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Meet the Maker - Tony from The Irish Handmade Glass Company

If you were the recipient of one of Irish at Heart’s April subscription boxes, then you will now find yourself in possession of a beautiful glass swan that has been lovingly crafted by The Irish Handmade Glass Company.

We caught up with Tony, one of the makers of these stunning ornaments, to tell us more about the business behind the beauty and to get a bit of an insight into her inspiration.

Tell us a little bit about the journey of your business?

Back in 2000, we were all working for Waterford Crystal, but when the company suddenly went into receivership - we found ourselves out of work. Our very particular skillset was always going to make it difficult to find work in the industry, and the vast majority of Irish crystal is now only Irish by name as it is mostly mass produced in cheaper economies. Between the four of us we had a huge amount of experience in glass blowing and cutting, as well as a reluctance to see our trade die out! So we arrived at the decision to set up our own company, and in 2010 The Irish Handmade Glass Company was born. It has been a great journey so far, and we are so happy with our decision to set the business up.


Could you tell us a little about the craft of glassblowing and cutting?

The art of glassmaking can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians and the traditional style which we use today is still pretty much the same. The tools are mostly made from wood or wet papers to create the shape, however, we occasionally use some basic steel utensils. Glass cutting hasn’t changed much either, with the exception of the use of diamond wheels (which give a finer finish than carborundum) and electric lathes for smoother running. The style of glass cutting that our colleague Danny has developed is a mix between cutting and engraving, for example, fine details such as dragonflies or other intricate designs are usually done by an engraver, but he has developed a refined style that is completely unique.

How did you learn to glass blow?

I began my apprenticeship in 1986 at the Waterford Crystal factory where I worked for five years until I was fully qualified. Three years later I became a master glassblower and then in 2001, I was appointed Training Instructor of the department. You basically had to learn on the job and with the 'Piece Rate' system that was in-place where the team only got paid for the crystal that made it to the store, you had to pick it up fast! Even with 34 years of glass blowing behind me, I'm still learning every day.

What is the inspiration behind the beautiful work of art you create?

We mostly take inspiration from our surroundings - nature, Irish mythology, symbols, art, and so on. For example, our Wild Atlantic Way collection is inspired by the Western Coast of Ireland - its colours reflect the colours of the sea, the sky, and the wild heathers of The Burren are etched onto the surfaces – really highlighting the origin of the pieces.


Which collection is your favourite and why?

My personal favourite collection is the Wild Atlantic Way. Even though we use the same mix of colours and simple forms no two finished pieces are the same – although each is recognisable as part of the collection. I suppose that’s one of the elements that makes our crystal such a truly unique product.

What has been your proudest moment for your business so far?

In the beginning, it took over a year to get the company off the ground, there was so much to be done including sourcing a building, a furnace and all the other equipment needed to run our glass studio. So, when we blew our first glass on 4th January 2011 it was a huge milestone for us and definitely my proudest moment out of the many I’ve experienced.

Will you be releasing any new collections/products in the near feature?

Yes, we actually have a new product in the makings at the moment. Its working title is 'Aquarium' due to its beautiful green and turquoise colouring. We add random bubbles through the glass and the pattern which is cut is formed of fish and seaweed. Currently the collection consists of a paperweight, a suncatcher, a votive candle and a shot glass. We have been developing this line of work over the past 18 months and should have a complete collection ready for early next year.

 

How do our U.S. subscribers get their hands on your gorgeous art pieces?

Firstly through yourselves at Irish at Heart of course, but we also have a list of US and Irish stockists on our website, or you can buy directly from https://theirishhandmadeglasscompany.com/ which ships worldwide.


Finally, where in Ireland would you recommend our subscribers to visit?

I’m going to be a bit biased here and say the South East, which is an area that comprises of Waterford, Wexford, Tipperary and Kilkenny. Waterford, Ireland’s oldest city, was founded in 914AD by the Vikings and is thought to be the third oldest city in Northern Europe after Paris and London.

We have a huge amount to see and do here, with three fascinating museums, The Viking Triangle (where we are based) and The Greenway. The latter is a 49km stretch of track for cycling and walking which has recently been opened on the disused railway between Waterford City and Dungarvan.

We also have the Copper Coast, which is a UNESCO Global Geopark that stretches from Tramore bay to Dungarvan. There is just so much to talk about in Waterford – it boasts at least six courses for golfing enthusiasts and was even recognised as the 'Foodie' capital of Ireland in 2019!  

Co. Wexford and Co. Kilkenny are just across the river, and the beautiful Kilkenny City lies just 35 miles north of Waterford. The small medieval city holds St John’s castle at its centre as well as being home to a lively nightlife and great atmosphere! Wexford town is again approximately only 35 miles to the east of Waterford, and you can’t visit the South-East without a visit to Hook Head Lighthouse.

A visit to this part of the world is really a visit to the real Ireland, and you can be sure of a great welcome here!

 

“We at The Irish Handmade Glass Company have been proudly working with Irish at Heart Subscription Box from the start! It has always been a pleasure to deal with Mary, she has a fantastic eye for the highest quality products that she knows her customers will appreciate.

All the products that she sources are truly Irish made, which is so important to smaller craft companies such as ourselves. This also increases the exposure of our products to many customers who otherwise may never have heard of us.

We look forward to working with Irish At Heart Subscription Box into the future and wish them all the success that they deserve.”

3 comments

  • I cherish the glass swan made by your group. When I am old and gray, I will ask my daughters to keep it close to remember me. We have a glass blower in our ancestry. Thank you for allowing Mary to include these in our beloved green boxes. 💚

    Sally
  • I love my swan! It has the pride of place on my kitchen windowsill. I was lucky to get the blue hue; it is perfect. I feel joy every morning when I see it. These days that’s important.

    Kathleen O'Meara
  • Enjoy the information that l read, love the colors or this beautiful art. Time and patience, you have.

    Phyllis Vogelsang

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