During a recent trip to Ireland my wife and I participated in the House of Waterford Crystal factory group tour. This hour long tour reviews the history of the company. It then walks participants through the company’s manufacturing facility in Waterford, Ireland. Even though my wife and I do not collect Waterford Crystal, we both enjoyed the informative tour.
All of the images in this article were captured hand-held while the tour was in progress. I used a Nikon 1 J5 and a 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4-5.6 zoom lens.
The hour-long tour began in the foyer of the manufacturing facility where information about the history of the company was provided. We then followed the tour guide into the actual manufacturing facility. Throughout the walking tour the guide discussed the various departments in the factory. These included mould making, blowing, quality inspections, hand marking, cutting, etching, engraving and sculpting.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
Adjacent to the manufacturing facility you’ll find a retail store with a number of custom crystal creations on display.
Some of them are quite unique… and dare I say spectacular.
Many of the pieces created at the factory begin with a custom mould being produced out of wood. A collection of decommissioned moulds was available for viewing.
I found it fascinating to watch the heated crystal being blown and shaped by the craftsmen at the facility.
After each piece has been fashioned by hand, then allowed to cool, a rigorous inspection process begins. There are quality checks throughout the entire process.
Inspections focus on a number of potential defects including stone, seed, bruise, thick and thin, and cord defects. Samples of each type of defect were on display and explained to us.
Parts of the tour were interactive, with participants encouraged to handle various samples.
I particularly enjoyed the hand marking, cutting and sculpting departments. The demonstrated skills of all of the craftsmen at the House of Waterford Crystal facility were amazing.
Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to photograph a wide variety of manufacturing facilities for my industrial clients. This allowed me to anticipate the types of shooting conditions we would encounter on the tour.
I decided to shoot in Aperture priority with a dedicated ISO setting of ISO-3200. This allowed me to keep noise to acceptable levels. Using the 1 Nikkor 10-100 mm f/4.5-6 zoom lens provided me with the focal range flexibility needed to react quickly to various photographic opportunities.
While the majority of crystal pieces produced at this House of Waterford Crystal facility are cut by hand, an automated cutting machine is also used for certain products.
The handwork done in the etching, engraving and sculpting departments is quite intensive.
All of the sculptured pieces produced begin as solid blocks of crystal. Many creations combine a number of different block segments that are then put together in the final assembly.
It was interesting to see various custom pieces in various stages of production in the sculpting department. Some were in the preliminary stages…
Some were well advanced in the production process…
While others, like the custom crystal piano pictured below, were nearing completion after months of handwork…
Specially commissioned commemorative pieces are produced in triplicate to guard against unforeseen damage or breakage that could potentially occur before the presentations have been done.
All authentic House of Waterford Crystal pieces are etched with the company’s mark.
My wife and I spent 4 weeks on the ground in Ireland doing field work for a potential travel photography eBook. Having just returned a couple of days ago, we are still going through our images and assessing them.
It will likely be a number of weeks before we can decide whether we have a sufficient amount of good material to produce an Ireland travel photography eBook. During this period we will be sharing some of our work here for you.
All photographs were captured hand-held using gear noted in the EXIF data. All images in this article were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection.
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