Bernard Always, Remembered

Bernard Lax

He was never really Bernie. I would wince the few times I heard someone say “nice to meet you, Bernie,” after being introduced to him. I knew he was Bernard and he must not have liked hearing Bernie in its place. Then that big smile would cross his face as his hand reached out in a forceful grip. “Nice to meet you,” he’d always say, without ever adding “It’s Bernard.”

As you probably know already, Bernard Lax, president of Pulp Studio in Gardena, Calif., died suddenly August 3 at the age of 64. He was as silent about his accomplishments and good deeds as he was about correcting his name.

Bernard was silent about much of the philanthropic and charity work he did, as well as the many individuals he helped over the years. In fact, he cloaked so many of his donations in anonymity that many he helped will never know it.

And he was quiet about how much of a visionary he was. Nearly 30 years ago, I went to an evening meeting of the Maryland Glass Association (MGA) in Bethesda. The guest speaker that night was Bernard and Pulp Studio was only a few years old.

He began his presentation by explaining how founding the company came about. He’d grown up in the fashion industry—his parents owned a successful clothing company and he’d worked in it until he was 40. In the course of that business, he came across technology that allowed fabric patterns to be imprinted on glass. He recognized the potential right away.

For the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif., Pulp Studio fabricated 800 unique panels of a special, triple laminated glass for the façade.

“What does a clothing guy know about glass?” he asked the MGA members before answering the question himself. “Nothing, absolutely nothing in the beginning,” he said, “except I knew this decorative look would be a winner and I knew it was what I wanted to do.”

For North Stafford High School, located just a few miles from our offices in Virginia, Pulp Studio direct-to-glass printed images of major historical figures onto glass for the library’s renovation.

Bernard was able to marry the beauty of glass with the artistry of fabric to the delight of architects and designers everywhere. As new decorative technologies developed, he embraced them to create unique and exceptional projects. Pulp Studio grew and expanded as a result.
The stunning results led to even more spectacular ones. The use of this new technology made glass the scene-stealer in project upon project. Think of how much more decorative glass is in use today than it was 20 years ago –on all types of glazing surfaces, including bent glass with very tight curvatures. Bernard’s design acumen was such that he used it to help grow a whole category in an industry he knew little about when he started.

He was also a realist. Bernard was often a faculty member at our Glass Expos™ regional educational programs. I was always struck by the candor of his presentation. He typically would explain the advantages and disadvantages of fabricating decorative glass internally or working with a company such as his with candid accuracy. “This is what is better about doing it yourself, and this is what’s better about working with us,” he said. “You have to decide what’s more important to you.”

One of the most recent projects by Pulp Studio is the Caesars Bacchanal Buffet at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The new fish station is covered with carved, textured-face glass panels that are backed by a mirror with a 4-inch gap between them to convey glass bricks reminiscent of ice caves.

So thanks to Bernard for effortlessly and quietly being one of the industry’s unsung heroes. And condolences to his family, in particular his wife Lynda, who you may have met at any number of events, and his son, Taylor.

Bernard and I share the same birthday (month and day) and every year we’d race to be the first to wish the other a happy one. I will miss that, too, and always remember Bernard.