After 40 years of woodworking, Hugh McKay's hands could not take it anymore; but, rather than seeing this as a setback for his career, McKay ventured off into the unknown world of glass casting. When McKay began glass casting, information on the subject was scarce; however, he read all of the books available on the subject.
Still, McKay did not let this stop him. The glass casting world is very small. In fact, McKay says that Cast Glass Forms of Fostoria is the only glass casting foundry in the world, as far as he is aware.
Cast Glass Forms uses kiln casting, which requires the use of a solid mould to cast the glass. McKay uses wax most often as his solid material for the model in a process known as "lost wax." Using the lost wax process, the wax can be steamed away by the kiln. The completed mould is then put in the kiln with glass pieces and the melted glass fills the mould. Unlike other casting processes, glass casting has no room for error -- once one makes a mistake it is obvious and cannot be fixed. This makes glass casting unique because a mistake can be fixed by a simple touch-up in metal casting.
Because of his high status in such a small field, McKay gets business not only from across the United States, but from across the world. He works with customers interested in personal and industrial glass casts. Some famous names that McKay creates glass creations for range from Ralph Lauren to Judy Chicago. Big companies, such as a laser company in Canada, and famous people find out about McKay's business because he is the only glass foundry in the world.
"It's fun, because the glass strikes a chord with the human imagination," McKay said.
Cast Glass Forms' immense experience sets them apart from other artists in the field.
"It takes years to learn to read the signs of what went wrong and learn to make intelligent corrections," McKay explained.
With McKay's hopeful outlook on the future, he rarely denies a project as he is excited to learn new methods for projects.
McKay credited his success to "failure."
"This art is failure-prone. It is like walking on a tight rope each day. But we make mistakes faster than anyone else, and somehow have found the very narrow path to success."
McKay is grateful to Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corporation for their constant availability and willingness to help. The Corridor has provided McKay with opportunities to connect with other business leaders throughout the community that have been beneficial to his company. The Corridor has also served as a source of contact for any employment needs McKay may need in the future.
McKay does not know what the future holds for his company, but currently he is extremely pleased with how well they are doing considering the economic recession. As long as customers continue to have a big imagination, Cast Glass Forms will continue to turn our imaginations into reality.