Saturday, July 6, 2013

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On the Making of Vintage Glassware: Bert Haanstra's 1958 'Glas'

You may be tough, but are you roll-your-own-cigarette-
and-light-it-on-a-blazing-hot-jar tough?
Craft bartenders around the country pour vintage cocktails in vintage glassware as a matter of pride. Stemware, tumblers, and other barware from the 1930's-50's are easy enough to find even now that pikers know to check out thrift shops for great finds. We cocktail geeks like these glasses. Empirically true or not, a Champagne cocktail served in an elegant, hollow-stemmed 1915 coup tastes better than the same drink served in an Ikea coffee mug. Even delicate, small vintage glassware has a heft of historicity. They are mute witnesses to much of the liquid history we try to recreate (or surpass).

But we rarely see how such things were made. A nearly wordless documentary gives us a look inside micentury glassmaking, both hand-blown and industrial. Distorted VHS pirate copies of Bert Haanstra's 1958 Glas used to make the rounds among glassblowing students. The tape I saw in the 1980's was a copy of a copy of a copy, going back untold generations. I was very much into the glass sculptures of Dale Chihuly, but that old bootleg of Glas was nearly unwatchable.

The short industrial film is on YouTube now, however, in a much cleaner copy. Set to a light jazz score, it follows craftsmen and factory workers as they blow, turn, smash, and form glass into bottles, stemware, candlesticks, pitchers, and jars. Some of the men try to inject a little dramatic interpretation in their scenes, but most just roll and blow, roll and blow.

Goes well with:
  • Predating Glas by only a few years, Hans Fischerkoesen's nightmarish Durch Nacht zum Licht ("Through Night to Light") pitches Underberg Bitters. I enjoy Underberg, but I'm pretty sure this wet-sheet nightmare of a campaign would not get greenlighted today.

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