The Association of Glass and Pottery Manufacturers voted in 2021 at its annual meeting to consider sunsetting the organization within four years. This was due primarily for several reasons. Most likely the biggest reason was that our industries as we knew it practically no longer exist in the United States. Both glass and pottery midsize to small United States located manufacturers have been reduced significantly in numbers . However, after investigating small potteries, we were pleasantly surprised to find as many as 100 operations working around the country with one or two artisans and up to as many as 100 employees in a few cases. We were not so lucky to locate the same in the glass industry – although we believe that there are many small glass artisan studios operating and producing products. In addition, we have found that our current members are getting older, have sold, closed, or retired from their businesses and therefore our mission statement is no longer relevant. In the United States today, our universities and colleges that at one time graduated ceramic engineers for our industry, no longer do that realizing that there is no future for this specialty in the tabletop and giftware fields.
Therefore our Board appointed a Strategic Planning Committee to investigate uses of our accumulated funds and put together a donation plan along with a compliant to Internal Revenue guidelines closing plan for the Association. This committee met up to ten times together and as small groups and accumulated these thoughts and conclusions:
ASSOCIATED GLASS AND POTTERY MANUFACTURERS
At the June 2021 Annual Meeting, the Board proposed and members supported unanimously the proposal to explore a sunsetting (organization closure) effort by the Board because of limited current member interest in the Association. After the meeting, Bob Lupica and Rolf Poeting suggested to the Board that there were indeed still manufacturing entities in the pottery and glass industries producing products in the United States. They shared their opinions that we as an organization were possibly deserting a fledgling but growing number of small manufacturers who most likely did not know that our organization existed, but would be most excited to know about us, possibly receive financial or intellectual assistance from us, and even eventually join the organization as active members. The Board did not want to abandon active manufacturing if it truly existed and suggested that Bob and Rolf share company and or contact names with Project Chairman Bob Gonze and we would explore any potential interests.
Bob Lupica supplied a list of eight potteries (Canton Clay Works, Heath Ceramics, Harris Potteries, Bailey Pottery, Diversified, Coors Ceramic, East Fork Pottery, Haand) and Bob Gonze emailed each one a note about our organization and asked how we might be able to assist them.
Rolf attended a few trade shows and by the end of August suggested that with the exception of Michael Wainwright who was starting a new pottery in New England, he had not found a fledgling glass industry of manufacturers. However Rolf and Paula introduced Bob Gonze to Dave Turner who wrote Tabletop Journal on line. Dave offered his assistance (including writing about us and the industries if we found one) and shared a few other organizations including Arc, Liberty Flatware, Jono Pandolfi, Heath Ceramics, Ohio Stoneware, Mudshark, Earthborn Pottery, Felt & Fat, Behrenberg Glass, Libby Glass and Anchor Hocking. Bob Gonze reached out to all 17 organizations and six responded with minimal interest in our organization but advised that if we were giving away money, equipment, or technical assistance.
Bob Gonze then through F & M Ceramics (a supplier to the dwindling pottery industry) also found Matt and Rose Katz who operated an on-line pottery technical training program (Matt also taught at Alfred and RISD and Rose worked in the ceramic tile industry) under the name Ceramic Materials Workshops (CMW). Bob had some conversations with the team from CMW and they advised that the first couple of potteries identified were indeed in need of assistance and they further offered a list of 103 pottery manufacturers for Bob to contact. Bob searched each company, identified if it was artisan (i.e. appearance of a one or two person shop) and sent out another round of emails identifying our Association and asking how we might be able to help them. Again, the response to the emails was minimal and those that did respond advised that money, equipment and technical assistance were their primary needs.
In further conversations with the Katz’s CMW, they proposed putting together an assistance program though their organization which would reach out to all the identified potteries and any new ones that appeared. They proposed a program of hiring a visiting ceramic engineer for potteries, asking us to help put together a listing of used pottery equipment, and underwriting financial technical assistance from their organization. Various numbers were discussed but they were looking at trying to make a real difference/impact and proposing $200,000 plus per year for a three year commitment and were open to discussing all variations of such a program with our Association.
In the meantime, the Board asked several board members to form a Sunset Committee (John Potts, Chairman, Pete Wicks, George Fenton, and Bob Gonze) to review options and liquidation process and report back to the full Board. The Board and the Sunset Committee continued to work on this project and the following occurred during the pandemic wracked end of 2021 and beginning of 2022:
- Pete Wicks investigated the potential idea of a funding the development of a website for members and other glass and pottery manufacturers to sell their products
- Wink Smith reached out to Alfred University and Rhode Island Scholl of Design (RISD) for specific funding of endowed Chairs for University professors, scholarships, and graduate students
- Pete Wicks and George Fenton reached out to The Ceramic and Glass Industry Foundation, The American Ceramic Society, the Glass Art Society
- Bob Gonze reached out to Alfred and RISD for future help on internships, and added University of Missouri, Ball University, and Rutgers for proposed funded programs
- Bob Gonze reached out again to Corning Museum of Glass and received a complete package of proposed funding request for their training school, brick and mortar addition of facilities primarily funded by Corning Glass and potential branding with our organizations name permanently endowed
- George Fenton received a proposal for production of an updated technical glass reference book taken from postings on a website called Craftweb that would be assembled by a PeterVanderLaan
- George Fenton received a proposal from Henry Halem to support Public Access Schools such as Pittsburgh Glass Center, Pilchuck, Penland
- Pete Wicks reached out to the Museum of Ceramics in East Liverpool, OH which has been supported individually by some of our members. They have submitted a proposal for some funding and appear to be a decently funded and successfully operated organization.
- The Sunset Committee requested that the Board hire an attorney to review our charter and revised charter in addition to being cognizant of IRS rules in the liquidation of a 501 c6 non-profit organization. The firm of PorterWright did such a review and reported back with initial directives and then was asked to follow up specifically with the legality or hiring a private consultant such as CMW. The Sunset committee met in person and via Zoom several times during this time frame to discuss progress and roadblocks.
- Porter Wright responded with a vague confirmation of their initial report and no significant information was shared.
- Bob Gonze had further discussions with Matt Katz and CMW in regards to putting together a specific program to assist the pottery industry with financial assistance from the Association.
- Further conversations lead John Potts and Bob Gonze to explore Public Access Schools (PAS). A list was comprised of those PAS that specialized in glass and pottery and John Potts investigate each organization in regards to its activities and its financial health. In the process, an organization named Glass Impact was discovered. It was a funding organization that was working with glass and pottery PAS’s. In reviewing the financials, mission plan and conversation with their director in San Francisco, CA it was decided to stay in touch but not fund the organization
- John Potts and Bob Gonze continued conversations with various organizations while they made a short list of organizations that should receive the Association’s monies. A list was presented to the Sunset group and an April meeting was planned. This meeting was delayed until May 23 for a personal presentation to the group in Pittsburgh.
- After Matt Katz’s presentation, it was requested that he present a specific written proposal to the Board prior to the annual meeting. A further target group of fund recipient was developed and presented to the board, this group included:
- Corning Glass Museum – $500,000
- Ceramic Materials Workshops – $400,000
- East Liverpool Museum – $150,000
- Pittsburgh Glass Center – $100,000
- Penland School of Craft Pottery – $100,000
- At the June 2022 Annual meeting, the members and the Board supported these donations and are currently pursuing agreements to finalize these donations. We expect these actions to be completed within the next six months to year.