I had been to Kokomo Opalescent Glass (KOG) before when buying glass for a lifelong friend’s stained glass she asked me to make for her historic home remodel. I really enjoyed looking through all of the beautiful glass they make and had a tough time just picking out what was needed for the project. All of the quilters out there know what it is like to go into a quilt shop and see the gorgeous “eye candy.” This is the same feeling: heart leaping with all of the possibilities for the beautiful supplies!
So, KOG is 127 years old! That in itself is amazing. They opened in Kokomo because they were given free gas and there was a good supply of it. They got that deal for many years until the gas supply dwindled. They have had gas bills as over $65,000 in a month! Yikes. Needles to say, there is also not a high margin on glass productions given those expenses.
They give tours once a day on weekdays. We expected the tour to be a few people and it ended up being over 40. They split us into smaller groups and called in back up tour guides. We lucked into getting the CEO. He requested going last and I’m pretty sure we got a longer tour with a little more detail to our tour. John O’Donnell was a very knowledgeable and interesting tour guide. His wife, Patty, joined us and was very knowledgeable as well.
There are multiple buildings in the complex, but the original building was a scissors factory prior to glass, so it is older than 127 years old.
I was surprised to hear about the scope of their business and customers. They are one of about 6 glass manufacturers of the type in the country. They supplied a lot of glass to Tiffany’s over the years and still have the recipes used originally and still get repair work for Tiffany glass. Glassmaking has not changed a lot with the times. You are still melting sand and additives to molten states in ovens and manipulating it how you want it.
They had a container shipment ready to be loaded in a container bound for Japan.
Here is part of our group looking through a warehouse while John talks about the original unpainted brick wall that employees signed and dated over the years. A quilter friend is in the light green jacket and the woman in red is a visiting Pakistani missionary who was there with her husband who had on a velvet suit.
While this brick wall is more enduring, there still remains wooden shelving that has very old signatures as well!
It looks like they place broken sheets at the ends of the rows.
The man who was doing the cut class/stained/leaded glass had just finished a piece (a wolf that was lovely and I should have taken a pic of him holding it up). We didn’t get to see him working and thus didn’t take any photos. We chatted a bit after the tour and he showed me a picture of the leaded glass he made for Elton John.
I took so many pictures (350+), that it is going to take a few posts to share them all. I will post on glass blowing, sheet glass making, and general photography yet.
A few of us are planning to go back and take a class or two. So if you find yourself in the Kokomo area, think about a tour. More posts to follow!