Bringing the Spirit of Handcrafted Excellence to Ardmore, PA

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We are pleased to be serving our devoted customers and connecting with new ones, in the Philadelphia area with our 11th store bringing us into the region with a fresh new approach.  Following on the heels of opening our Chestnut Hill Store, just over a year ago, we completed the interior construction of our new Ardmore store, just in time for the holiday Black Friday shopping rush. To make this go from concept to reality, we had an incredible team that made the opening of the store possible, with staff contributing from every department in the company. Our company is united by a culture that is dedicated to providing a “wow” shopping experience.

Quote from our press release;

“The Ardmore store will invite customers to explore—or perhaps discover for the first time—our glass and pottery collections,” said James Murray, Senior Vice President of Product Development + Design. “The shop’s warm, contemporary interior and displays take a cue from our flagship location in Vermont; by referencing that historic building and vibrant makerspace, we hope to bring the spirit of handcraftsmanship to our newest location.”

Deciding on the best location is key, and Jay Benson, our CEO, researched and evaluated the marketplace to find Ardmore to be an optimal destination.

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The design process started with imagining the type of space and feeling that takes cues from the experience of the Mill in Quechee, Vermont. We developed a material selection of complimentary, beautiful, real materials, that include walnut shelves, white oak flooring, wrought steel, walnut fixtures, and clay inspired earthy paint tones, that are used throughout the main retail floor.

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Illumination is a key element to showing the characteristics of our iconic glass products, so we employed built-in LED lighting technology into all our fixed shelving. To really make our evergreen trees glow, we built the lighting into the surface of the shelves so trees are illuminated from underneath.  The overall concept of the store was then rendered to capture our fresh aesthetic, that appeals to the customer that looks for our humanistic approach to design.

We utilized our retired wood molds from blowing glass, to create a textural wrap around our main counter.  Neil Cockwill, Director of Forms, carefully selected and collaged the molds together, at our facility in Windsor, Vermont. We also feature our vine chandelier over the cash wrap counter as a focal point. We contracted Andrew Pearce to build a series of walnut and steel furniture, for us to use in cross merchandising statements.

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The store design is featuring a separate studio space, in the back, that highlights our handcrafted pendants and lamps, which makes it easier for interior designers and customers to make buying decisions from our lighting collection. Our contractors worked quickly to demise the space, and go through the process of re-configuring it to suit our needs. They created the lighting studio out of a prior stock room by taking down walls, and rebuilding it into a useful space. The shelving around the store was custom built for us and they house all of our core products, delineated by their category.   

Kathy Marshall, Creative Integration Manager, on the planogram:

“The product assortment for Ardmore is curated to include top performers and new designs, based on the store size. Within this framework, we assign categories of product to specific fixed shelves and dynamic displays, as well as carefully considering the placement of the product to make shopping easy.”

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James Murray, Jackie Collier, Jacob Perron, Lindsay Harrington, Jay Benson, Jen Smith and Michael Robinson

A few weeks before the store opening, a group of us visited the store location as the construction had begun to check on progress and interview candidates to work at the store.  

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Jen Smith, our new VP of Retail, started in July 2019, joined us after a long tenure at Crate & Barrel, rallied the retail team for an incredibly organized and quick opening.

“We had so much fun opening the Ardmore store – it was a fast and furious process! In just 3 days, we unloaded and unpacked 16 pallets of product and set the displays. It was a small, but mighty team! Opening in the busy holiday season meant that everyone had to be flexible and efficient.”

“Huge shout-outs to:
Stephanie and Amanda, our warehouse managers, and the shipping team at our Oakland, MD facility, John and Josey, who delivered the product the moment we got the green light. Jackie, Retail Operations Project Manager, who coordinated all of the scheduling, travel, logistics and supplies for the store. Jeff, Field Visual Merchandising Manager, who set up the store visuals while training the new staff every step of the way. James and Kathy, who came up with the vision for the store and created a detailed and thorough planogram for execution. And our planning team who pulled the product from our warehouse to merchandise during the busiest time of the year!”

