My Trip To Ireland Day Three: How Waterford Crystal Is Made  

Posted by Heidi

The Waterford Crystal Factory was on our itinerary and it was with great excitement that we boarded the coach headed for Waterford town on our third morning in Ireland.  And then the tour guide gave us the bad news:  Waterford went into receivership seven years ago and the original factory had just been torn down two weeks before our arrival.  Wha . . .?  Then it was explained that a private investor sunk a ton of millions into the company, a smaller factory had been opened up and we were definitely going to visit it.  Whilst there I was able to feast my eyes on the above lovely--it measures about 3 feet across and is my favorite Waterford piece of all time.  However, the first thing you see when you enter the factory are the wooden molds.  These are used to make many of the "one-off" pieces that are the current bread and butter of their business.  Below is a man heating a blob of liquid glass for a simple vase.

He blew through the top of the pipe as he turned it and somehow it became the piece below.  

He held it up for inspection and then tossed it into the reject bin.

The man below is doing the first sanding of the pieces that make it past the first step.

The bowls below depict, from right to left, the stages a Waterford piece goes through.  The bowl in the middle shows black lines--that's how they know where to cut.  (Who knew?)  This bowl is called the apprentice bowl.  After 7 years of learning, they have three chances to make a perfect version of this bowl in order to be taken on permanently.

The man below is one of the artists who do the markings on the pieces. 

This man is doing cuts on a piece.  It is "hand" done but it is a machine that they use to do it.  Water is constantly cascaded over the piece to keep the glass dust from being taken into the lungs.
 We were surprised to learn that 60% of the cuts on most pieces are done with this machine below.  This pic shows a vase down in the bottom right hand corner--a mechanical arm moves it in the direction it needs to go.
These pieces were RIGHT THERE.  I could have touched any of them and even picked up the lighter ones, no problem--but they asked us not to--so I didn't.  These represent custom pieces of which they make three versions--one for the client, one for the factory and one, just in case.  (The just in case piece has had to be put into play more than once).  It is hard to tell what some of them are--there is an eagle on a tower, a grand piano, a train, an American flag and some kind of round building. 
This one shows the same building (it's a bell, I suppose) and then the covered wagon and horse, an obelisk, a horse (that one hasn't been cut, yet) and a gorgeous harp.
Detail of the harp.  This is a special order for a private collector.
I absolutely loved this bowl depicting the four season.  If you look carefully you can see plants of spring and winter.
The below is a special order for a big department store in NY (I'm guessing Macys but they didn't say).  It depicts the 12 days of Christmas.  How gorgeous is that?
This coke bottle is super cute.  The "label" still needs to be fully cut.
I wish I could recall what sport and team the below trophy is for.  I imagine it is an Irish one since there is a harp at the top--the harp is the informal national symbol of Ireland.
Here is a detail shot of the Cinderella coach.  Like I said, it's my favorite but even if I had all the money in the world, I wouldn't buy it--it's just too ostentatious.
I would much rather have bought this bowl (or the vase like it) with the Celtic knot work and shamrocks.  Even this was too rich for my blood. In fact, I left the Waterford factory without making a single purchase but with a new appreciation for the skill that goes into the making of these lovely pieces of art.
Next time:  Youghal and Middleton, two uber charming Irish towns full of bright flowers, colorful store fronts and interesting windows and doors.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 5, 2014 at Tuesday, August 05, 2014 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

2 wise, witty and wonderful comments

I absolutely love the horse and pumpkin carriage. That deserves a room dedicated just to that.

August 14, 2014 at 11:56 AM

Clearly I need to do Ireland at the very least one more time, and this time go north. I did the Republic a day after their centennial. I would have loved to see this. (Trade it any day for the Guiness works...rofl)

July 11, 2016 at 2:23 PM

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