There’s always something new to discover in Amish Country. Recently my husband and I took a side trip an hour south to Warsaw, to the cut glass company workshop there, and it was a delightful afternoon.
I had visited the cut glass factory in Waterford, Ireland, many years ago, so I was familiar with the concept of “cut glass,” which is just what it sounds like—pieces of glassware have a series of cuts sawn into them, one at a time, by craftsmen who know what they are doing, and the patterns are beautiful.
The Warsaw factory still cuts glass the old-school way, as they have since 1911, with the same machinery used then. The business has changed hands only three times, as one master craftsman trained the next one and then sold the business to him. The present owner and master craftsman is Randy Kirkendall, who has cut glass there since he started training in 1980. He now knows about fifty different designs.
The glass is cut by belt-driven wheels, and today it is one of the last places in America that still cuts glass the old-school way. Calling ahead can allow visitors to go back into the large, open workroom and watch Randy practice his craft. It is fascinating to watch him work! He makes just a few marks on the glass with a red marker, and the rest is all freehand. As he worked, he told us about the factory’s history and the process of cutting glass. The building was full of the old machinery—huge belts that ran from one side to the other, spinning wheels of every size, different ones for different tasks.
My husband asked him, “How often do you mess up a piece and have to discard it?” Randy pointed to a nearby shelf and said, “There are all my ruined ones for this year so far.” There were only a handful. He said, “We get together on New Year’s Eve with our friends, and have a glass of wine, and fling them against that brick wall down there at the far end of the building.” What a great tradition! Out with the mistakes of the past, and start the new year fresh!
The factory has a shop out front, run by his wife, and we were amazed at how reasonable the prices were. We went home with items for ourselves and others for gifts. Randy also does custom work, and they have a thriving mail order business. Their website can be found at www.warsaw-cutglass.com and there is a video there of Randy at work.