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Emily Kurz, Michael Robinson, and Colleen Charleston

“Michael, the store manager, and Emily, full-time sales, had come up to Vermont for orientation, so they were immersed in the Simon Pearce culture, the Vermont way of life, and have a whole new appreciation for the artisans who create our product. They, along with our part-time sales associate, Colleen, have welcomed returning customers who remember our brand from Brandywine, and introduced new customers to Simon Pearce.”

From our founder, Simon Pearce:

“I started making glass because of the human quality you find in real handmade glass. One of the best ways to share that experience is to put the product directly into the hands of our customers. Opening a location in Philadelphia gives us the opportunity to better share our story with an important market for us.”

Elements of Glass

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Nature uses force to script matter, and we do the same to manipulate raw molten glass. We draw out of our methods of making glass, the elements that have distinct character, and the artistic imperfections that come from the hand, to realize designs, that are ‘real’ expressions. With the ‘Elements’ development, we saw an opportunity to focus on the connection between design and science, using the forms to represent the various states of matter. We interpreted these natural elements that surround us in New England, with seven one of a kind, sculptural pieces. Three of which are featured in the Montshire Science Museum, from September 2019 to March 2020. It is an opportunity for the public and for children to experience how glass is a transformation from sand to the transparent material we are all familiar with, but in new forms. 

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We believe that our craftsmen have captured a sense of wonder and beauty portraying natural elements in glass and by pushing glass to its aesthetic and technical limits. These shapes show a mastery of light through glass and brings us at Simon Pearce to the forefront of creativity and innovation, through a design collaboration with master glassblowers.

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Photo Credit: Montshire Museum of Science

The partnership with the Montshire Museum of Science started when Marcos Stafne and his team came to our facility in Windsor, Vermont, to discuss ideas around how the two upper valley organizations can cross-pollinate concepts and create something unique for people to experience.  They liked the Elements prototypes and were intrigued with the science behind glassmaking, and brought these two concepts together for an exhibit at the museum.  Sherlock and Katie, who create the exhibitions, evolved a wonderful way to interpret the glass Elements, revealing the process, and the science.

From the Montshire press release;

“For this collaborative exhibition, the Montshire partnered with Simon Pearce, a Vermont-based company specializing in handcrafted glass with a creative philosophy rooted in functional, sophisticated design. The Montshire Exhibits team worked closely with James Murray, Simon Pearce’s Vice President of Design, to create a beautiful experience in which science meets design.”

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Montshire Staff, shown here, from left to right: Katie Kalata Rusch, Matthew DiClemente, Anne Fayen, Loren Rutz, and Sherlock Terry.

All seven elements we prototyped are described below:

Fire

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Fire is the element that transforms the other elements. Glassblowers also need fire to create the glass itself. They capture the gesture and movement of flames in glass. The item is sculpted with the energy and flair of a burning flame. Each piece turns out entirely unique and can be illuminated on a LED base.

The glassblowers who worked on this piece are Dwight Yoder, Dave Osburn and Steve White.

Water

Water covers seventy-five percent of the earth’s surface. This design was specifically inspired by the rushing waterfall at the Mill. The glassblowers captured the expressive ebb and flow of water that changes throughout the seasons. It is a very difficult design to make and only a few Simon Pearce glassblowers are able to make it.  The development of this water vessel, and wrap technique led us to offer other lines using the wrap concept, such as the Waterbury and Echo Lake collections.

The glassblowers who worked on this piece are Mike Cushing, Mark Williams, Jason Tucker and Ray Thorburn.

You can find the separate blog post on this design here.

Wood

Wood is a pervasive element in New England, and is revered for the seasonal activity from chopping/limbing trees for firewood to handcrafting it into familiar objects. Here ‘wood’ is represented as a branch with truncated limbs, and a sandblasted hollow core. It is another difficult piece to craft, few glassblowers can capture the exact gesture and form. Wood is one of the five Chinese elements.  Each piece can stand on a LED base.

The glassblowers who worked on this piece are Jesse McComas and Anthony Wroton.

