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Journey Indiana – Zimmerman Art Glass: A Family Tradition


THE STORY OF ZIMMERMAN ART GLASS. ♪>>WHEN I WAS A KID, YOU KNOW, OUR MOTHERS GIVE US THE LITTLE BOOK THAT YOU WRITE IN SO WHEN YOU GO TO KINDERGARTEN, THEY TALK ABOUT YOU AND WHO YOUR TEACHER WAS AND WHO YOUR FRIENDS WERE AND ALL OF THAT STUFF. AT THE BOTTOM OF THAT BOOK, IT SAYS, YOU KNOW WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP? AND SO THERE’S FIREMEN AND POLICEMAN AND LAWYER AND STUFF LIKE THAT ON THERE. AND THERE’S TEN CHOICES. FOR ME, THOUGH, THERE WAS ALWAYS THE BLANK THAT SAID OTHER. AND WE WOULD ALWAYS WRITE IN GLASS BLOWER. ALWAYS. EVEN SINCE I WAS A LITTLE KID. THE HISTORY GOES BACK QUITE A WAYS, BACK TO MY GRANDFATHER WHO STARTED THE BUSINESS IN 1942. BEFORE THAT, HE WAS ACTUALLY A LAMP CHIMNEY BLOWER. THEY MADE THE GLASS GLOBES THAT WENT AROUND THE KEROSENE LAMP BEFORE THEY HAD ELECTRICITY AND THAT SORT OF THING. WHEN ELECTRICITY STARTED HITTING THOSE RURAL AREAS HE SWITCHED OVER TO THIS, AND CREATED THE ZIMMERMAN ART GLASS COMPANY. THEY STARTED MAKING A FEW ITEMS, PAPERWEIGHTS AND PERFUME BOTTLES, WHICH CAN HE STILL DO TODAY. MY FATHER WAS IN IT FOR 42 YEARS. THIS IS IS MY 41st YEAR. EACH GENERATION HAS ADDED TO THE INVENTORY. WE DO OVER 100 DIFFERENT ITEMS NOW AND THERE’S STILL — AND I WILL SAY THE MAJORITY OF THOSE ITEMS, 82% OF THEM ARE FUNCTIONAL ITEMS THAT YOU CAN USE IN EVERY DAY LIFE. THE TOOLS, THEY CAME OUT OF THE LAMP CHIMNEY FACTORY. THEY ARE OVER 100 YEARS OLD, BUT THAT’S WHAT GLASS PEOPLE DO. THAT ASPECT OF IT HASN’T CHANGED A WHOLE LOT. EVERYTHING IN HERE IS BUILT IN LAYERS OF GLASS. AND EVERYTHING IS MADE ON THESE LONG IRON RODS. I ALWAYS LIKE TO SAY IT’S LIKE PUTTING SPAGHETTI ON A FORK. YOU GO IN THERE AND TWIST IT AND IT GATHERS ON THERE AND YOU START WITH A SMALL LAYER, LIKE THE SIZE OF A GOLF BALL AND YOU ADD COLOR IN IT AND THEN YOU PUT ANOTHER LAYER OVER TOP OF THAT AND THAT TRAPS THE DESIGN ON THE INSIDE. AND YOU CAN GET AS MANY LAYERS AS YOU WANT OR AS MANY LAYERS AS YOU CAN HANDLE AND BUILD YOUR DESIGNS AS YOU GO. THAT’S ONE THING THAT GLASS OFFERS. IT OFFERS A HECK OF A CHALLENGE. WHEN YOU START A PIECE, YOU HAVE GOT TO FINISH IT. THERE’S NO PUTTING IT DOWN AND SAY, I WILL TAKE A BREAK AND CATCH MY BREATH HERE. IF YOU START, IT YOU WILL HAVE TO FINISH IT EVENTUALLY. YEARS AGO WHEN I WAS YOUNGER, I THOUGHT, OKAY, I WILL MAKE THESE GREAT BIG PIECES AND WE WERE GEARED TOWARDS THAT TO GET OUR EQUIPMENT SO WE CAN DO THOSE TYPES OF THINGS, BUT