Christmas comes but once a year. How is it then that we’re ALWAYS out of gift ideas?
On Henrietta Street in Waterford City, you might find what you didn’t even know you were looking for.
In the workshop and showroom of the Irish Handmade Glass Company, magic is happening. Glass, crystal, art, is somehow being formed into things that make fruit look pretty and give flowers that extra edge.
You’re bound to ask – how do they do it? How does a red-hot, molten blob end up as the type of glassware that you’d be happy to give a queen in a Secret Santa? The answer is skill.
Cue the bagpipes.
This is the kind of talent and know-how that is learned over a lifetime. Between the moment that the glassworker’s rod goes into the furnace, to the moment the piece is wrapped in elegant crepe paper and boxed, is a method of glass making that has passed through hands of generations. Lose skills like this, and we lose an art.
Thankfully, the glasswork industry in Ireland is in rude health.
Take Tony Hayes for example. His inspiration came from a familiar source: his father.
My late dad was the Senior master Engraver with Waterford Crystal whom he worked for for 42 years until he passed away. While it is a different area of the craft that I have been doing for 26 years, it still gives you a feel for the craft as it has been part of everyday life growing up in Waterford.
As Tony tells us, this is a talent, a gift even, that has been generously shared, borrowed and adopted:
One of the other company owners, Derek Smith, is also a second-generation glass blower. While Ricard Rowe learned his skills from some of the German, Czech, Italian and Eastern European workers that trained the glass makers in the 60s. Danny Murphy, a master cutter, also had his father working in the old factory.
The workers at the Irish Handmade Glass Company are really artists. From a furnace heated to 2350 F, they slowly draw out the beginnings of a masterpiece.
‘Couldn’t they just use a mould? Wouldn’t that be quicker and easier? Wouldn’t they produce more quantity and faster?’
They could. It would and they would. But they don’t.
Glass here is freeblown (no moulds) and should they need to add colour, its added to the crystal while it is still molten.
Then it’s time to coax, shape and design into… well, anything.
Vivid green bowls spun with strips of gold, sky blue and turquoise. Vases of hot blue bring to mind dry ice and escaping genies. Paper weights are threaded with shocks of green and curls of gold.
As with all artists – it’s always interesting to know about the origins of inspiration. Tony Hayes again:
Most of our core range products are inspired by nature. For example, our most popular range Wild Heather is decorated with hints of amethyst purple and hand-etched by Danny with images of heather, reeds and dragonflys. The Celtic Meadows range is decorated with hints of teal colour and etched with Fuchias. Other pieces such as Horizon centerpiece vases depict landscape scenes.
The team here – Richard Rowe, Tony Hayes, Danny Murphy and Derek Smith – understand the attraction in witnessing the actual process. Those passing by Henrietta Street are welcome to pop in a simply watch the boys in action.
It’s a fantastic craft and we all feel honoured to be able to create such pieces, and the bonus is that as we are open to the public, everyone can watch and appreciate the craft first hand.
If curiosity really bites, they’re also planning on hosting classes for budding glassworkers.
For the moment though, we’ll settle for that little gasp coming from beneath the wrapping paper that tells us our gift choice was right.
Even if it was last minute.
Still stuck for ideas? Our post on Design Ireland might help.
Or maybe you’ll find some ideas for crafts…