Waterford Crystal’s History Made Clear

miroslav havel.jpgGlass master Miroslav Havel (pictured at right, holding a cat that may or may not be made out of glass), the longtime chief designer of Waterford Crystal, died earlier this month in Waterford, Ireland at the age of 86. Today’s New York Times obituary of Havel provides a fascinating glimpse into how in 1947 a pair of Czech immigrants (Havel and Karel Bacik) brought back to life an Irish crystal manufacturing business founded in 1783 (and defunct since 1851). It all started with a few blatant lies:

Mr. Bacik’s plan was to import glass and have Mr. Havel, who had been an intern at one of his factories in Czechoslovakia, do the cutting. He enticed the young man to Ireland by writing to him of a land full of sunshine overflowing with tropical fruit and of a grand factory where a glass business of renown had once flourished.

“Instead he found Bacik sitting in a small hut in the middle of an empty field,” said Brian Havel, whose book about his father’s life, Maestro of Crystal, was published in Ireland in 2005. “There was no factory.”

Havel and Bacik remained in decidedly non-tropical Ireland, where Havel progressed from designing glassware for local pubs to cutting glass for the chandeliers at the Kennedy Center (at Jackie’s request), along the way “repopulat[ing] an extinct tribe of Irish artisans.” In 2002, Waterford celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the introduction of its famous Lismore pattern, the top-selling crystal pattern in the United States and worldwide. It was designed by Havel.