There was a time when American artistic lamp workers only worked with clear borosilicate glass; these were the guys making little glass menagerie animals at the carnival or Disneyland. The Italian soft-glass sculptors had colour but the Pyrex glass workers used paint, or, if so inclined, mixed chemicals into some of their clear glass by hand to make a little bit of colour for their sculptures. Then came Paul Trautman.

Immersed in both the arts and sciences, Paul worked with neon and played with the artistic side of lampworking, including the art of hand mixing colour. At one point in his career, he even made lab equipment, but Paul was thinking big. By the mid-1980’s, Paul Trautman had conceived, designed, and built the world’s first commercial operation to manufacture coloured borosilicate rod glass. Northstar Glassworks set the standard for modern boro colour production, and now several small companies are using Paul’s techniques to manufacture coloured glass. These companies also use recipes pioneered by Paul, which expanded the borosilicate glass palette from a few red and blue transparent colours into bright opaque jewel tones and highly reactive metallic colours that shift their hue depending on the atmosphere of the flame.

Paul sold Northstar in 2002, intending to return to art and his own lab, but the urge to mix colour (and requests from his fans) lured Paul back to manufacturing on a smaller scale. After perfecting his recipe for a self-striking ruby red—the now hugely popular Red Elvis—Paul started working on both a new palette and on improving some old favourites.