Portland artists worry if Bullseye Glass goes under, so could th - KPTV - FOX 12

Portland artists worry if Bullseye Glass goes under, so could they

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Bullseye Glass in SE Portland (Photo: KPTV) Bullseye Glass in SE Portland (Photo: KPTV)

As Bullseye Glass Co. and neighbors wait to see if a state-ordered 10-day cease and desist order will be prolonged, so do Portland artists and fabricators who depend on the company’s glass for their work.

“Once we run out of glass, we’re dead in the water,” Aquila Art Glass co-owner Don Bietschek said Monday. “This is our livelihood. This is how we make a living - this is how we feed our families.” 

At his studio, he teaches, creates decorative art he sells, and rents space and equipment to other glass artists. Almost all of the glass comes exclusively from Bullseye. 

“Bullseye is the largest sheet glass maker that I’m aware of,” Bietschek said. “When that all happened, I went and bought a whole bunch of glass, all of the colors that we needed.”

On Thursday, Gov. Kate Brown ordered Bullseye to halt production on the majority of the glassmaker’s products. The move came after new tests showed dangerous levels of lead in the area. Earlier this year, high levels of cadmium and arsenic were found in the air nearby the factory. 

Bullseye Vice President Jim Jones said the state-issued order shutdown about 80 percent of the business the company does. 

“If it stays that way, we won’t be in business long,” Jones said, adding that Bullseye has customers all over the world, with about 35 percent of its sales taking place internationally. 

Jones said in the 1970’s Bullseye pioneered a special type of glass used for glass-fusing. The technique is popular with artists and Bullseye has few competitors manufacturing the product. 

“There’s only a couple people that make this glass in the U.S. -- and consequently, the world,” Savoy Studio owner Dan  Legree said.  “So it’s not just call up supplier - they’re aren’t any - there’s two in Portland that use fusable glass, and that’s it.”

Legree said Bullseye, along with another Portland glassmaker, Uroboros, were the reasons he moved his business from California to Portland several years ago. 

“Hopefully this doesn’t last very long, because if they can’t produce glass - fusable glass - it will be detrimental to our business,” Legree said.

If you’ve ever been to Las Vegas, Legree says you’ve seen his work. He and his employees to custom commercial pieces for hotels, casinos, restaurants and theme parks. 

“We’ve got work in almost every Casino in Vegas,” Legree said.“We’re able to make unique stuff which you can’t find anywhere else in the world, so it’s going to be a huge problem.”

Portland artist Vicki Green said she’s also bracing for possible repercussions - concerned she won’t have the glass to make pieces for future art shows. 

“I’m very worried about it,” Green said. "I just went to Bullseye Saturday and bought what I think I need.”

“I feel like I’m on edge,” Green added. “I don’t know if I should be applying for some of those shows that are late in the year.”

Jones believes the DEQ ordered the halt to flex its muscles: “They’re trying to rebuild credibility,” he said. 

Jones said Thursday - the day the cease and desist was ordered - BullsEye was melting lead.

“We’re pretty irritated (the DEQ) didn’t pick up the phone and call. We could’ve stopped lead production right away,” Jones said.  “But instead they spent the entire day writing up the cease and desist order and preparing a press conference.” 

“It’s fairly unprecedented,” Jones said about the order.

The order on Bullseye will last about another week, but the DEQ said it could be extended longer.

Artists said it’s a wait they can’t afford. 

“I don’t know how much longer we can last,” Bietschek said. 

Jones said Bullseye has a meeting with the DEQ Tuesday.

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