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Gutny craft (glass manufacture)

Gutny craft is the manual manufacture of glass, glass making. Special glass melting furnaces were called “gutas” (from the German “Hutte” – smelter), and the glass made in them was called “gutny glass”. It is believed that man-made glass was discovered by chance, as a by-product of other crafts – pottery, in particular. In ancient times clay products were fired in simple pits dug in sand, whereas straw, reed and firewood served as fuel. The resulting ash (alkali) was turned into a vitreous mass upon high-temperature contact with the sand. As it is known, sand, lime and alkali – organic (plant ash) or inorganic (soda ash) – were long used as the initial raw materials for the manufacture of glass. Compounds of copper, cobalt and manganese were used as dye-wares.  

As archaeological findings show, glass was manufactured in Vladimir land as early as in the 11th -12th centuries. But as a full-fledged craft which has made our land famous glassmaking began to develop in the Vladimir province in the 18th century. It is associated with the name of Akim Maltsov, one of the largest glass producers in Russia. In 1756 he built a glass factory in the area of Shivorovo (near the village of Nikulino bought by him) on the Gus River which gave rise to the famous brand of “Gus Crystal Plant”. A. Maltsov acted in accordance with the Senate Decree of 1747 which prohibited the construction of glass and iron factories near Moscow in order to preserve forests.

 The natural conditions of the Meshchera area in Vladimir land were favorable for the development of glassmaking. There were pristine forests everywhere. The depths of the Meshchera land contained deposits of fine quartz sand suitable for glass melting without processing, as well as rich deposits of refractory clays and limestone. The geographical location of Meshchera was also attractive: the Volga-Oka interfluve created the appropriate transportation conditions for the sale of products and the delivery of chemicals necessary for the production, and the proximity of Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod provided profitable markets.

Akim Maltsov brought equipment and one and a half hundred workers who had mastered glass craftsmanship from his Mozhaysk factories to the Gus lands. They formed the core of the new production team. He settled the workers with their families at the factory. A large working village was formed, which laid the foundation for the city of Gus-Khrustalny.

The dynasty founded by Akim Maltzov (after his death – his widow, M.V. Maltzova, sons, Ivan and Sergey, and later – his grandson I.S. Maltzov and his nephew Yu.S. Nechaev-Maltzov) expanded the production and covered the Meshchera   lands with a whole network (more than two dozen) of Maltsovs’ glass and crystal plants, which occupied the leading positions in the country's glass industry.

The most famous and rapidly developing glass production unit was the Gus Crystal Plant which in the middle of the 19th century accounted for a quarter of the glass products manufactured in the region. By the end of the 19th century artistic engraving and crystal cut had been perfectly accomplished at the factory. In 1900 the plant's products were exhibited at the World Exhibition in Paris and were awarded the Grand Prix. Crystal and glass products of the plant were delivered to more than 40 cities of Russia and, first of all, to Moscow and St. Petersburg, to the imperial court.

Gus Crystal Plant named after Maltsov still carefully preserves the secrets and traditions of Maltsov carving with polishing. The lead content in the Gus crystal is 24% which allows it to radiate all the colors of the rainbow. The best works of artists and glass blowers of the plant have been repeatedly awarded the highest awards of all-Russian and international exhibitions for the originality of artistic solutions, the uniqueness of performance, variety of shapes, colors and decor. Some portion of the colored crystal products is exported to more than forty countries. The plant has a large art laboratory and a museum with a unique collection of antique and modern Gus glass.

In the middle of the 19th century the glass factory in the village of Ivanishchi, founded in 1846 by A.K. Romeykov, became one of the most famous gutny manufactures in the Gus land .The factory produced glass bottles, dishes, and, by all means, crystal. Unique craftsmen worked here, who were literally lured from other glass factories.

At the modern Ivanishi glass enterprise, which was transformed into the “Gutny Crafts” company, there is an art laboratory, and hereditary glassblowers create their masterpieces. The results of their craftsmanship and unique handmade work are exquisite works of art made of glass, which are widely known not only in Russia but also abroad.

Fine crystal products by the Gus masters are presented in the expositions of the largest Russian museums – the Moscow Kremlin, the State Historical Museum, the State Hermitage Museum and others. Large collections of crystal works of art are in the Maltzov Crystal Museum in Gus-Khrustalny, the "Crystal. Lacquer miniature. Embroidery" Museum in Vladimir, etc.

Author: V. Korolkova