When Only a Treasure Will Do! It’s Simon Pearce For The HolidaysNov 14, 2023 03:37PM ● By Wren Wahrenberger Photography By Lynn Bohannon
A selection of this year’s glass and pottery Evergreens. Area Manager Kristy White (left) and Lenore MacQuarrie, assistant manager of the Hanover store, show off their favorite trees of the season.
“You realize how hot it is!” say two Hanover Simon Pearce employees in unison as they describe the experience of getting up close and personal with the furnaces that melt glass at the Simon Pearce flagship location in Quechee, Vermont. Retail and office employees, who are all given a chance to participate in the glassblowing process, gain a deeper understanding of how difficult and how fun it is to create each unique piece of glass.
“It gave me the opportunity to truly admire the artisans’ talent,” says Jen Smith, vice president of retail at Simon Pearce. She uses the cup she fashioned out of molten glass (which, according to her, slants a little at the top) “every day.”
“Most of the glassblowing is done in teams,” says Jen. “Apprentices work with a master glassblower, especially with something that has a foot or stem. While one person is pulling the stem, the other person is gathering more glass to put on the foot.” The pontil tool they use leaves a mark in the shape of a four-leaf clover at the bottom point where each piece was separated from the turning tool. The raw glass materials they use are imported from Sweden.
All the glass and pottery sold at Simon Pearce’s 12 stores up and down the Eastern Seaboard is handmade. The hefty glass bowls, platters, vases, lamps, stemware and barware, pitchers, dinner plate sets, candle holders, and ornamental pieces are heirloom quality—making them perfect wedding gifts. Customers say they have put Simon Pearce pieces in their wills as treasured items to be handed down over generations.
The Simon Pearce store also carries wooden bowls and cutting boards fashioned in Vermont and designed by Simon Pearce’s oldest son Andrew. A few outside vendor products are available
at the shop such as table linens, cutlery, and candles, which are selected to complement the Simon Pearce designs.
A Talented Team
Simon Pearce started making fine glassware in Ireland in 1971. His father and brother made pottery, but he wanted to learn how to blow glass as well. In 1981, he and his wife Pia, who is American, searched for a place in the States where the company could be sustainable and produce their own power to run the business. They found the perfect property at the Mill in Quechee, which has a waterfall that produces turbine hydropower. At full force, the turbines produce enough energy to run for the entire establishment. In the early years, the family lived upstairs and developed the restaurant area on the ground floor to feed their glassblowers, three of whom had come along with them from Ireland. Later, the space evolved into a public restaurant and the current flagship store.
Now in his 70s, Simon Pearce still comes into the office to help with designs of new products. He works with James Murray, senior president of design, to make sure each prototype design is safe for the glassblower. The goal is to prevent injury, including repetitive injuries, while maintaining their classic design aesthetic.
Simon and Pia have four sons: Andrew, who makes the wooden tableware; David, who works in the office; and Kevin and Adam, who started the LoveYourBrain Foundation after Kevin, a champion snowboarder, had a traumatic brain injury (TBI). LoveYourBrain helps caregivers and survivors of TBIs through yoga and meditation. Adam was recently named a CNN Hero of the Year for his work helping his brother to create the foundation.
Each year, Simon Pearce produces a special LoveYourBrain glass design from which 20 percent of the proceeds go to the organization. This year, the LoveYourBrain design is a clear glass ornament engraved with the word “Imagine.” The annual charity ornament is one of the most popular in the store around the holidays. Other popular holiday designs include brilliant glass polar bears, angels, snowmen, candy canes, optic apples, and puppies, along with white pottery doves and stars.
Another customer favorite is their signature glass Evergreen trees, which come in a variety of heights, sizes, and textures. The Echo Lake Evergreen features fine strands of glass wrapped around a conical center, while the popular Vermont Evergreen style is clear with sloping, pointed branches. The trees come in many sizes, with the smallest being just four inches and the largest measuring in at 26 inches. This year, they’ve introduced three brand new tree designs: Crackle, which is made by dipping hot glass in a bucket of water, causing small cracks; Snowdrift, featuring internal ribbons of frosty, striated “snow”; and Twist, which angles to the left or to the right, depending on the glassblower. Another new addition for holiday 2023 is cheerful pottery snowmen.
A BEAUTIFUL ATMOSPHERE
In addition to their Windsor, Vermont, pottery workshop and factory store, Simon Pearce has a glassblowing facility and shop in Oakland, Maryland. Both factories produce larger-scale pieces such as lamps, the tall Evergreen trees, and oversized hurricane candle holders. Most of the stemware, barware, and small ornaments are made in Quechee. The Mill is fully operational after the summer floods, with the electrical components now moved upstairs to prevent damage in any future flooding.
The company opened its Hanover shop in June of 2011. “We wanted a shop location where our customers live, and we had a lot of customers from Hanover,” Jen says. Dartmouth College regularly purchases engraved awards and appreciation gifts from the store, Dartmouth parents buy gifts at graduation, and visiting alumni often frequent the shop. The store is “busy year-round.” Across the street, the Hanover Inn displays Simon Pearce pieces in the lobby and Echo Lake Hurricanes in the Pine restaurant.
The beauty of coming into the Simon Pearce store at any time of the year is the personalized experience you receive from the retail employees, who will help you pick out gifts and keep track of your orders, so you can be reminded of what you bought in previous years. They will expertly wrap and box the glass and pottery for transport and help with shipping if needed. Personalized engraving can take around three to four weeks, so it’s good to plan early. In the interest of increasing sustainability, the store is switching to biodegradable, recycled, and recyclable boxes and bags.
The Hanover shop location was chosen partly for the exposed brick walls, wooden flooring, and live-edge wooden shelves, which are “perfectly imperfect,” one of Simon Pearce’s favorite descriptors. “The rich wood tones of the space warm up the glass,” says Jen. All Simon Pearce stores display a life-sized photo of the Quechee Mill, and in Hanover, the photo is situated behind the counter. “It appeals to customers,” says Jen, “because so many of them have been there to see the glassblowing.
“This store has such a warm and beautiful atmosphere for shopping,” says Jen. “You are surrounded by beautiful art. Truly art.”
15 South Main Street