I HAVE GOTTEN AWAY FROM THAT. I’M KIND OF OVER THAT. MY JOB IN THAT ART WORLD, I’M SUPPOSED TO EDUCATE PEOPLE SO THAT WHEN THEY GO OUT AND THEY SEE A PIECE OF ART GLASS MADE BY DALE CHIHULY OR ONE OF THESE BIG FAMOUS WHY ARTISTS THEY WILL BE ABLE TO APPRECIATE IT THAT MUCH MORE BEING HERE IN OUR SHOP. THAT’S A BIG THING FOR US. JUST ABOUT EVERYONE WHO COMES IN HERE GETS A DEMONSTRATION. EVEN IF YOU COME IN WITH YOUR FAMILY, TWO OF YOU OR FOUR OF YOU OR A BUS LOAD, WE WILL SHOW YOU HOW IT’S MADE. MY GOD, IT’S MESMERIZING. THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND, WHILE I’M MAKING THE PIECE, I’M ALSO BEING MESMERIZED A LITTLE BIT. WHEN YOU ARE MAKING A PIECE THAT YOU ARE DOING OVER AND AGAIN, AND OVER AND AGAIN, IT BECOMES VERY PLEASING. I ALWAYS TOLD YOU THAT ON DAYS WHEN THINGS ARE GOING REALLY GOOD, I WOULD JUST AS SOON BE SITTING HERE WORKING THAN SITTING IN MY LA-Z-BOY WATCHING A BALL GAME. IT BECOMES SO RELAXING. THERE ARE’S THAT JOURNEY THAT YOU GO THROUGH BECAUSE YOU ARE THE BASIC CRAFTSMAN TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO WORK THE TOOLS AND WHAT ANGLE TO HOLD THEM AT AND HOW MUCH PRESSURE TO PUT ON THEM, AND THEN ALL OF A SUDDEN, AFTER SO MANY YEARS, THEN YOU KIND OF GET THAT THROUGH THE BEGINNING STAGE OF A MASTER’S CRAFTSMAN AND THEN ALL OF A SUDDEN, YOU ARE JUST REACTING BECAUSE YOU START WORKING MORE ABOUT RHYTHM AND THEN TO ME, THAT’S MY WHOLE TAKE ON WHEN THE ARTISTRY COMES IN, WHEN YOU ARE GOING BY RHYTHM. THE OLD BUILDING, I USED TO SPEND A LOT OF TIME SITTING THIS AND TALKING TO MY FATHER. I HAD A LITTLE PERCH-LIKE THING I WOULD SIT UP ON RIGHT BEHIND HIS BENCH IN THE OLD BUILDING AND TALK TO HIM. THE OLD BUILDING BURNT DOWN IN 1983, SO WE BUILD A BRAND NEW STRUCTURE, RIGHT OVER THE ORIGINAL PLACE, WHERE MY DAD WAS AT. AND I KIND OF ALWAYS CONSIDERED THAT MY PLACE AND MY BROTHER’S PLACE AND WE WORK HERE TOGETHER UP UNTIL HIS DEATH FOR ABOUT 25 YEARS. AND THEN WHEN WE MADE THE MOVE OVER TO HERE, IT’S APPLES AND ORANGES COMPARED TO THE OLD PLACE, BUT IT’S ACTUALLY FOR THE NEXT GENERATION THAT WILL BE THEIR PLACE. YEAH, I LOVE THE HISTORY OF IT. I REALLY DO. MAINLY BECAUSE I STOOD ON SOME PRETTY WIDE SHOULDERS. OH, WE LOVE WHAT YOU HAVE DONE. WELL, YOU KNOW, MY GRANDFATHER, WHEN THEY STARTED, THEY WENT SEVERAL WEEKS WITHOUT CUSTOMERS EVEN COMING INTO THE BUILDING. THE COURAGE THAT THOSE GUYS HAD TO DO THAT, IS, YOU KNOW, REALLY, PRETTY — PRETTY REMARKABLE, I THINK, AND I LOVE BEING A PART OF THAT.

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