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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Tony Hayes, Founding Owner and Master Glassblower of The Irish Handmade Glass Company Our Coverage Sponsored by Bergen Linen

Tony Hayes

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Tony Hayes began working at Waterford Crystal as an apprentice glass blower in July 1986 at the age of 17. Like many Waterford people, he followed in his father’s footsteps by working at Waterford Crystal, although, he was selected to train in the art of glass blowing, unlike his father, Tom, who was the Senior Master Engraver with the company. 

He spent 5 years completing this apprenticeship and a further 3 years later he was appointed a master blower. Tony spent 10 years working in the ‘Wine’ section, at Waterford Crystal making stemware and a further 12 years working in the ‘Heavies’ section where he produced many of the larger items, world sports trophies and lighting ware. In 2005 he was appointed the youngest ever training instructor at Waterford Crystal, with responsibility for the retraining of many glass blowers from one area of the blowing dept. to the new ‘Tank Furnace’.

While working at Waterford, Tony attended Night college and gained a National College of Ireland Diploma in Business studies in 2006. 

In 2009 after the closure of Waterford Crystal, Tony decided to return to College and completed a HCBS in Business at Waterford Institute of Technology and in 2010 while setting up the company, he completed a Post Grad Diploma in Small business development at the South-East Enterprise Platform Program at Waterford Institute of Technology.

In 2009, Tony and some former work colleagues from Waterford decided to investigate the feasibility of setting up a Crystal manufacturing company in Waterford City. After much research, Tony, Derek Smith, Danny Murphy and Richard Rowe founded The Irish Handmade Glass Company. Specializing in producing mouth blown, Hand cut colour crystal, they use a non-lead based crystal, which has all the attributes of lead crystal, but without the environmental impact. 

They are extremely proud of their heritage and refuse to outsource any of their manufacturing to cheaper economies, unlike most other Crystal Manufacturers in Ireland. 

Tony and the guys are celebrating 6 years of business at The Irish Handmade Glass Company in January 2017 and are delighted with the progress that they have made in such a short time.  We are absolutely thrilled to present Tony Hayes as a Mover and Shaker especially as we lead up to St. Patrick's Day.  Peachy Deegan interviewed Tony for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What would surprise many people about the art of glassblowing?
Tony Hayes: 
Many people would have never seen glass being blown and it seems to take them by surprise how we manipulate and tease the glass into the required shapes. Things we take for granted such as adding colour seems to amaze people when they see how it is actually done.

What type of person makes a great glassblower?
I think the ideal person needs to have excellent hand/eye coordination, be extremely dexterous with their hands and needs to be prepared to spend many many years learning, I’m blowing glass 30 years and still learning !

What is your first glassblowing memory?
My first memory was walking into the factory at Waterford Crystal on my first day with my dad and being met by the blowing manager with the words ‘young Hayes, this is a glass factory, not a bakery, white jeans are not ideal here’,(it was the 80’s, white jeans were fashion!) I soon found out why, they were filthy by the time I finished that day!! I reverted to jeans/shorts from there on !!

What are the pieces you are the proudest to have created and why?
I have made many pieces, ranging from the largest vases and bowls, lamps and stemware, but the pieces that I enjoy most are our centerepieces, ‘Coolfin’ ‘Atlantic Way’ and ‘Horizon’. They take an age to make but to see them come out of the kiln after cooling makes it worth it, and yet they will end up even more stunning once Danny has added his cutting.

What should the world know about Ireland that they might not know yet?
We are a very modern country, some people still hold the idea that we are a little behind the times, or backward, oh, and it doesn’t actually rain all the time, just a lot of the time! During the Summertime when the weather is good, it’s the greatest place on earth, lots of long deserted beaches, clean water and greenery.

What common misconceptions about Ireland would you like to clarify?
I suppose the above.

As you are a specialist in creating wine glasses, what should people know about them that they might not yet?
Mouth blown and hand cut wine glasses are a rarity these days. Advances in machinery allow companies to produce glasses that look handmade but the only way to tell a handmade piece is that there will be variations, maybe a small bubble or a different thickness or weight. You would be shocked how many major crystal producers still sell their product under the guise of handmade. Handmade, doesn’t necessarily mean that they have been mouth blown, also, being designed in a place doesn’t mean that they have been produced in that place either. In reality, the buyer, unless they are really familiar with glass making, quiet often makes their purchase decision based on their perception of a company’s product, also based maybe on bygone information. By that I mean that at one time, not too long ago, all glasses were made by hand and maybe that perception is still in the buyer’s mind, even though the likelihood is that they have been mass produced by machine. Basically, a brand name that was synonymous with making handmade glassware in the past, just because of the name, that alone does not mean that the product is still handmade…..I think if it was handmade they would be printing this on every piece of marketing material, label, and shouting it from the rooftops. For example, we at The Irish Handmade Glass Company note on all our products labels and marketing info that the product is fully handmade in Waterford City, Ireland. It may seem a simple thing to do, but it identifies a product as being what it actually is. Our customers love this; it assures them that the product they are buying is unique and made with care. Our stockists tell us that it is a huge asset to them when introducing our products to new customers.

