Friday, January 9, 2009

Industrial Photography - Waterford Crystal

The Road to Success is Crystal Clear

Last Sunday I made arrangements, by email, to visit the world-famous Waterford Crystal factory, to photograph the various production processes involved in manufacturing one of the country's most iconic products. Waterford Crystal began production in Ireland in 1783 and its visitors centre is one of the most popular attractions in the country, with around over 300 000 visitors every year.

On Monday I heard, on the radio, that the company had become yet another casualty of the economic downturn and called in the Official Receiver. At that point, I decided that my request to photograph the factory was the least of their concerns and considered cancelling my visit. But, then I decided that, as a photographer, 1) I had a duty (and possibly my one and only chance) to record the work of the company, and 2) I had a commission deadline to meet. So, I made a phone call to the Visitor' Centre manager, Mr Louis Flynn, and confirmed my visit.

One of the perks of my photographic life is that I meet so many generous, helpful and interesting people. Louis Flynn is no exception. Although the stress and strain of the bad news was apparent, he went out of his way to accommodate me, once I arrived at the factory, yesterday. I was offered coffee and cake - and then taken on a personal tour of the factory by Louis himself and given unfettered access to photograph every aspect of the manufacturing process.

The Waterford Crystal factory is a photographer's dream - there is so much to photograph, and it really tested my skills, as I had to work very fast. The real eye-opener, though was the attitude of the workers I met. Everyone of them had exactly the same open, friendly and accommodating attitude as Louis - and despite the possibility of impending closure, there was a good deal of friendly banter and everyone was smiling. Louis told me that working there was like being part of a large family. Although he had worked there most of his life, he was a "first generation" employee (no other members of his family had worked there before him). That was not the case with many of the other crafts people employed at the Crystal factory, who could cite two, three or more generations of family members who had honed their craft - whether it be glass blowing, cutting, engraving or mold making - before them. That, Louis told me, made for a very special atmosphere. And, I was quite sincere when I replied that I could genuinely feel it.

The latest news is that an American group is in the process of agreeing a deal to buy the company. I hope it succeeds - and I have a feeling that it will. There is a good vibe in that place - and, as mentioned in my last post - sometimes that is all it needs to turn a disaster into a success.

I took over 300 images - two of which can be seen here, and there are more on my main website Adare Images in the "commercial" section of the gallery. I'll talk more, on Monday, about the techniques involved in industrial photography.


  1. I really hope the Waterford company is saved too. Its a lovely place. We went there whilst driving back to Wales from Schull in the Summer. The staff were great as you say, and it would be a shame for this great company to be one of the victims of the "crunch". Kevin

  2. i just want to comment on that first picture... great capture on the melted glass! Nice one.. :)

  3. Thank you for the comment Butterfly Valve. If I can be of any service to MEA please let me know - I've never been to Illinois!


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