As an old saying goes, fortune and glass break soon, alas – yet we surround ourselves with this fragile material. I would like to know the secret behind fortune, sand, and glass and consult the WIEN PRODUCTS website www.wienproducts.at. I set off for the 10th district, where the Fritz Spatny Edition workshop is located on Pernersdorfergasse.
Sandblasting glass to create patterns and pictures on the material has been done for a long time. In Vienna there were many glaziers who mastered the craft, Michael Müllner explains as he walks me through the workshop he runs. His grandfather, Fritz Spatny, started his company in 1931 in the 5th district. Back then there was much more glass in the typical Viennese apartments with high ceilings and double doors, and it had to have elaborate designs.
While today people often opt for cheaper films to make glass opaque or apply motifs, the sandblasting technique is much more sophisticated.
We are standing by a large table and the craftspeople are in their element. I get a live introduction to the art of sandblasting… The first step is determining what will remain clear and what will be etched. You can decide on the positive-negative effect – sometimes the motif is sandblasted and sometimes the rest.
You need a steady hand to transfer the patterns onto parchment paper and later apply them to glass with film. Patience and a clear approach are important – especially when the shading varies, which is also offered with complex motifs.
I watch as a picture is carefully revealed piece by piece with a sharp craft knife cutting from the yellow film that covers the entire pane of glass. The surfaces are later “blasted” with miniscule grains of sand at a high speed, which makes the surface of the glass opaque, basically sanding it.
If you want to achieve even better depth, the motifs are cut from the film in stages – the repeated sandblasting reinforces the effect with each run. The result is an almost 3D appearance.
I am fascinated. A colleague is now carrying the pane of glass into the part of the workshop where the sandblaster is located. They make an exception and let me watch. The pane is carefully placed on a shelf and the employee disappears behind a clear, partially flexible curtain. Now the sandblasting process begins. A specific grain of sand is “blasted” onto the pane under high pressure from an air pressure hose – which reminds me of a fire hose. Here it is important that the artisan guides the sand over the pane very evenly and steadily – not missing anything but also not blasting anything twice.
Done. Now the glass is carefully placed back on the large worktable and closely examined. A keen eye for detail is necessary here. If everything is correct, the film is slowly removed from the glass – another job that calls for patience.
After a while we see the finished piece – excellent work! Naturally, I am wondering who has glass decorated like this. The two craftsmen laugh – and tell me that along with private customers there are also public institutions such as theaters and the like, where glass panes in swinging doors break and replacements are made here in the 10th district. Particularly in typical old Viennese apartments with high ceilings and double doors there is a demand for etched glass. Some panes are damaged, others are broken – in any case, the inhabitants of these apartments are happy when they find the right partner to solve their problem. Good fortune for both sides.
And then, for instance, there are customers who love extravagance and have tabletops or mirrors made that match their upholstery fabric, which creates a very attractive effect, especially with backlighting.
The employees at Edition Fritz Spatny are very talented artists with a wide range of skills. They also create modern designs, lettering, logos, and more here. Glass is not the only material they work with; individual designs can also be applied to wood, stone, and plastic.
You can feel how well the craftspeople understand their profession and pursue their work with passion. As I leave the workshop – impressed by why I have seen – and walk through the city, I suddenly start noticing incredible designs of etched glass. I am certain that the outstanding quality of the Edition Fritz Spatny is worth a walk to the 10th district, and not just for me.