In 1974, three recent art school graduates – Ray Ahlgren, Dan Schwoerer, and Boyce Lundstrom – cobbled together a glass factory in the backyard of a ramshackle house in Portland, Oregon. Resourceful by nature and necessity, they built their factory with scraps repurposed from a shipyard. And, their products—hand-rolled sheets for the stained glass trade—were made from recycled bottle cullet. Shamelessly innovative and unconventional, Bullseye Glass Company was born.
A chance encounter with artist Klaus Moje in 1979 inspired them to do something that had never been done before—something that would change the company’s course and the history of glass art. They produced a palette of tested-compatible glasses for creating works in a kiln.
This reliably fusible glass was an extraordinary product that artists had historically longed for. However, there was a problem—almost no one knew what to do with it. Undaunted, Bullseye embarked on a long-term program of research and education by working hand-in-hand with artists to expand and share the technical, aesthetic, and conceptual possibilities of what is now known as “kiln-glass.”
Nearly five decades later, the Bullseye factory has expanded to cover most of the block around the old house where it all started. While the practice of glass fusing, or kilnforming, has expanded exponentially, Bullseye still produces glass the same way as in 1974—one handmade sheet at a time. At this time, the factory casts up to 1,500 sheets every day, in addition to fusible accessory glasses like powder, frit, ribbon, and stringer. Significantly, Bullseye Glass now ships to countries around the world for makers who create stunningly diverse glassworks.
Lani McGregor is the Director of Bullseye Projects. Prior to joining Bullseye Glass Co. in 1984, she operated a glass studio in New Mexico that specialized in kilnformed and flat architectural glass. In 1990, she established Bullseye’s Research & Education Department and developed its initial teaching programs.
Bullseye’s Research & Education team continues to explore and share new ways of working with this remarkable material. Bullseye Studio, the fabrication arm of Bullseye Glass Co., collaborates with artists, architects, and designers to demonstrate the large-scale potential of kilnformed glass. In like manner, Bullseye Projects champions artists from around the world who work in kilnforming by mounting exhibitions. The Bullseye Online Store continues to make the company’s materials and favorite tools accessible. And finally, Bullseye Glass Resource Centers provide classes and Open Studio access to empower anyone to create with color and light.
Enjoy this conversation with founders Schwoerer and McGregor, who trace their company’s history, challenges and continued goals to inspire, while providing the tools needed to make the world brighter and more colorful through the incredible potential of glass.
For more on Bullseye history, check out Schwoerer and McGregor here: