While we were there in the factory shop we learned that they were sadly selling off the last remaining hand cut glass, it will all be machine made going forward with 3-400 workers employed. According to a brochure, the factory shop is only open a year. They have been doing machine glass since 1972, production is a massive 60 million pieces a year according to their web site, so there is still great demand for glass crystal, Bohemia has very decorative star like design in 24 per cent lead crystal, they also do coloured glass. In its peak in the late 1980s to early 1990s up to 3000 were employed at Crystallex. Changing tastes and a move to buy less decorative glass has been a factor. Competition from the likes of IKEA has seen their market share drop but they still make fine glass at Crystallex. Claudia stem ware is selling for 40 years and is the lead product, with some of it gold topped. They have also new stemware launched in a bar cocktail programme and tumblers. Other novelty creations are the waterfall line that flows like streaming water. They say this is made with a 150 year technique. They have also special wine glasses for faster oxygenation. We learned also of a threat to the blowing craft school which has been operating for decades and a worry that the craft could be lost in blowing the heavy lead crystal, we were told by an informed person.
Morale seemed a little low among the shop staff on a Saturday morning, they showed great pride in the hand made glass and said there were real bargains and extra special items being sold varying from one off pieces for tableware to special artistic glass as well as chandelier pieces. In the meantime, machine glass would be the way forward for glass ware, but would not be as individualistic. The people are happy that the factory still has Czech owners, but business is not easy.
Our first visit to Novy Bor was in 1990, in then Czechoslovakia, just a year after the Berlin Wall came down and things were in full production then making hand made and machine glass plus lots of special coloured glass as well as the star cuts of the distinctive Bohemia Crystal. We journeyed there again in 1992 and were invited for a special glass exhibition in the factory, where glass artists came from all over the world.Also there then was Fred Curtis, Waterford Crystal head designer at the time and still working with glass and doing ambassador work with Waterford Glass . He has some glass exhibited in the Waterford city hall exhibition and is just back from San Diego, USA for a glass arts society conference.
The best international glass sculptors and blowers made glass there and won awards with the
factory facilities open and available for blowing creating one off glass, they came from America, Asia and Europe, just like Waterford Crystal hosted Dale Chihuly from the USA , some years back.Waterford City Hall currently has a glass exhibition on this summer also, we may add featuring special glass. We also made the trip to the spa town of Karlovy Vary where the famous Moser hand painted glass is produced. Moser is very pricey and is at the higher end of the market .
Moser is all hand made and commands a high premium price. Known world wide, it has been
returned to family ownership after nationalisation over the communist period form the period 1947
to 1989. At Karlovy Vary we came across another type of specially sculpted glass in an exhibition area. Marketa Janatova, Marketing Director of Barcello Hotels in Prague reckons that glass is still the number one tourist purchase for visitors, especially from overseas as there is good value and quality. She finds her clients especially look for glass just like visitors to Ireland and Waterford would seek
Waterford Glass. Glass is also a must buy for those visiting Czech Republic.
We must say when we learned of the difficulties at Novy Bor, we empathised with them knowing the Waterford story but there is still a demand for premium hand craft work for Moser glass, which is known worldwide and where there is still strong demand.
Like Fashion tastes can change, but the wheel can turn again in favour of glass, as it is a very durable material. Moser is very light with no lead unlike Waterford.Like in Waterford they still love their glass in Czech Republic. It was great to go back again and see Waterford ‘ s glass origins in Czech Republic where founder Mr. Charles Bacik hailed from here and also chief designer, Miroslav Havel came from North Bohemia, who would come to Ireland in 1947, you can read the story in the book the Maestro Crystal by Brian Havel, son of Miroslav.