Do you create pint glasses and have them engraved?
No, we have made some to order for people, but they are not one of our everyday items.

What do you know about running a business that you wish you knew at the start?
That it’s not easy! There is a lot more than I could have ever thought involved, and that it'; now your responsibility, nobody else will do it for you.

What should the world know about each of your co-owners and what do you like most about each of them?
They are all genuine good people, hardworking, and extremely talented, and good humored. 

What would they say about you?
I would hope the same.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
My father. He was a perfectionist. He worked as the Senior Master Engraver at Waterford Crystal for 42 years until his death in 1999. His works can be seen in many collections, museums around the world, and in places such as The Vatican, Buckingham Palace and The White House. 

What are you proudest of and why?
My family, my wife Denise, for putting up with me! and my three children, Abbie, Darragh and Sophie, for keeping me on my toes! (they are all competitive swimmers and train at 5.30 am each morning) it gives me the opportunity to keep myself fit also, as I can also go swimming while they train.

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
I would like us to grow the company and take on some apprentices; it is something we hope to do in the next couple of years.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
Qualifications as a glassblower, Master Glass Blower and Training Instructor from Waterford Crystal. We don’t really have glass blowing in colleges here in Ireland any longer, the Irish government in their wisdom, cut funding at the National College of Art and Design, a couple of years ago which sadly meant they had to close that department, so to get qualifications in glass you now need to travel to UK or USA.

What one word best describes you and why?
Happy, I like what I do!

What do you take your sense of identity from?
My Irishness. 

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan? And Ireland?
I have been to Manhattan a couple of times, and it is a stunning city, I love the area around Central Park. Union Square is really vibrant, it’s just a really overwhelming city. In Ireland, anywhere along the coast, I live only a few miles from the sea, on a nice day I cycle out to Dunmore East, a little fishing village about 10 miles away and go for a cooling swim in the sea. Simple things really!!

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan? 
 I’m not really a shopper, but my wife loves Macys. 
And Ireland?
 The Kite Design Studio (where we make our glass, we have the most unique shop attached, needs to be experienced!)

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why?
Maybe Dale Chihuly! He’s a little bit handy !!

What is your favorite drink?
I like a beer and wine, but mostly coffee.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
Never at a cocktail party, we don’t really do them here in Ireland.

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan? 
Singapore Chinese Restaurant in China Town. Without doubt the best Chinese I have ever eaten, really authentic. Last March, I was over with my family, the kids had never been before and they wanted to go to an authentic Chinese restaurant, we met a policeman and were chatting for about an hour, he recommended there, he was correct!
And Ireland? 
We have so many here in Waterford that I like, Bodega, Loko, McLearys, all fantastic food and relaxed atmosphere.

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature? And Ireland?
Unfortunately, I don’t get very much time to read so I can’t remember the last book I read!

Who would you like to be for a day and why?
Difficult one……..I never really thought about that, I’m happy enough with my own lot !

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why? And Ireland?
Trump tower!! Would he be okay with a name change do you think?
A street here in Ireland would be nice.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience? And Ireland?
I never really had an athletic experience in Manhattan, just plenty of walking. In Ireland I swim a couple of kilometers at the local pool each morning, I used to be a competitive swimmer back in the day, now I coach a couple of days and swim to keep fit. I think that it is extremely important to keep fit and healthy, the early start really sets you up for the day.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else? And Ireland?
There are so many things to do in Manhattan, but just to experience the place is a great ‘buzz’. In Ireland we live close to the sea, so it’s nice to bring the dogs out and walk on a deserted beach.

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?
It would be great to have dinner with my dad, he died in 1999. I’d love to hear his reaction to us running our own crystal company, I’d say he would be extremely proud, especially after the way things went at Waterford Crystal. He was hugely proud of his work there, it was a company built on the skills of the older generations like him and I would imagine he would have been truly hurt by the closure in 2009.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience? And Ireland?
I never had a music experience in Manhattan, its usually a short visit, but I have seen U2, The Stone Roses, Simple Minds, many others here.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
I think that we have broken the mold in creating a product that is modern, but made in the old tradition, an honest company I suppose.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated in Manhattan? And Ireland?
There is nothing overrated in Manhattan, it’s the most unique city in the world. Underrated, it has to be the transport system, it is something that New Yorkers take for granted, but it is so efficient, I don’t think any other major city can compare.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite​ column and what do you like about it?
Cuisine and Drinks, I enjoy good food and always like reading about good food /eateries.

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I think I covered everything.

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?
Email would be best, we can be contacted from our website,

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