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The Craft of Design: Simon Pearce

The Craft of Design: Simon Pearce

The Craft of Design: Simon Pearce

December/January 2013 issue of American Craft magazine
Mediums Glass
Simon Pearce

Simon Pearce at work

Tell Simon Pearce about that lovely ceramic bowl of his you got for a wedding present 20 years ago (blue and white, handpainted fish, countless
salads served), and he responds with pleasure. Oh yes, he’ll tell you, that was by Miranda Thomas, a wonderful potter who worked for him back then.

Pearce no doubt hears these stories all the time, from untold numbers of people who own the heirloom-quality glass and pottery made under his name. His original studio in Quechee, Vermont, has become a tourist destination, where visitors can watch craftsmanship in action, then dine at its restaurant featuring fine seasonal cuisine made from local ingredients. (Pearce opened the eatery 29 years ago, practically anticipating today’s artisanal movement. In 2009, he and his wife, Pia, co-authored a book about family, food, and beauty in everyday objects, titled A Way of Living.)

“My original vision was simply to make things that were functional and beautiful, at a price people could afford, and also to make a decent living,” he says. “That was the only vision I had. You just start out when you’re 19, and that’s as far ahead as I ever thought.”

His operation consisted of five people when he came to the United States from Ireland in 1981; now the company has 250 employees, three studio facilities, and seven retail stores. With a good creative team in place in perpetuity, Pearce still does much of the designing himself, and still blows glass, though now mostly for fun, he says. He’s grateful to have achieved such success making products people enjoy.

“I was very, very fortunate,” he says. “I had a father who I always say chose quality of life over quantity of money. He moved from London to Shanagarry, Ireland, when I was very young. First he was a farmer and then he set up a pottery. What was so incredible was that he enjoyed running this little business. And it was tiny! But he enjoyed the business as much as he did the pots, and making pottery. So I had this role model called ‘One is as much fun as the other.’ ”

Click here to read our extended interview with Simon Pearce.

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Joyce Lovelace is American Craft's contributing editor.