The Transparency of Colour at Jerpoint Glass Studio

An interview with Kathleen Leadbetter: Co-founder of Jerpoint Glass Studio

Photo of The Transparency of Colour at Jerpoint Glass Studio

Jerpoint Glass Studio was established in 1979 in Co. Kilkenny by Keith and Kathleen Leadbetter. Over the years, the company has become known for its distinctive coloured glass range which includes beautiful yet functional items such as wine glasses, bowls, jugs and candlestick holders.

Co-founder Keith Leadbetter initially worked in pottery and in laboratory glassblowing in the UK before attending the prestigious Orrefors Glass School in Sweden in order to formally train as a master glassblower in the late 1960s. Together with his wife Kathleen, a self-taught artist who created the colour palette so closely associated with the brand, they established Jerpoint which will celebrate 40 years in business next year.

Photo of The Transparency of Colour at Jerpoint Glass Studio

Kathleen says that it was a conscious decision to create functional, as well as beautiful, pieces of glassware for the home. The company still employs the same methods of glass production that have been used for over 2,000 years and every piece of glass made by Jerpoint is handmade in their studio from beginning to end.

Glassmaking is a highly-skilled, dynamic process and is also a costly business. Raw materials are expensive and their cost can rise and fall dramatically. “How we make glass is as it was done 2,000 years ago - simple hand-tools, wooden blocks - everything we do is handmade from start to finish - it’s a much longer process to make something by hand than mechanically,” says Kathleen.

How we make glass is as it was done 2,000 years ago

The furnace at Jerpoint Glass Studio runs 24/ 7 and while the cost of fuel may rise and fall, the cost of the end product must remain constant. The furnace at Jerpoint holds some 80 kilos of molten glass at any given time. “The furnace burns fuel 24 hours a day - you can only make so many pieces in one day and then you have to melt glass for the next day,” explains Kathleen.

The master glass-blowers at Jerpoint utilise their own distinct methods to create their trademark coloured glass. Hot clear glass is dipped into coloured glass during the manufacturing process thus ensuring that the coloured details are intrinsic to the material rather than being mere surface decoration. This process also means that each piece of Jerpoint handmade glass is unique.

Photo of The Transparency of Colour at Jerpoint Glass Studio

While the company has a wide range of products including clear glass items, it is their award-winning coloured glass that has become synonymous with the brand. 

Kathleen recounts stories of customers who come to the studio looking to replace a wine glass or add to their collections after many years and are delighted to find that they can still obtain a replacement. 

Jerpoint glasses have even been used as props for period dramas in film and on television - being as they are traditional in style and manufacture - contemporary, but also retro, in appearance.

Photo of The Transparency of Colour at Jerpoint Glass Studio

“You always want to try different things and want to make something different, but at the end of the day the products we are making now are the products we’ve been making for years. There’s a following for that product.”

Kathleen says that, from the outset, it was important to her and her husband Keith to create functional objects that could be used everyday. 

“What we make is functional work - we want people to use it - we are making functional items completely by hand which is quite unusual in this business. This is what makes our product unique.”

We make functional items completely by hand which is quite unusual in this business

The Jerpoint range includes the company’s Berry, Festival, Seascape and Poppy collections - each collection with its own distinctive colour-way-be that deep purple, multicoloured, blue/ green or vibrant red.

Photo of The Transparency of Colour at Jerpoint Glass Studio

A family business since its inception, Keith and Kathleen’s son Rory now works as a master glassblower at the studio. Their other son Eoghan, a woodturner, musician and glassblower, lends a hand on occasion while the couple’s daughter Sally also works for Jerpoint - on the marketing side of the business. “Everybody helps out - that’s the nature of a small family business!” says Kathleen. 

Photo of The Transparency of Colour at Jerpoint Glass Studio

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