Infinite Space

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Infinite space is the mother of the other elements. It represents the void, or emptiness that is necessary to approach a higher spiritual being. It is the gesture of a figure eight and is a free-form sculpture, with subtle surfaces and requires a high degree of skill to get the symmetry right. Each piece can be illuminated on an LED base.

The glassblowers who worked on this piece are Jason Cole and Jeremy Bastille.

Earth

Earth element is about structure and foundation; in nature it represents all that is solid and nourishing, which also speaks to global environmental issues. The design intent is to represent the whole globe and the topography of total earth, and also the swirling dynamics of mixing of elements, which has been captured in the glass.

The glassblowers who worked on this piece are Mike Cushing, Mark Williams, Jason Tucker, Ray Thorburn, and Chris Rogstad.

Air

Air is a freeing and opportunistic element. The form represents the swirling forces of wind, similar to the aerial view of cloud formations of the weather, while also having an open center for a connection with infinite space. In glass, flat disks can be difficult to achieve when compared to shapes with more mass and volume, so this shows the control and skill the glassblower. This piece is displayed in a specially crafted metal stand made by Jan Mollmark.

The glassblowers who worked on this piece are Perry Schwab and Ryan Adams.

Metal

Metal represents both rigidity and flexibility; being a protective element it is strong but very adaptive to change. Metals are found in nature and in man-made structures, such as suspension bridges and other feats of engineering. The sculpture was created in clear glass with an infusion of silver leaf, to further highlight the connection to the metal element. It can be illuminated on a LED base.

The glassblowers who worked on this piece are Jake Cole and Jeremy Bastille.

You can read more about the Montshire Museum exhibit in this Valley News Article.

Time to Reflect on Design

Travel Notes from Paris

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Every September, the European home design industry returns from their summer break in August to present the best of their new creations at the International Maison Objet show in Paris.  The market is focused on home decor, interior design, and lifestyle concepts, with a very inspiring combination of innovation and new talent throughout the halls.

Simon, Jay and I traveled across the Atlantic to walk the market, meet with some of our partners,  and find new resources or makers we can potentially work with on products. The show also gives an opportunity to spend time discussing, brainstorming and sketching out our approach to design for the next season.  We debate over what can be integrated into our product categories, what new ideas we can bring into existing collections, and where we could layer on new decor concepts.

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“The market gives you a perspective on what is happening in the world with design, and home furnishings, and we distill what makes sense for our line, whether we are buying or designing”, says Simon.  Maison Objet also gives us a sense of what direction glass is heading in, and in a world with the majority of the glass being machine made, we find we are well differentiated with the ‘hand’ being the core value of what we do. We further defined our design mission while traveling. We monitor what is happening in the market but take a great deal of  inspiration from nature, and we blend that with our humanistic approach to design and making things. To capture the essence of our designs, we use a reductive approach of taking away that which isn’t needed to arrive at refined simplicity. The intent of the designs is to amplify the handmade aspect of our products, resulting in objects that are a joy to live with at home.   

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One takeaway from the show was a growing interest in the handmade with small batch production, and a traceability story about the materials.  We found a few other European glass makers, that Simon truly enjoyed talking with, from building furnaces to raw materials used. Glass has also become quite pervasive, as a material of choice for designers.  

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During the market, all across Paris, the whole city was celebrating ‘Design Week’, with interior design events and companies launching their latest products in their retail outposts. 

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We had the opportunity to meet with our Italian linen partners, Bertozzi, and reviewed several new designs that they worked on with us, and also some new offerings they created.  Their hand block printed patterns are one of Simon’s favorites. While travelling through Morocco Simon discovered Bertozzi linens at one of the hotels he was staying at. When Simon returned from the trip, we pursued the company and since developed a great partnership with them as they have a similar ethos, with the handmade approach to their products.  

New concepts from the trip will appear in our Fall Holiday season of 2020.

Taste that Stands the Test of Time

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We take crafting glasses seriously at Simon Pearce; and our focus is matched with all the great crafted breweries in the state of Vermont.

