixer. Five of the guys would use long handled ladles and to bring their color to the table (cooled with running water underneath). It was then slightly mixed and then rolled out in sheets that end up 64X32 inches.
The 5 guys bringing the different colors of glass walk bristly from the furnace to the table. But while they are walking they must keep the molten glass in the ladle from cooling, so while walking they kind of toss the glass in the ladle so that it is constantly moving and not cooling on the top. Think about that.....you have molten glass in a heavy ladle and you're nearly running and tossing hot molten glass all at the same time. AND they need to drop it on the table in the correct order all the while making sure they don't burn themselves or their co workers.

The guy in the red shirt mixes the molten glass. The guy on the right has just dropped his glass and the guy in the middle is getting ready to drop his ladle of molten glass.
Here is the guy who mixes the glass. He kind of flips it around and as he throws it onto the roller he also drags it so it is wide enough. The rollers can both be smooth or both have a texture or design, or one smooth and one textured. Two of the rollers that David, our guide, showed us were very interesting. One had an overall design that was called Celtic and had an over all Celtic design. The other roller had a raised horse design and I think the remaining area was small leaves. The glass they were making today was smooth on both sides.
Here are carts filled with a granular mixture that when melted solidifies into molten glass. Each color has it's own recipe.
This is the furnaces used by the glass blowers, who unfortunately were on break when we got to them.
The pan of broken small bits of different colored glass is called frit. You lay some frit on the metal table and roll your gob of glass on to the frit. That is how they get different bits of color into a piece they are making.
Here is David showing us what I thought were two different sizes of perfume bottles...but I was wrong. The small one was indeed a perfume bottle but the larger one is a pet urn. So if you are in need of a pet urn KOG has just what you need.
In David's hand is a floppy bowl. They make those by making a large rondel of glass and then turning it upside down and allowing the glass to ......well flop forming a bowl.
The next several photos are of row after row of the most beautiful glass you will ever see. David told us that Tiffany used KOG before he started making his own glass. The sheets below are 64X32 inches.
These are smaller sheets.
Everyone who works at KOG signs the wall. Jim Rusk signed the wall Dec 1, 1956.
Here is David's favorite piece. Just too beautiful. Hi David!!!!
KOG logo.
KOG offers stained glass and bead making classes. Here are some of the beads.
This piece of art is made with different sizes of rondels. You can buy them off of their website.
This piece was my favorite. It was made out of the pieces that they cut off to make the 64X32 sheets. The 'ends' are pieces that were cut off the end of the sheet. Those pieces have bubbles and are more dimensional.
Another lovely piece.
I believe they said the lady on the right made this fantastic piece.
Need trophies or awards? They have these great pieces that are available in many colors. They are then engraved before they are awarded to lucky recipient.
I was torn as to what lovely piece of art glass that I wanted to take home. I finally decided that I would buy something small and at a later date bring R back and we would together decide which piece to buy. Of course I didn't leave empty handed. I bought a small paper weight and a marble with the KOG logo.

If you are interested in taking a class (I think we will take a class in the fall), or the tour, or you just want to buy some beautiful glass visit their website for information.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to KOG. Our guide couldn't have been nicer and put up with all of our questions and we had MANY questions. This is the kind of tour that would interest both men, women, and older children (8 and up).

Tomorrow I will post about our visit to Greentown and their glass factory.