A new generation at the burning lamps

Glassblower Sigi Franz

A new generation at the burning lamps

Glassblower Sigi Franz

The castle at Burghausen in Upper Bavaria is 1,051 meters in length, making it the longest castle complex in the world. From its walls, there's a stunning view to be had of the preserved Old Town with its brightly painted patricians' houses. The high street is called "In den Grüben", and as far back as the Middle Ages many craftsmen practised their trades in its late Gothic buildings. Today you can still find many traditional workshops here. One of these is Sigi Franz's Glaspunkt.

In Germany there are only about 70 Master glassblowers.

Franz is a master blower of chemical apparatus. The 50-year-old still produces glass apparatus for industry and research, but today he mainly blows works of art. In his line of business there is a shortage of possible successors. "In Germany there are only about 70 Master glassblowers", says Franz. Each year only around 10 people start the training. But at Franz's workshop three young men are standing at the burning lamps. He proudly reels off: "Alex is 22 and has been a journeyman here for one-and-a-half years. Andreas is 24; in August he'll take his tradesmen's qualifying exam and then he'll also be permanently employed here. The youngest is my son Christopher, 19 - he'll be done in a year."

Portrait Sigi Franz

The three young guys make the workshop-cum-studio a lively place. While the craftsmen turn the glass in the flames, and tackle it at different temperatures, music is playing and laughter echoes again and again through the room. The finished glass sculptures are an intoxication of colours and shapes: Abstract ball shapes stand beside life-size animal skeletons. "This creative variety also comes from my boys", explains Franz. "I give them the freedom to develop their own ideas." This is very probably one of the reasons why he doesn't have to worry about finding young talent.  He also has a lot of patience with the young men. "You get much further like that", he says and recalls: "It was very different during my training; that was very strict."

In Bavaria crafts are flourishing.

Glaspunkt is just one of the many flourishing glass craft businesses in the rural district of Altötting. Franz tells us: "We have here about 50 glassblowers - the highest concentration in Germany." These include trained apparatus glassblowers, such as Franz, and many from closely-related branches of the trade.  In addition there are also many self-taught practitioners here. Franz would like to make use of this rich environment and turn Burghausen into a youth training centre for glassworkers. He explains: "I plan to transfer Glaspunkt debt-free to my boys in one-and-a-half years.  I would then only be here as a tutor and hope that they will continue to manage it on the lines of a foundation that will promote young talent."

Werkstatt Glaskunst
Moderne Glaskunst

Two institutions in Italy serve as models. In Bolzano and Murano young glassblowers who have completed their training can attend free advanced seminars. These centres are supported by the European Social Fund among other sponsors. The background to this programme is that it takes a very long time to get a feel for glass. The training at the school of glassmaking lasts three years. "But almost everyone needs seven years till they're ready to go into business," says Franz. If everything goes as planned, young artisans will soon learn to get the right feeling in Glaspunkt too. "We're already having discussions with the glassmaking school in Zwiesel," says Franz. He positions himself with his plans consciously against the academic drive in Germany and sees in Bavaria the right base: "There's a crazy level of potential here in terms of crafts. This must be maintained."

address: In den Grüben 140, 84489 Burghhausen
Tel: +49 (0)8677 - 913815
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