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Each year we design new concepts that we add to our line of barware, to keep up with the evolution of beer making and tasting. Our silhouettes are carefully formed with the finesse of our glassblowers.

In addition to many iconic beer glasses, some of our stemmed lines that are geared towards wine actually make great beer glasses.

Mick Maguire, our head of technology at Simon Pearce has lent his expertise in brews and tested many of our glasses to find some perfect pairings. He has experimented with prototypes of our new Vintner pulled-stem line, and discovered that they lend themselves perfectly to particular types of beer.

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“The form of any vessel effects the drinking experience, not just in a tactile manner. An angular body where the base is wider than the neck will have the effect of concentrating the aroma of the beer helping your nose appreciate the full spectrum of the flavor and will also help preserve the head. This is particularly pronounced with ‘bigger’ beers like bourbon barrel aged stouts and double IPA where it will really bring out the white oak of one and citrus of the other. This means that our Vintner line has ideal candidates for truly appreciating the flavor and nuance of complex craft brews. The Snifter will easily hold a full pour and sits very pleasingly in the hand.”

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“For a lighter beer such as a Kolsh or Pilsner, the flute shape of the Ascutney Pint, or the Norwich tall beaker, lend a traditional German feel which brings out the brightness of these nicely.”

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“But my go to everyday summer beer glass is the Woodstock Balloon, perfect for sitting round a campfire, it’s robust design makes it very durable and pleasantly weighty,  while at the same time it’s oversized bowl allows the nose to enter the glass as you drink, giving a truly full sensory experience.”

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“The bottom line is any beverage that has care put into its creation, will taste better in one of our handcrafted glasses, I’d encourage everybody to experiment to see the differences brought about by form, regardless of how a glass is labelled.” -M. Maguire

You can try our glasses out with great beer served at our bar in the Mill.  Visit us and experience the difference handcrafted glass makes.

 

Beachstone Pottery

Earthy poetic in form & technique

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Artistry, concentration, and the hand all contribute to the remarkable objects we turn out at our pottery workshop everyday. The challenge of building things from the ground up, with earthy clay takes a blend of virtuosity, muscle memory and a keen eye to what looks balanced and well proportioned.

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Our latest artistic creation from the pottery is our Beachstone collection.  The inspiration comes from the natural elements here in Vermont.  Along the shore of Lake Champlain, particularity in the area of Shelburne farms, there are beach stones and rock formations that are made of 450-million-year-old, Iberville Shale.

The stones have beautiful graphic striations and veins of the mineral calcite, that inspired the sedimentary effects we wanted to capture in our clay.  By experimenting with different colors  of clay pushed together; we created the effect we wanted to achieve.

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Jeff, our master potter, has a great deal of experience with unique techniques and has perfected marbling the clay and throwing forms on the Potter’s wheel that reveal the graphic striated layers of clay.

Links to: Round Vase / Classic Vase / Bowl

See how it’s done below.

In Good Company

Twin Farms/Opus One Collaboration

Gathering around the Table

We recently had the pleasure of joining forces with Opus One Winery and Twins Farms, to provide a beautiful Vermont based dining event for guests at the Twin Farms.  The aim of our efforts, was to bring people together for an elevated experience around the dining table, with the combination of great food, amazing wine, and handcrafted excellence in glass.

This dinner event, at Twin Farms, featured seven courses, by guest Chef Sarah Steffan, of Blackberry Farm, and Nathan Rich, of Twin Farms. France Posener, who is from Opus One, told amazing vineyard tales of the company history, it’s evolution, and gave an in depth background on the wines being tasted. To compliment the theme of the evening, each couple attending the event received a Bristol Wine Decanter from Simon Pearce.

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The decanter, is a special glass vessel for us, which started out much like the Bristol Tumbler adhering to proportions from the golden section ratios found in nature.  Simon brings a keen eye to proportioning, and attention to detail that is a hallmark of our design philosophy. We carry these values through every new design, and it is innate to this modern decanter.

