Mt. Pleasant's O'Rourke to demonstrate glass cutting at museum
On Saturday, Peter O'Rourke — the world-famous master glass cutter and engraver who calls Mt. Pleasant home — will offer an up-close demonstration of his craft at the first live exhibit to be offered at the evolving Mt. Pleasant Glass Museum.
“Peter is the living history of glass in Mt. Pleasant, so it's fitting that we have our very first event with him,” said Cassandra Vivian, president of the board of directors of the burgeoning entity. “I'm hoping a lot of young people are going to come.”
O'Rourke will begin his demonstration at 1 p.m. at the museum at 537 W. Main St.
He said it's great to see people interested in learning more about the history of the local glass industry.
“I'll be working with some of the products and exhibiting some of the methods used to help keep that history alive at the museum,” he said.
The museum is designed to document the histories of Bryce Brothers, L.E. Smith and Lenox glass companies.
O'Rourke will not only demonstrate his skills, he will also allow members of the audience to try their hand at cutting glass, too.
“In the hope that we can get the younger people interested, we're going to offer a bit of hands-on in basic cutting procedure,” he said.
Growing up in Ireland, O'Rourke displayed an early interest in the arts.
In particular, he would regularly draw patterns on glass and, several years later, O'Rourke said he decided to further his learning and fine tune his talents.
In 1970, he began an apprenticeship with Galway Crystal, which at that time was a direct competitor to Waterford Crystal.
By 1977, Peter had completed his apprenticeship and earned the title of master glass cutter and engraver.
He worked at Galway another five years, training the factory's apprentices and developing new products.
Then, in 1981, Lenox recruited him for a products coordinator position at their American production facility.
Upon visiting the Lenox factory in Mt. Pleasant and receiving the support from his wife and daughters, O'Rourke said he and his family decided it was an interesting opportunity and moved to the U.S.
In the years the followed, he excelled in his leadership role at Lenox and helped put out thousands of pieces of glassware for the company.
O'Rourke also worked on many special projects, from custom stemware for U.S. senators to awards for PGA/LPGA tour winners.
That was until the local Lenox factory closed it doors in 2001.
“Everybody kind of went their separate ways after the factory closed because there were no other glass factories opening, so they had to go into other lines of work,” O'Rourke said.
“It was like the end of an era.”
For the past 12 years, O'Rourke has designed and sold his own cut glass at his business located at the Mt. Pleasant Glass Center on Route 31 in Mt. Pleasant Township.
He has also contributed as an artistic contractor for the likes of Lenox, Tiffany and Waterford.
In tandem with Lenox, O'Rourke creates the inaugural bowls given to each new American president.
The bowls are intricate and can take weeks to create because each requires the execution of several cutting techniques, he said.
He has contributed his expertise to the inaugural bowl projects on behalf of Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and, most recently, President Barack Obama.
Several other activities are planned for the coming weeks as the museum begins its first season, Vivian said.
Three new exhibits will be launched by the museum within the coming year, along with the publication of four newsletters, with the first to come in March, Vivian said.
O'Rourke said he is happy the museum has been established.
“The people who left the glass business ... it's still in their blood, so it's nice for them to share stories with other people and the good memories they have of the industry,” he said.
“This museum is a stepping stone. The factories are out of business, but people can come back here to share their stories and history and by, doing so, keep that history alive.”
Those interested in becoming museum members should visit the facility located at 537 W. Main St. in the borough. Hours of operation are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays or noon to 4 p.m. Sundays.
Sharon Hribal, one of volunteer docents at the museum and the owner of one of the area's largest private collections of Bryce Brothers glassware, said she also is anticipating O'Rourke's planned demonstration.
“We're all very excited to see what all he can teach us about cutting and etching glass,” Hribal said.
Vivian said the museum's board of directors is still in the process of acquiring its corporate and nonprofit certifications.
The attorney representing the group in its pursuit of such certifications is John M. O'Connell Jr. of the O'Connell & Silvis law firm in Greensburg, Vivian said.
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A.J. Panian is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-547-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.