The polyhistor of glass. This is the best word for Zoltán Veress, who was a chemist, inventor, artist and revolutionary innovator in glass technology. Zoltán Veress's legendary career was about his love for glass, which later led to his tragic death. His experiments with radioactive glass caused him to get cancer and die at the age of 64.
Zoltán Veress came from a family of Transylvanian artists. His grandfather, Ferenc Veress, was a photographer from Marosvásárhely, today Târgu Mures in Romania. His father, also called Zoltán, was a painter and one of the founders of the Transylvanian Society of Fine Arts. His mother, Erzsébet Kozma was a sculptor. Zoltán Veress inherited his parents' artistic talent. He was a sculptor and his large sculptures of insects were exhibited at the 1958 World Exhibition in Brussels. His main field of interest, however, was the 'art of matter' - chemistry.
Many inventions and patents are linked to Zoltán Veress. Obsessed with the material of glass, he built a series of glassworks as early as the 1920s and was committed to the establishment of modern training in glassmaking. He built the first glassworks (üveghuta: traditional hungarian glass manufacturing hut) at the Budapest University of Technology. Between 1933 and 1940 he started a special glass art class at the Székesfővárosi Iparrajziskola(Industrial Drawing School of the Capital city), thus laying the foundations for glass art education in Hungary. He also established the first glassworks for Júlia Báthory at the School of Education. By the 1930s he had so many inventions that he decided to leave his teaching post and set up his own glass factory. He first opened his factory in Nyitra Street in Kőbánya, but it soon proved to be too small to meet his growing number of orders. His unique heat-resistant glass and glass for radio transmitters were needed in large quantities for the war industry, so paradoxically the final impetus for the establishment of the Karcag glass factory came with the Second World War. In the middle of the Great Plain, in Karcag, in the Greater Kunich region, he found a suitable site after specialists searching for oil discovered thermal water and natural gas in the village. Berekfürdő’s foundation rested on thermal water, whereas the glass factory was fed by the gas well, with a yield of 2,700 cubic metres. Production started in the summer of 1940.
The Karcag factory became a bastion of innovation, home to a series of experiments and inventions. Although it was nationalised after the war, the authorities allowed Zoltán Veress to remain in Karcag as director of his former property, and in 1955 he was awarded the Kossuth Prize for his metal-solderable glass. In 1957, Zoltán Suha, a young graduate engineer from the Veszprém University of Chemical Industry, arrived at the factory and became Zoltán Veress's principal co-worker and later his successor. Their most influential joint invention on glass art was the "veil glass" process, which they jointly patented in 1961. Although Zoltán Veress passed away in 1965, Zoltán Suha continued his innovative work until 1982 in Karcag, where in its heydays the factory produced more than 2,000 different products, employing 400 people.
Before creating the veil glass, Zoltan Veress was fascinated by how he could achieve the sparkling, shimmering effect in the glass material that the polished decorative glass has after processing. The solution was to blow two thicker layers of the heat-resistant glass he had developed, with a thin layer of coloured potassium glass between them. Due to the different coefficients of thermal expansion of the two types of glass, the thin layer in the middle burst during cooling but this stress was absorbed by the two thick heat-resistant layers, so that the object remained intact. The designer of the Karcag factory, Katalin Suháné Somkúti, designed several shapes for veil glass, but András Szilágyi also made many vases, sculptures and objects in Karcag, such as the candelabra on display using a traditional Hungarian manufacturing process (’hutakész’).
The Karcag factory was not spared the tragic fate of the other Hungarian glass factories: in 2006 production stopped here too. Although the municipality of Karcag has plans to restart the first glassworks, these plans are still pending due to a lack of funds. Unfortunately, there is currently no place in Hungary where the technology used to create the wonderful veil glass is available. However, the Bohus-Lugossy Foundation is working on reviving the intellectual heritage of Zoltán Veress and Zoltán Suha.