Earlier this month, Bernard Lax, founder, owner, and CEO of custom glass manufacturer Pulp Studio, died in Los Angeles. Beginning in 1996, Lax propelled Pulp Studio into one of the industry’s most innovative companies, particularly in the realm of graphics-integrated glass panels and bent laminated glass products. Lax also founded KIN Whiskey, which makes bourbon as well as white, moonshine whiskey.
In addition to his pathbreaking work in the glass industry, Lax was a fan of AN and Pulp Studio continues to be one of the paper’s major sponsors. In a tribute to Lax, several of his colleagues and friends have contributed remembrances, which appear below in slightly edited form.
Bernard was a bold leader and innovator with the rare talent to recognize the need and find a way to achieve both the structural and artistic effect in glass. Precision Edge is prime example of a capability Bernard pioneered in the industry. He saw a need as building codes changed, requiring laminated glass for handrail/guardrail applications, and that the current industry allowable edge mis-alignment would not be acceptable, especially on an exposed edge laminated lite of glass. He had perfected the post-polishing process many years ago and took a bold step forward warrantying post-polished edges against breakage, with Precision Edge.
Having a textile fabrication background kept him focused on improving and expanding Pulp Studio’s in-house capabilities to meet a broad range of decorative products from one source. His vision in expanding Pulp Studio into glass bending, with the acquisition of California Glass Bending, incorporated chemical strengthening of glass. This allowed for more complex/compound bending and extremely tight radii as often found in glass railing applications.
Bernard was eager to incorporate and perfect new technologies such as SentryGlas® Expressions™ by Dupont. With the ability to digitally achieve virtually any image vibrantly in glass, Pulp Studio is able to meet the most demanding criteria of architects and designers.
- Mike Nicklas, director of major projects for Pulp Studio
I was shocked and couldn’t believe the news when I first heard it. Bernard still had so much life in him. The architecture/manufacturing industry as well as his family and friends have suffered a huge loss.
This man was not only a boss/employer but treated me like I was a member of the family. I remember him teaching me about glass connections when I didn’t know what I was supposed to draw and having me do whiskey tastings when he was trying to select the taste for his newer venture, KIN Whiskey.
I have always respected Bernard as a designer, innovator, and business man. I hope he knew how thankful I am for the years I spent working with him. May his memory be a blessing to all who knew him.
- Rachel Sher, architectural designer, Finkle + Williams Architecture (formerly of Pulp Studio)
I started as an independent rep for Bernard and Lynda in the Pacific Northwest and, frankly, I stalked them until Bernard let me take over the line. Bernard taught me everything I know about glass and at every opportunity I tried to absorb knowledge from him, sometimes just keep up. What always struck me most over the years was the fatherly way he treated us. Nurturing, but also pushing us as hard as each could take, because he wanted the best for us and from us. And like a dad, anytime I called to say I was headed to Las Vegas for a trade show or conference, he would meet me there, buy me a drink or four, and we would talk glass of course, but also catch up on life. He welcomed my kids into the factory, paid them in chocolate when they helped in the sample room, let them color on the glass walls and give Lewie the office dog treats. They knew they were welcome and important to him. We all did.
- Karen Rains, national sales manager for Pulp Studio
In 1999, I was working for Blair Graphics, a very respected reprographics company in Santa Monica as Color Department Supervisor. One of our sales associates brought in a crazy account, Pulp Studio, a company that wanted to put our clear photo-film prints between glass panels to serve as walls. That was an insane idea for 1999!
We made several 12×12 proofs, larger test prints and then did a bunch of smaller jobs. The first large project I remember was the Sylvan Learning Center and what happened during the course of this job is what I think defined my relationship with Bernard. It was only a matter of time before we ultimately joined Pulp in 2008.
As I remember, a few weeks after we completed the Sylvan job, Bernard ordered reprints for two panels because they broke during installation. A few days after delivering prints I get a call from Bernard, and he sounded confused. He said the film had burned and it was totally damaged. Half an hour later, he shows up at the front door with two guys holding a large piece of glass which appeared to be damaged from the inside, burned, just as he described it.
He looked at me and said, “what did you do to my prints, Jaime?” He seemed very worried, which made me worried. The only thing I could think of was that we had recently changed brands of film. Bernard lit up, excited, and shouted, “That’s it!” He turned to me and thanked me, with a big smile on his face, “Now you know what you did to my glass!” I will never forget that face of excitement when Bernard said, “That’s it!”
- Jaime Caballeros, director of Artwerks at Pulp Studio
There are a handful of unique individuals that a person runs across on the journey through life. Bernard was one of those people. He intimidated the hell out of me when I started trying to get him to pay attention to AN 18 years ago. But over the years he drank the AN Kool-Aid and he ended up loving us, and AN loved him. His storytelling, enthusiasm, and industry knowledge will be greatly missed. Rest in peace Bernard!!!
- Diana Darling, CEO and co-founder of The Architect’s Newspaper
I have been with AN for almost nine years and on my first trip to L.A. for the paper, Bernard Lax was my first sales call. I had scheduled a 30-minute window and done my homework about Bernard and Pulp Studio. I was a bit nervous being the new gal on the block!
From the moment we met, I was instantly drawn to his magnetic personality, quick dry humor, generous heart, and overall genuineness. We ended up talking for over an hour about the industry, dogs (his fur babies kept coming in and out during the meeting), family, and his love for The Architect’s Newspaper. Bernard told me in that meeting that “The Architect’s Newspaper was the only relevant publication because we write about what is really going on and he knows architects read us.”
Bernard and Pulp Studio have been one of The Architect’s Newspaper’s biggest supporters. That first one-hour meeting started with a handshake and ended with a hug. I am truly devastated that I will not be able to hug my friend Bernard again.
Over the years, Bernard and his beautiful wife Lynda and I became friends and they both treated me like family. I will always remember a very fun evening when (AN CEO and co-founder) Diana Darling and I took them both to dinner in Beverly Hills. I am a vodka martini kind of gal, but this restaurant was carrying KIN Whiskey and they both introduced Diana and I to the best white whiskey martini I have ever had!
I asked them how they came up with the name KIN. Bernard said: “It is family, you know your ‘kin.’ I think this speaks for itself. He was a pioneer and visionary in the glass industry. It goes without saying, we have lost one of the “good ones.” My heart goes out to Lynda, Taylor, and the entire Pulp Studio family.
May his memory remain strong to all that knew him.
- Dionne Darling, VP of brand partnerships at The Architect’s Newspaper
For over 20 years Bernard and I collaborated on a multitude of award-winning architecture and interior design projects. No matter the cost nor the lead times our collaborative efforts always persevered. He always told me like it was and it was rarely what I wanted to hear. There was never any smoke and mirrors—no pun intended. He knew exactly what he was doing as a businessman and as an artist. Thank you, Bernard for bringing beauty to my work and thank you for being you. I will miss your intelligence and our friendship. The industry has some big shoes to fill!
- Carlos Madrid III, associate director SOM, Los Angeles