The Firelight Story
The Leading Edge Of Design And Technology
A Staff Dedicated To Excellence
A key to the Firelight Glass success story rests in the talents and skills of every individual who works there. Jamie harkens back to his days as a coach. (He recruited their first employees from his soccer team! Even today he continues to coach world-class runners.) At Firelight Glass, a team approach is encouraged—that’s simply how decision making and problem solving get done. Workers are valued for their input, and job satisfaction is high, along with a sense of common pride.
Inside the Firelight Glass building, nestled on the eastern edge of the San Francisco Bay, highly skilled “hotworkers” ply their craft as they melt, shape and spin the finest glass tubing into diverse and distinctive forms. With specially designed gas-oxygen burners, hand tools, ovens, and adapted glassblowing lathes, they transform the glass into works of seamless beauty.
Founder Karen Boss, having come a long way from the one-person glassblowing company she started on a kitchen table, describes the feeling that sometimes comes over her as she arrives at work. “I pull up to the building and feel a heartbeat coming out of it. The energy there! It may be your business up to a point, then you belong to it.”
Karen Boss, Founder and Designer.
An artist working in many mediums, Karen started Firelight Glass in the early 1970s as a one-person glassblowing company “headquartered” at a kitchen table in the corner of a friend’s garage. From these humble beginnings, she and her husband, President Jamie Maslach, built their thriving business through both a passion for glass design and a set of incredibly high operational standards that still form the very root of the company. Today Karen remains the industry’s premier designer, bringing an uncompromised sense of pure design to each and every Firelight Glass product.
Jamie Maslach, President.
The decisive business mind at the “helm” of Firelight Glass, Jamie has also long been the company’s chief engineering talent. Jamie’s forte lies in a probing mind stirred by the challenges of how to produce difficult shapes in glass. “Glass doesn’t like to turn corners? but we’ve found a way of coaxing it around”. And, to this day, only Firelight Glass has the proprietary technology to create truly seamless geometric forms.
Our Design Process
From Concept to Finished Art…
There’s no denying, the process of taking a new Firelight Glass design from conception to finished product is a painstaking one. As Jamie (our chief engineer) puts it, “We have rarely been content doing what is obvious or easiest. It’s like a high wire act. We’re so close to the edge of what glass can do and what our jigging materials can endure.”
Many of their designs push the limit of how glass responds. “As a super-cooled liquid, it gravitates toward round shapes and smooth transitions, but we often try for sharp angles and grossly distorted bubbles.”
The commitment to developing new designs is a strong one, even if it means having to slow down production for a while. But for Karen, as both designer and CEO, the impulse of the artist takes precedence over the business of making profits.
Every step of the production process demands perfection, starting with the raw materials. Firelight Glass constantly searches out the very best sources. Four and five-foot-long “water-white” glass tubing, in various wall thickness and diameters, must be highly refined and free from imperfections. Once the tubing enters the factory, it undergoes numerous cleaning and quality-control checks – before, during and after the stages of melting, shaping and annealing. Ten people are involved in the exacting and careful work of producing one Waterlily stem.
Firelight Glass designs are proprietary, and the hot-working techniques of making the oil candles are “seamless”, resulting in an unparalleled purity of form.
Each candle comes with a lifetime fiberglass wick – which draws the oil upward through the candle without the wick itself burning – along with an oil funnel, safety matches, instructions, and sturdy packaging.
Firelight Glass Lamp Oil, made from specially blended liquid paraffin, is one of the safest and cleanest of lamp oils. It is virtually smokeless and odorless. Each ounce provides approximately eight hours of burning time, so the oil in a 4-inch Sonata Table-light, for example, will provide 32 hours of candlelight; a 7 1/2″ hexagonal pillar,136 hours.