A toast to Simon Pearce

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A glass blower at Simon Pearce in Mountain Lake Park shapes molten glass into a vase.

Ice glazed the tree tops on our recent skiing vacation at Deep Creek Lake. So much freezingimage rain fell we didn’t think there was any chance we could spend another day on Wisp‘s slopes.

One of the shapes glassblowers use to shape the glass.

One of the wooden forms glassblowers use to shape the glass.

How about a day watching artisans create the luxury goblets, mugs and pitchers of Simon Pearce? About a half-hour from the slopes of Wisp, just past Oakland and into Mountain Lake Park, someone’s always blowing glass at the Ireland-based Simon Pearce.

The factory store entrance in western Maryland.

The factory store entrance in western Maryland.

Simon Pearce started his business in Kilkenny, Ireland, but when the company expanded into the United States, one of the factories (and factory stores) was built in the mountains of western Maryland. One of the nice things is that glassblowers are always on the factory floor when the store is open. Take a few minutes — take an hour or more — to watch these experts turn orange molten glass into modern glasses, pitchers, bowls and anything else you can imagine.

While the glassblower at the top of the frame finishes one vase, a second glassblower begins the process for a new vase.

While the glassblower at the top of the frame finishes one vase, a second glassblower begins the process for a new vase.

Watching the glass making is attracts all ages. While our group watched with fascination the creation of a graceful vase, another group came in. Adults and middles-school-age children alike watched as duos performed the steps from silica to vase. A catwalk above the hot ovens lets visitors get close, but not too close, to the process. And it is awe-inspiring to see these artisans’ careful motions: rolling the balls of hot glass, blowing gently into the tubes, swinging them to stretch the glass and using molds to form the shapes Simon Pearce has perfected.

Simon Pearce's logo is on every piece.

Simon Pearce’s logo is on every piece. It’s a stylized pontil mark, the small mark formed when a piece transfers from the blowpipe to the pontil iron.

It’s easy to stop here for a few minutes during a visit to nearby Oakland or spend an afternoon watching the glassblowers and then shopping in the factory store. Simon Pearce glass, handmade and high end, is expensive — but it never hurts to look, does it? I’ve come home from a visit here with all kinds of little pieces, including a candy dish, Christmas ornament and a few “seconds” that looked perfectly fine to me.

The teamwork between two glassblowers is what fascinates me. Without a word, they hand off the long metal tubes that hold the glass until that orange blob, a gather, is a clear crystal beauty. It’s like a dance, carefully choreographed, graceful with never a misstep or extra step.

Every moment is a joy to watch. And so I raise a glass — a hand-made, mouth-blown glass, of course — to the artisans who create these beauties every day in the mountains of Western Maryland. We saw two teams at work on our visit….

Some of the glass of Simon Pearce is more fun than useful. Some holiday ornaments were on display during our visit.

Some of the glass of Simon Pearce is more fun than useful. Some holiday ornaments were on display during our visit.

 © Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman

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