Czech Glassmaking at Skrdlovice – A Short Film

Anyone who has seen glass being made will know mesmerising the process is, from the silent dance of the skilled glassmaking team to the transformation of a blob of hot, orange glass into a three dimensional artwork. My good friend and colleague Graham Cooley recently told me about a fascinating film produced in 1980 by Czechoslovakian TV showing glass being made at Skrdlovice in Czechoslovakia. It’s called ‘Tajemstvi duhove kulicky’, which roughly translates as ‘Mystery rainbow balls’. Sadly, I don’t understand the Czech narrator, but it focuses on Jaroslav Svoboda and his designs, and appears to indicate that his career with glass began with a fascination for glass marbles, and the patterns and colours within them, as a child.
Svoboda features large, and is shown directing and supervising glassmakers in the creation of his own designs, and sketching new designs in his office, surrounded by examples of his work. As well as Svoboda’s designs, we see the creation of forms from Frantisek Vizner’s famous ‘Whirlpool’ range and the work of other designers such as Jan Beranek, Jiri Suhajek, and Ladislav Palacek. These designers, as well as others, also feature in the film and are typically directing glassmakers, or else handling the hot stuff themselves.
You’ll also find lots of luscious and thoughtful shots of glass, and some rather surreal shots of glass placed outside in the Czech landscape long before Dale Chihuly began installing his monumental works in public parks. It’s well worth just over 25 minutes of your time, if not to just remind yourself of the incredible amounts of skill and work that went into creating something many see purely as a tradable commodity today, partly due to daytime television programmes. It’s a fascinating document of a factory that no longer exists, and of an industry involving skilled craftsmanship that has suffered dramatically for the past few decades.
Interest in the artistic creations in glass produced at Skrdlovice, and in the many designers who worked there has risen dramatically in the past few years, mainly thanks to a book I published, which was researched and written by Robert Bevan Jones and Jindrich Parik. To find out more about the book, and buy a copy, click here. Skrdlovice also features in SKLO, my more general book on mid-century modern Czech glass design. To find out more about that book, click here.
In the meantime, enjoy the film!

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