We blend distinctive form with function. The character of the design first started with renderings on paper while considering the right capacity for a bottle of wine, and creating the proper amount of interior surface area for the wine to decant. Through the sampling process, we tested them and made  revisions, before the process of manufacturing began, right here at our workshops, in Vermont.

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With our trip to Napa last spring, we set out to form relationships with companies like Opus One, and cultivating a deeper connection with handcrafted American wine.

Our first collaborative dining and wine tasting experience around the table was at Ocean House, an amazing destination in Rhode Island.  The culinary expertise for the food was a combination of Twin Farms with Ocean House, and France Posener eloquently spoke about the Opus One wine being served, and I gave the guests insights about the design and making of our Barre Pitcher which we featured that evening.

 

The Barre Pitcher is a contemporary fluid form that  is a joy to use, and is reminiscent of the silhouette of an Egret.

From Milan to the Mill

The Spritz Phenomenon

Every spring, Milan becomes the destination for designers from all over the world who descend upon the the city for the Salone del Mobile, to experience what is the latest and greatest in the design industry.

In addition to the show, the whole city celebrates creativity during Design Week, with home furnishing and interior design companies  hosting unique events at their locations.  Pop up installations are everywhere by brands of any industry, with new concepts for Living, and all doors are open with crowds and lines forming. On the surface, Milan can appear somewhat stoic, but below the surface there is a dynamic vibrancy due to the strong blend of culture and commerce. On alternating years, the design show has a focus on lighting, which is inspiring to see with the nearly limitless variations in construction and materials. The use of glass is so pervasive from pendants to chandeliers and lamps. Milan is both an inspiration and affirmation of how important creativity is to business.

After an entire day at the trade show or events around the city, the golden hour sets in when everyone goes out for the Aperitivi, a ritual that starts around 6pm. The classic bitter liqueurs and aromatized wines are served before dinner, and many of the unique combinations of drinks evolved through the midcentury era in Italy. The modern Aperitivi with a spritz of either Procesco or soda water, are more than just drinks, they are meant to inspire, reflect and get the conversations going.

The famed Bar Basso, known for the Negroni Sbagliato, appears to be a traditional establishment  but has a cosmopolitan clientele and this particular campari drink is typically served in a giant hand blown goblet with a large block of ice. From the street you know you are approaching Bar Basso because crowds gather around it.

A previous recipe for a Negroni on this blog can be found here.

During the golden hour, throughout Milan you see many people drinking an orange toned Aperitivi, known as Aperol spritz, which has gained in popularity and finds it’s way here to Vermont and is served at our Mill.

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Jerod our Restaurant and Bar Director says “We are loving the sharp elements that amaro’s are bringing to the table right now. Our guests are looking for lighter cocktails that they can enjoy before their dinners and Aperol brings a refreshing element to these. Paired with Barr Hill Gin, Orange, and a splash of soda is a lovely way to enjoy this ever popular aperitif!”. 

Here is our recipe for “The Bubbly Bee”:

1-1/2 oz Barr Hill Gin

1/8 oz Aperol

1/8 oz St. Elder

1-1/2 oz Prosecco

Small orange slice or twist to garnish

Build in 1/2 ice filled glass, add a splash of soda and garnish.

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I also made up my own Americano, while in the Dolomites:

1-1/2 ounces of Campari

1-1/2 ounces of vermouth

Soda water

Served in our own Apprentice glass.

Awards in Design

Pratt Fashion Visionary Award

As part of a larger design community, Simon Pearce has cultivated relationships with several higher education institutions, and promoted the awareness of handcrafted Design and the cultural impact it has on our lives. An example of this, is Pratt Institute’s Fashion Visionary award, which is a glass object designed and handmade here at Simon Pearce to celebrate the accomplishments of a designer in the Fashion Industry. The development of the award changes from year to year, with new forms being explored in R&D, that can express the nuances of fashion in glass.

Our most recent creation started with a hand rendering, and was the result of working with riverstone shapes in glass, applied around the form of a modern vessel.  The organic characteristics of the hand formed stone shapes, show off the quality of the glass, particularly with the way light refracts through them.

