Quechee, Vermont - May 13, 2011
In the quintessential town of Quechee sits a historic woolen mill on the Ottauquechee River.
"I grew up in this building," Andrew Pearce said. "I lived here for the first four years in my life. I used to ride my big wheels around the retail store."
Andrew is the son of Simon Pearce, the mastermind behind one of the world's most celebrated hand-blown glassware companies. Simon Pearce started his glass business in Ireland 40 years ago and moved to Quechee in 1981. It's in this building that they have a retail store, restaurant and glass-blowing workshop-- all showcasing their functional, iconic pieces.
"We hate it when people lock their nice things up in a china cabinet just for looks," Andrew Pearce said. "This is a product that's designed to be used and to be beautiful."
The design and technique are what set the company apart.
Pearce said, "You can walk into a building and from across the room you may never seen the piece before but you can say 'ahhh, that's Simon Pearce.'"
And they go to great extents to make each piece crystal clear.
"We import all of our raw materials from Sweden at great expense because the quality of the raw materials is so important to us," Pearce said.
Between their Quechee and Windsor locations, Simon Pearce employs 35 glassmakers who work in two-person teams-- a master and an apprentice.
"When you touch the hot glass it's more like electricity than a burn," said Bill Browne of Simon Pearce.
Believe it or not, no experience is needed to become a glass blower at Simon Pearce. Each one goes through intense training. Browne has been there 15 years.
"Some days are easier than others but it's difficult almost all the time," he said.
Pearce said, "It takes an average person who really wants to be a glass blower five years to make a simple piece of glass."
Which might explain why when I tried making one of their best-selling designs-- the Essex wine glass-- it didn't go so well.
Reporter Gina Bullard: That's mine?!? It looks a little crooked.
Bill Browne: Does it? I think it looks perfect.
With ovens blazing at close to 2,700 degrees, the glass melting process is energy intensive, which is why Simon Pearce uses its resources-- the river.
"It's a 400-kilowatt generator that provides us with about 80 percent of the energy we need for the building," Pearce said.
The 70-year-old machine still runs so smoothly, they have a simple way of keeping it in check.
Pearce explained, "We're able to balance a nickel on its edge, so that's our vibration tester."
If the nickel falls, they know the machine needs tweaking.
With an extensive collection of pieces and new products every year, Simon Pearce-- one of the state's most famous artisans-- continues to grow.
"We have no interest in ever moving out of Vermont," Pearce said. "As we expand we're going to open new locations and do more, but the heart of the company will always be in this building."
Blowing classic creations that are in Made in Vermont.
Simon Pearce's creations range widely in price. For example, crystal bowls start around $45 and go up to $500. Click here for more information about the company and its glassware.
Gina Bullard - WCAX News
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