Today I travelled south to Hergiswil, Canton Nidwalden, in the Heart of Switzerland and on the shore of Vierwaldstättersee, where beautiful and artistic glass creations come from. More precisely, I visited the Glasi Hergiswil, a glass works that used to produce industrial glass (no Klein bottles!), but is nowadays well known for its beautiful and artistic glass creations. The Glasi has been making anything from plates and vases to works of art ever since the artist Roberto Niederer saved it from bankruptcy in the mid 70s.
But the glassblowers haven’t been at work since December, because the oven had to be fitted with new stones and it’s only from tomorrow that a new “Ofenreise” (literally, “journey of the oven”), i.e. a new period of production will start and go on for five to seven years of uninterrupted production.
Once the oven has cooled down for maintenance, it takes 2 weeks for it to reach the right temperature (1500 degrees C) again after a new fire has been kindled. This happened on 24th January, with the youngest glassblower ringing a bell to indicate the start of a new production cycle.
Outside the hall with the oven, there are sculptures, some made of glass, some made of other materials, marking the Glasi as anything but a simple factory. I’m sure that this place, with its magic and art originating in the skill and craftsmanship of the glassblowers from Switzerland and all over Europe would have appealed greatly to Russ.
So I placed a quotation from Russell Hoban's fragment "North" on a glass brick of one of the objects of art outside the factory. In fact it's the beginning and the end of the fragment.
"There is a north in the mind where the white wind blows, where the white ones live. Where the ice bear walks alone, the ice bear swinging his head on his thick neck that is like a great white snake in the body of a bear. Where the white wolf comes trotting, trotting on the paths of the living, the paths of the dead. Where the snowy owl glides in silence through the twilight. Where the raven speaks its word of black. The north where one goes in fear, the north that the compass cannot find, the north that is the cold and implacable truth from which one doesn't always return.
You see? says the north. I put on these shapes and I do what I do.
You're far away, I say. I'll never go to the north.
Everything has its north, says the north. I'll come to you."
(Russell Hoban, from "North", in The Moment under the Moment, 1992, p. 175-177)
North in the south, beginnings and endings, our unwillingness to confront the north, its coming to us if we don't go there, all these things wanted expression today, on this coldest Russmas day since I started participating in SA4QE, the Slickman A4 Quotation Event. I was thinking of Russ, grateful that there was someone like him, sad that he left us last December, but confident that his ideas will always stay alive.