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 This year, the award was given to Kerby Jean-Raymond, for his notable achievements in Fashion Design as creative director at Pyer Moss.

A prior award design that we provided, took inspiration from a twist of fabric pulled around a shape. The Initial sketches lead to building an armature, that Jan Mollmark masterfully assembled with a wood buck, that he used to locate exactly where the steel wire needed to be to create the creases in the glass form.

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The result was an alluring vessel with curving surfaces of glass, that are accentuated by the creases that form the twisting look of a flowing dress.

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Rose Byrne presenting the award to Francisco Costa

Past recipients for this glass award have been,

Gabriela Hearst, Created her own brand of luxury ready to wear and accessories, and is well respected for her commitment to quality, sustainability, and social activism.

Francisco Costa, Creative director of women’s Calvin Klein collections.

Fern Mallis, Fashion Industry Lifetime Achievement Award from Pratt Institute – presented to her by designer Calvin Klein.

 

 

Finding the Twist

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“Like anything we create, the ideas go through phases of distillation until we happen upon something we love.”  -James Murray

The simplicity of the Woodbury line, finds it hallmark characteristics in the pursuit of trying to produce an object that is geometric, yet handmade.   The brilliant glass of the original Woodbury vase appears to be rectangular but have soft surface changes and a gentle radius that forms at the rim.

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Simon started the vase design back in 1990, and it has proved to be a favorite, and is an icon within our collection.  The original intent of the Woodbury line was to form squares and rectangles in glass that bring some beauty and pragmatism to everyday life.  On the glassblowing floor, while making these items he discovered that the glass flows in it’s own way to form more humanistic surfaces and curves.

Blog post on the full Woodbury glass line here.

In our design studio, we explore ways to continue these concepts of working with geometry and organic soft execution in glass.  While experimenting with ways to re-interpret the rectangular vase, we did some bristol paper models, creasing the center, and adding water to it to soften the paper in the center to form a twist.  The result was intriguing, and so some renderings of the idea followed to further investigate what the effect could be.

We thought this had potential and brought the concept to the glassblowers, who then spent some time trying to capture the nuances of this idea. They ultimately found that heating the center with a torch made the vessel more malleable and they were able to achieve a light gestural twist effect that we loved.

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A visual benefit of the fluid twist in the vase, is that it obscures the stems and branches of flowers, while marrying nicely with the artistry of arranging flowers.

Find the Woodbury Twist vase in the website store here.

 

Shaping the Wine Tasting Experience

Introducing the Vintner Collection

 

“We set out to build a glass line with characteristics that are designed for the serious wine taster.” -JM

Last May, Jay Benson, Dana Sabatino, and James Murray ventured on a trip to the California wine country to visit tasting rooms and meet with wine producers we are considering for partnerships. Being inspired, we came back to Vermont and created new stemware to appeal to people serious about wine tasting, and lovers of thin, hand-blown glass that enhances the tasting experience, without having a glass that overtakes the wine, in weight and physicality.

 

The pulled-stem technique that we use, results in a thinner, more lightweight stem and bowl typical of a classic Sommelier’s glass.  The thin stem and base offer functionality and grace.

 

The line was designed with modern proportions, taking cues from our Bristol red wine glass in form.  The glasses are generously scaled to show off the wines within.

There are many options of wine tasting glasses by European makers that are machine made, and have a seam on the stem.  The Vintner Collection from Simon Pearce does not have seams because we hand-craft each glass.

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The thin bowl of the glass is designed to have a lot of volume, and room for air to circulate with the wine, and yet not be heavy. Ripple lines of our handcrafted process still appear in the bowl of our glass, different from machine made glass by other wine tasting glass companies in the industry. Our bowl shapes are ideal, and relate to how quickly  we want the wine to pass into the taster’s mouth, which effects the experience and flavor.

 

An additional benefit of the thin base, is that it is easy to swirl the wine while holding the foot, during a wine tasting.

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The Vintner Collection is sure to please anyone looking for the “whole wine tasting experience”, with the refined balance of the preferred wine in a high quality hand-crafted glass.