Established over forty years ago in Kilkenny, Jerpoint glass has become a household name for producing functional, beautiful tableware using traditional techniques. One of the last remaining glassblowing studios in Ireland, this family owned and operated business remain current with their selection of timeless designs. Working with highly skilled master glassblowers, we asked the co-founder Kathleen some questions about their practice.
Tell us a bit about the history of the company, how it was founded and what is being made today?
Jerpoint Glass Studio is a small glass company and a true family business. Established in 1979 by Keith and Kathleen Leadbetter, together with their small team of glassblowers, they have built Jerpoint Glass into an internationally recognised name.
Keith initially worked in pottery and in laboratory glassblowing in the UK. In the late sixties, he attended the prestigious Orrefors Glass School in Sweden to formally train as a master glassblower. After travelling extensively throughout Europe to develop his skills as a glassmaker, Keith returned to Ireland. Kathleen is a self –taught artist who is passionate about aesthetics and design. She has created the unique coloured glass palette now synonymous with Jerpoint Glass.
Can you describe the studio to us? How many people are on the team?
There are two glassblowers who can work in a team or separately. There are 3 main machines – the furnace, the hole and the lehr. Glass is kept molten in the furnace, reheated in the hole for working with and slowly cooled in the lehr. Much time is spent working/manipulating glass in the work bench.
Can you describe the making process to us?
Working with a material over 1100oC, the glass blower’s day ranges from the balancing act of shaping a paperweight to the intricate dance that forms a wine glass, involving 5 separate gathers of hot molten glass. Yet the simple hand tools of the glassblower have hardly changed since their origins 2000 years ago when glassblowing was introduced.
A master glassblower, using movements that are deceptively minimal develops the desired shape by strategically heating, cooling and manipulating the red-hot liquid glass, until the magical transformation takes place.
What inspires the designs created by Jerpoint?
Certainly our colour palette is very much inspired by the colours in nature. With the beautiful Kilkenny countryside as our backdrop, it’s difficult not to be inspired by the changing landscape; the seasons coming and going and the familiar shades and texture in the surrounding country. Inspiration can be found almost anywhere, we’ll return from a trip with new ideas or just leafing through a book or a magazine.
How do you get into the mindset of making?
We listen to music in the workshop. Rock and Roll!
What is your favourite/most used tool and why?
The Sacs (or Jacks) is a multitool. We use it for everything. It’s adaptable and reliable so it a glassblower’s best friend... Sorry Milo the dog!
How do your surroundings affect your work?
Celebrating 40 years in business this year, we are fortunate to work in the heart of Kilkenny, with Mount Juliet on our doorstep and other woods such as Jenkinstown and Woodstock Gardens nearby. Each year, we witness first-hand, the countryside burst into colour and it is this dramatic transformation that has inspired our offering.
We stock a range of glassware from the master makers at Jerpoint, including small and large tapered jugs alongside matching glass beakers. You can check out the full collection here.