The Business

The Question

As some readers of this monthly column know, I don’t write exclusively for USGlass. I don’t claim to be a prolific writer or even a good one, but I do enjoy writing. Perhaps my favorite part of writing is the interaction it allows me to have with the people who read what gets published. To this end, approximately two and half years ago I started serving as the “Glass Detective” for the Glass.com consumer information site, which currently provides glass-related information and glazing service referrals to approximately 110,000 visitors a month. Daniel Snow, Glass.com®’s vice president of operations, also handles many of the inquiries we get because it can be a little overwhelming for just one person at times. A lot of the questions and requests have to do with helping consumers interpret codes or, quite often, helping them find a company to do their work. We also get some unique and tough questions. The following is one we recently received and when the publisher of USGlass noticed the question and answer, I was encouraged to use the reply as a column here. So here it is (the name of the consumer has been changed). Question to Glass Detective: What, in your opinion, is the most beautiful glass?

Ann … Let me begin by thanking you for contacting the Glass Detective for my opinion on what the most beautiful glass might be. When I first read your request, it took me aback because I’ve never been asked this question before and I was not sure how to even start to answer it. Over my 50-year career in the glass industry I’ve worked with every type of glass imaginable and have seen some extraordinary examples of glass workmanship. However, to actually choose one particular type of glass or perhaps one example of a glass installation as the “most beautiful” is difficult for me … if not impossible altogether. I also think that, in some ways, my singular opinion on this matter is unimportant. For the most part, I don’t think people actually look at glass as much as they look through it. Yet you asked the question and my job is to answer, if at all possible, so with this in mind, here we go:

I remember well the day when, as a 17-year-old high school student, I got my first car. It was a beat-up, used and abused 1954 Chevrolet that I purchased for $50. Yet on that day, the most beautiful piece of glass that I had ever seen was the windshield I looked through when I got to drive the car home.

Then again, I also remember the birth of my first child, daughter Amy, and on the night I was able to look through the glass window of the hospital nursery to see her for the first time. That piece of glass became the most beautiful piece of glass in the world to me.

Soon the day came when I bought my first home and even though it certainly was not a mansion by anyone’s standard, the big picture window in the front became the most beautiful glass I had ever seen, especially on a snowy day when I could sit in warmth and look through that piece of glass to the cold outside world.

A few years after moving into that home, we began attending a church that had a massive stained glass window with an incredibly colorful and moving scene within it. Sunday mornings were a real treat for me to hear hymns being sung while I stared at what I would have said was the most beautiful glass in the world.

In the 1980s, I had the opportunity to work with an artist who carved out (by sandblasting a piece of ¾-inch thick glass) the image of a polar bear standing atop an ice flow. The glass sheet was 6 feet wide by10 feet tall. It was carved from the backside and then lit from/through the top edge. It was easily the most beautiful singular piece of glass I had ever seen.

Not too many years ago I was involved with building the glass observation boxes anchored to the west side of Willis Tower in Chicago, some 1,000-plus feet above the ground. On a clear night the view through those pieces of glass is spectacular and overwhelming. One of the most beautiful views I have ever seen.

On a number of occasions I’ve had the good fortune of sitting in the window seat on an airplane and when the weather cooperates, I get an absolute thrill looking out of that window and getting to see sites such as the mountains, shorelines and, on a couple of occasions, the Statue of Liberty. In those moments, the most beautiful piece of glass in the world to me is that airplane window.

And as I type this response to you, I glanced over to my office wall where a framed picture of my three amazing children and nine incredibly wonderful grandchildren hangs. Perhaps that piece of glass that I look through to see them is the most beautiful piece of glass in the world.

Maybe by now you’re getting the idea of what I’m attempting to say. Glass is such an important part of our everyday world that, depending on what we are looking at or through, glass becomes a part of the experience in one way or another. Glass provides all of us with a true window to our world. I’m guessing that I’ve not done a very good job answering your question, but if I could sum it up in just one sentence it would be this: As with most things in life, the beauty in a piece of glass is in the eyes of the beholder. I encourage you to enjoy the view.

-Glass Detective

Lyle R. Hill is the managing director of Keytech North America, a company providing research and technical services for the glass and metal industry. He also serves as president of Glass.com, an information portal and job generation company for the glass industry. Hill has more than 50 years’ experience in the glass and metal industry and can be reached at lhill@glass.com.

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