During 2013 Anthony Haughey collaborated with a group of Waterford Crystal craftsmen who lost their jobs when the original factory closed. They had formed a cooperative, called ‘Handmade Irish Glass’, where they combined their skills and years of experience to continue their own handmade lead crystal production. The result of this collaboration is a series of handmade lead crystal milk bottles, inscribed with texts, which act as a homage to the workers skill and ongoing resistance to exploitative globalized venture capitalism. In an unexpected way the bottles also invoke the workers families and wider Waterford community who were inextricably tied to the fortunes of this industry.
It emerged during the research for this project that the glasscutters in the Kilbarry factory used discarded milk bottles to ‘run in’ newly replaced cutting wheels. These test bottles were left lying around the factory and would eventually arrive back in the Waterford Creamery for recycling. It was not unusual for the residents of Waterford to find a pint of milk on their doorstep with the classic Waterford ‘star design’ cut into the base. Milk bottles were part of a communal exchange system, where reuse and recycling was the norm.
The workers struggle continues, In April 2013 the European Court of Justice ruled that the workers full pension rights will be honoured, and the trade Union, Unite, have launched a legal challenge on behalf of the Waterford Crystal workers against the use of the ‘Waterford’ trademark for lead crystal glass not produced in Ireland.
With thanks to Handmade Irish Glass and Penrose Crystal
Handmade lead crystal milk bottles and sandblasted text, Inkjet colour photograph and text, 84.1 x 118.9 cm, Lismore lead crystal wine glass c. 1948, Lismore lead crystal wine glass c. 2013