Making Heirlooms the Old Fashioned Way

By Eric Olson

Making Heirlooms the Old Fashioned Way

June 18, 2010 Updated Jun 26, 2008 at 2:27 PM EST

IT DOESNT LOOK LIKE A TIME MACHINE..BUT STEP OVER THE THRESHOLD AND BACK YOU ARE WHISKED...A HUNDRED YEARS OR MORE.

Randy: It's a little dusty sometimes but when it was built it was considered state of the art.

NOT MUCH HAS CHANGED AT THE WARSAW CUT GLASS COMPANY SINCE IT OPENED ITS DOORS AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY...THE LAST CENTURY, THAT IS.

Randy: It just has a nice feel to it, I still love coming to work every morning so that's 99 percent of what you do.

25 YEARS AGO RANDY KIRKENDALL BECAME THE THIRD OWNER OF THE OLD FACTORY BUILDING. HE AND EMPLOYEE RYAN SEE USE THE SAME MACHINERY AS THEIR PREDECESSORS TO CUT, ETCH AND SCULPT FINE PIECES OF GLASSWARE. ITS ALL LOW TECH...THE DRIVEWHEELS AND LEATHER BELTS AND WOODEN WORK TUBS...BUT KEEPING THESE OLD MACHINES HUMMING IS AN ARTFORM IN ITSELF.

Randy: It's simple and primitive but there are still little tweaks you've got to do to it to get it right. When things break down that's still an experiment. That's it!

ONCE UPON A TIME FIFTY CRAFTSMEN CROWDED BOTH FLOORS OF THE WARSAW CUT GLASS BUILDING, TURNING OUT CRYSTALLINE MASTERPIECES. THE SECOND FLOOR IS JUST STORAGE NOW BUT THE ANTIQUE POWER SHAFT STILL RUNS THE WHOLE SPAN OF THE BUILDING. ANTIQUE CUTTING WHEELS FILL EVERY CORNER, UNTOUCHED SINCE THEY WERE LAID ASIDE DECADES AGO. IN THE BASEMENT ARE DOZENS OF HUNDRED YEAR OLD GLASS BLANKS...LEADED GLASS, THE GOOD STUFF...THIS UNFINISHED PITCHER DATES BACK TO ABOUT 1915..WORK ON IT CEASED WHEN IT DEVELOPED A CRACK, BUT HAD IT BEEN COMPLETED IT WOULD HAVE LOOKED LIKE THIS..RANDY KIRKENDALL HAS SEVERAL ORIGINAL PIECES FROM THE OLD DAYS. THE GLASS HE USES TODAY IS MUCH THINNER STUFF BUT STILL MAKES BEAUTIFUL ITEMS, ALL OF THEM ON DISPLAY IN THE COMPANY SHOWROOM. RANDY STUDIED SCULPTURE AND SILVER SMITHING IN COLLEGE..HE NEVER EXPECTED A CAREER AS A GLASS CUTTER. BUT HE FELL IN LOVE WITH THE PLACE WHEN HE SAW IT IN 1980 AND HE'S NEVER LOOKED BACK. HE DOES LOOK FORWARD...BUT THE VIEW ISN'T MUCH DIFFERENT. IF IT AIN'T BROKE AFTERALL, WHY FIX IT.

Randy: We'd like to grow of course but I'd say after 95 years it's doing okay for itself.

ERIC OLSON REPORTING OUT IN YOUR COUNTRY.




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