Gutny craft (crystal)

Gutny craft (crystal)

Gutny craft  –  manual glass making, glass manufacturing  –  has been known for a long time. It is believed that man-made glass was discovered by accident, as a by-product of other crafts, in particular, pottery. In ancient times, firing clay products occurred in ordinary pits dug in the sand, and fuel was straw or reed. The resulting ash (alkali) with high-temperature contact with sand gave vitreous mass. As is known, sand, lime and alkali – organic (ash of plants) or inorganic (soda) – have long served as raw materials for the manufacture of glass. As the dyes, copper, cobalt and manganese compounds were used.

Gutas (from German – Hutte – smelter) were called special ovens for glass making, and glass made in them – gutted. The medieval melting furnace was a low firewooded arch, where glass melted in clay pots. The stock of firewood was not enough for a long time, therefore, when the forest around the guta was cut down, it was transferred to a new place where the forest was still in abundance. Transition to a coal furnace, at the end of the 17th century, contributed to the conservation of forests. But the prevailing coal fuel became only in the late 18th - early 19th centuries.

On the territory of the Vladimir region there were archaeological finds from glass, dating back to the early Middle Ages. But glassmaking, as an organized trade, began to develop in the Vladimir province in the 18th century. In 1756 Orel merchant Akim Maltsov in the plot of land Shivorovo (near the Nikulino village  belonging to him) built a glass factory on the Gus River, which gave rise to the well-known brand "Gus Crystal Factory", and later  –  the name of the city "Gus-Khrustalny" ("Gus-Crystal"). This construction was associated with the need to withdraw glass factories from the Moscow region, where they were banned by the government because of deforestation.

The natural conditions of the Vladimir Meshchera were favorable for the development of glassmaking. All around were untouched forest tracts. In the depths of the Meshchera land – deposits of fine quartz sand, suitable without processing for melting glass, as well as rich deposits of fire-clays and limestones. The geographical position of Meshchera was also attractive: the Volga-Oka interfluve created the advantageous transportation conditions for marketing of products and import of chemicals necessary for the production. The proximity of Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod gave profitable markets.

Akim Maltzov transported to the Gus lands the equipment and the workers who owned glass craftsmanship, as well as their families, from his Mozhaisk factories. They became the basis of the production team. A large workers’ village was formed, which gave rise to the city of Gus-Khrustalny. Akim Maltsov, and after his death  –  his widow, M.V. Maltsova, his sons, Ivan and Sergei, and in the future  –  the grandson S.I. Maltsov and his nephew Yu.S. Nechayev-Maltsov expanded production and covered the mezschera lands with a whole network of Maltsov crystal plants, which occupied the leading positions in the glass industry of the country.

The most famous and rapidly developing glass production was the Gus Crystal Plant, founded by Akim Maltsov, which in the middle of the 19th century gave the fourth part of the products from glass made in the province. By the end of the 19th century, the artistic engraving and faceting of crystal achieved perfection at the factory. In 1900 the Maltsov plant's products were presented at the World Exhibition in Paris and were awarded the Grand Prix. The crystal and glass products of the plant were supplied to forty-odd major cities of Russia, and above all to Moscow and St. Petersburg. In the list of buyers were the famous firms,    suppliers of the imperial court: Trade House K. Faberge, the firm "F.A. Lorie ", the Partnership of P.I. Olovyanishnikov, Trading house "Mur and Meriliz", etc.

Gus Crystal Plant still carefully preserves the secrets and traditions of Maltsov carving with polishing. It was repeatedly awarded the highest awards of all-Russian and international exhibitions. In Soviet times, the plant was seriously re-equipped, the production was mechanized. In the 1960s, processes of continuous boiling of crystal and colored glass in bath ovens were introduced. In 1975, a new complex for the manufacture of art products from colored glass was put into operation.

The plant survived several crisis periods, the late 1990s, 2008-2011, when the demand for crystal was sharply reduced not only in Russia, but also in the world. In 2012-2013, the plant even temporarily stopped work. But with the support of the administration of the Vladimir region, which sought to preserve the brand "Gus Crystal", in December 2013 the work of the oldest glass enterprise in the field was resumed – the company "Gus Crystal Plant named after Akim Maltsov".

The plant has a large art laboratory and a museum possessing a unique collection of ancient and modern Gus glass. A number of works of the plant’s artists are awarded with international awards and prizes. At the revived factory, much attention is paid to the manufacture of author's crystal handmade on individual orders. Some of the products from colored crystal are exported to more than forty countries of the world.

The modern glass industry of the Vladimir region is represented by more than twenty enterprises, and almost a third of them work in the cradle of local glass making – in Gus-Khrustalny and nearby villages.

In particular, one of the famous gutny crafts in the 19th century, became the Ivanishchy Glass Plant, founded in 1845 by A.K. Romeykov, and in 1871 passed into ownership of merchants Panfilov. The plant produced glass bottles, dishes and, of course, crystal. Here there were unique masters of gutny crafts, who were literally enticed from neighboring provinces.

At the modern glass enterprise, which was transformed into "Gus Gutny Crafts" Ltd, an art laboratory works, hereditary glass-blowers create masterpieces. The results of their craftsmanship and unique handmade work are elegant works of glass art, which are widely known not only in Russia but also abroad.

Fine works of Gus masters are represented in the expositions of the Museum of Crystal named after Maltsov in Gus-Khrustalny, the Museum "Crystal. Lacquer miniature. Embroidery" in Vladimir, etc.

The address of "Gus Crystal Plant named after Akim Maltsov"
601550, Vladimir region, Gus-Khrustalny, Kalinin st., 28.
Phone: +7 (49241) 3-02-34 

The address of "Gus Gutny Crafts":
601421, Vladimir region, Gus-Khrustalny district, Ivanishchi, Pervomaiskaya st., 1.
600000, Vladimir, Studenaya Gora st., 36.
Phones: +7 (4922) 53-23-78; +7 (4922) 36-67-32

Author: V. Korolkova