After the long flight and some time to explore the sights of San Diego and enjoy the warmth of California, a welcome change from being cold and wet in a British January. I visited the head office and tile studio of Oceanside Glasstile in Carlsbad (between San Diego and LA on America's west coast). I was greeted by their friendly team, and happened to be there at the same time as Kyle Barker (President of Spectrum Glass). It was nice to see them working together to complete the move and chat about the future of glass art.
The first sight of Spectrum's new home was laid out on OGT's design tables - the enormity of the Spectrum range in sample form, side by side, plus the newly added Uroboros product line. A spectacular sight which brought home the importance to the glass community of the two companies' huge offering and legacies which will live on thanks to OGT.
There were 5 tables in all, with all of the colours and types being assessed. OGT are working with Spectrum's head of glass technology, Brandon Byhre who has joined them along with other key team members to facilitate the transition.
Thankfully all the codes are staying the same so we glass artists won't get confused! Also favourites like Waterglass and other essential glasses are to live on!
I also had a tour of their tile studio, which was really interesting - getting to see their product (including the ones they make from Spectrum and Uroboros Glasses) laid out stylishly - made me want to re-tile my kitchen! OGT hand cast a beautiful range of tiles, alongside speciality hand cut ranges in hundres of colours. Their business really is a good fit with the production of art glass.
You can see the OGT tiles here: http://www.glasstile.com
The next day, CEO Sean Gildea picked me up and we drove south and across the border into Mexico, the weather was even better! Driving across the border was very easy, and after a 40 minute drive we arrived at the Oceanside Glasstile factory. Blue skies and the feel of being in another country and a huge 100,000 square foot facility. OGT have been in business for 25 years, and one of the Original Founders was Boyce Lundstrom (Sean's uncle) who was famous for his early books on glass fusing technique but also for being a founder of Bullseye Glass.
I was greeted in Tijuana (TJ for short) by the OGT factory management team, and introduced to each member in turn, which was followed by a tour of their fantastic facility (which I must say is SPOTLESS!). All the processes from the recycled glass bottles at the goods inwards through to the hand casting and hand cutting and mosaic making are beautifully organised and a pleasure to watch. There is a highly skilled and enthusiastic team across the board, with a great program of learning for staff members, from beginner to expert. By far they have 10 times as many on their staff expert lists than beginners! Many of their staff commute from the US across the border.
It was great to see the OGT business in action, photos were not really appropriate in case it leaks a trade secret or two!
I was shown the staff welfare systems in place by the HR manager, the processes and manufacturing by the Operations Director, and also the warehousing and shipping systems by the head of warehouse and shipping. All of whom were extremely helpful and generous with their time. There was Spectrum Factory equipment arriving and being assembled, the entire shipping department is moving to a new 50,000 sq ft warehouse to make way for the sheet glass making facility which will all be under this one, enormous roof.
I was impressed by the space outside, which was being cleared and levelled to house the original Baghouses from Spectrum Glass Co, plus a brand new extra one, just commissioned. These are what set Spectrum apart for years, as they filter the air coming out of the glass making plant, ensuring that it is cleaned and suitable to release back into the air.
Huge machines were waiting for the ground to dry out as it had recently rained (this is very odd for Mexico!) and meant that work had to stop for a few days on getting these installed. They will be lined up along the end of the factory (seen in this photo) with ducts through the wall for the air to flow through.
The factory is sited on top of a hill - there are many other larger factories dotted around it on this business park. Including many well known, international brands. TJ is a busy business and production town.
A short drive took us to the newly acquired warehouse of an extra 50,000 sq ft, which will house the distribution centre and storage of stock of glass tiles and sheets. There will be sheet glass from the Spectrum and Uroboros range, plus the Stringer, Frit and Confetti to complete all the accessories needed for the full pallette of products. Further down the line, there R&D team will no doubt bring us exciting new things to play with!
OGT estimate that the new production will create 100 jobs here in TJ and in their California base, while helping secure the jobs of all who rely on these glasses for their income, in the USA and around the world. Since the original site in Seattle was not being sold with the company, we are pleased that a future has been secured.
A quick stop for some authentic Mexican street food - tacos was an amazing experience, watching the chefs producing each one to order at high speed with delicious results was a great way to round off my first trip to Mexico.
So what next?
- February - Definition of sheet glass colors moving forward.
- March - Better defined timeline of product to market.
- April - News of first product coming off the production line.
- Summer - First round of products start to hit the market.
We will have more details soon, keep an eye here and on our Facebook Page for the latest updates. We look forward to the first shipments arriving here in Bristol, ready for you to get Creative!