On the Road with USGlass

Fashionable Advice on Decorative Glass

An Easterly trek last month turned into a very memorable one for Bernie Lax, the president of Los Angeles-based Pulp Studios. Lax headed East in mid-January to meet with customers in the New York and New England area and to fulfill some speaking engagements.

Instead of going as planned, he spent a few days (that he probably doesn’t remember too well) sequestered in a hotel room in New Jersey fighting a very nasty New York flu bug.

His first day back among the living found him rushing to get to Rockville, Md., where he provided a unique view of the decorative glass industry to members of the Mid-Atlantic Glass Association.

How did Lax gain that unique perspective on the decorative glass business? He says it’s because he originally worked in the fashion industry before moving to the glass industry.

“Fashion and decorative glass actually go hand-in-hand,” he says. “People in the glass industry don’t necessarily understand that what they are selling with decorative glass is fashion statement. It’s an element of design. You have to embrace the aesthetics.”

He says there are many misconceptions about decorative glass swirling about the glass industry.

“People think the designers pick it; that’s a misconception,” he says. As he explains, designers pick the visual aesthetics they desire, but not the products themselves. They don’t necessarily undertake the due diligence and vet the products properly.

“General contractors used to do that vetting, but not any more. Nowadays, they just hand you the plan and it’s your job to vet it. That’s tough to do because you are selling something you don’t manufacture yourself. You have no control over your destiny.

“Let’s face it,” Lax continues, “it’s always the glass guy’s fault, no matter what it is … and that’s because just about everything we do in this industry is reactive. You need to do that vetting up front. This is critical in the case of decorative glass. If we took the same time vetting everything in the beginning that we have to take solving problems at the end, we wouldn’t have the problems at all.”

Lax says being educated is important. “Understand the warranty, understand the shipping, know and track the scheduling, understand the payment terms,” he counsels. “The designers want the aesthetics and they want you do the homework.”

It’s fashionable advice from a guy who started in the textile industry. “The glass industry is a much better place than the textile business, it’s much less cut-throat,” he said, as I realized that was the first time I’d ever heard that about the glass industry. Can’t imagine what the fashion world is like.