I arrived in Dingle Ireland on a late Monday afternoon and was conducting my initial wander about (as I do on any new stop along the way) when this curious shop window with all its eclectic treasures displayed, beckoned me inside. I was surprised to find an interesting little pub, empty but for a young bar man tidying up the shelves. I figured out a long time ago if you watch and listen first you’ll learn more in 10 minutes than you would in an hour of talking.
Conversation began with polite exchanges. I ordered a local whisky and sat there taking it all in. After a few minutes the polite exchanges became interesting conversation between me and this hospitable young bar man, Adam. Little did I know that I was meeting a Master in the making. Adam was originally from Waterford Ireland and arrived in Dingle in 1998 with his family, who were beginning a new legacy of Irish crystal making in the form of a workshop and shop front known as Dingle Crystal. Adam’s father is Sean Daly, a Master craftsman who learned the art of crystal cutting at the world renowned Waterford Crystal, in Waterford Ireland. By the end of my drink Adam had extended an invite to come and a meet his father and see the family shop the next day.
Sean Daly. first began his apprenticeship with Waterford Crystal at a very young age of 15. For five years he learned not only the unique skill set required for this fragile art form but found his creativity that 15 years later would elevate him to Master Designer and Craftsman at Waterford Crystal. In 1985 Waterford Crystal employed near 5000 employees. By 1987 with technical improvements and modernization in crystal making as well budget cuts and Waterford going “public” on the stock exchange – 3000 employees were let go, Sean being one of them. There was no doubt in his mind what his next step was…his own studio. Forty years later Sean Daly is incomparable in design and craftsmanship even to anything found today in Waterford. Sadly the art form of Irish Crystal cutting and Master Craftsmen in Ireland like Sean, are being lost greatly in part to Waterford itself outsourcing to companies in other countries with lower waged employees and more machine cut and designed pieces of lower standards. The art of Crystal making began with an Englishman, George Ravenscroft a glassmaker who discovered by adding lead oxide to glass not only made it more clear and harder but also made it possible to be carved. It was the Irish however, in the 1700’s that took that discovery to the next level developing techniques to increase the lead content to 33% giving the glass a more superb quality and is still the standard for the finest Crystal world wide. The history of Irish Crystal making is an interesting one involving politics, industrial evolution, near death by taxation, and now once again on the brink due to modern greed and outsourcing…except for Sean Daly and the very few independent Irish Masters still keeping the tradition alive and the quality the upmost highest.
Dingle Crystal located in the heart of Dingle, is a welcoming place from the moment you see it’s store front. My short notice visit hindered the opportunity to see Sean at work but on your visit you will more than likely find Sean sitting in the front window working on his latest piece, the walls lined with shelves full of the most amazing pieces of Crystal.
His designs are intricate and gorgeous! The crystal has such a significant weight to it and you know immediately upon picking it up that you are holding something very special. To the back of the shop you’ll find his lovely wife Liz and the coffee shop with her delicious homebaked treats. Adam is beginning his path of walking in the footsteps of his father, this past year starting his own apprenticeship in the art of crystal cutting, by his father’s side.
Still yet to have cut a piece, he’s obviously very proud to have this opportunity and is not deterred one bit at the investment of time and dedication to learning he will be making under the watchful eye and skilled hand of his father.
And although you really should go to Dingle personally and visit the shop for yourself, you can do like thousands of others have done world wide and just shop on line ! www.dinglecrystal.com My heart is set on a decanter set….someday when this adventure is over, no time soon though!
For a recipe/concoction this week worthy enough to be served in a piece of Sean’s handcrafted Dingle Crystal stemware (and not to mention I’m extremely excited about seeing my girl pals from back home in a few weeks in Paris) I remember back last fall when a few of us girls were out on a special girls night out where we were introduce to the heavenly elderflower liqueur known as St. Germain. Once again my theory that no mater how simple or intricate a recipe it all comes down to quality of product used, and it can not get simpler or any more delicious than 1/2 part French St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, 1/2 part brut Champagne, and fresh strawberry slices.