Last Updated: December 13, 2010
Where can you watch artisans creating hand blown glass and wheel thrown pottery, shop for unique housewares and decorative works of glass and clay including a selection of manufacturer's seconds, glimpse a hydroelectric turbine at work and dine overlooking an old mill stream and a picturesque covered bridge?
Experience all of these eclectic activities under one roof when you visit Simon Pearce at The Mill in Quechee, Vermont.
Pearce, a noted Irish designer and glass blower, moved his workshop from Kilkenny, Ireland, to a 300-year-old woolen mill on Vermont's Ottauquechee River in 1981. The multi-level mill was restored to house the company's workshop, a restaurant and a retail store. If you can't get to Vermont, I'll take you to the mill on a photo tour.
Start your visit in the basement, where a hydroelectric turbine harnesses the power of the river to run the glass furnaces, which heat raw glass pellets to a temperature of 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit. On the lower level, spend time watching the fascinating glass blowing process in action. You'll see craftsmen employing traditional techniques that are centuries old to create each clear glass Simon Pearce design, from glistening goblets to enormous bowls.
Also on the lower level, watch potters at work shaping and hand-glazing distinctive ceramic works with Pearce's flair for simple yet unique forms.
On the day of our visit in 2003, an activity table was set up to allow children to experiment with shaping clay.
The decorative and functional pieces created downstairs are beautifully displayed and available for sale on the mill's main and upper levels. In addition to an array of glassware and pottery, Simon Pearce also sells harmonizing table linens, baskets, woodenware, candles and other houseware items.
Though not inexpensive, you'll know you're gracing your table, mantel or other focal area of your home with handcrafted wares that embody old-world traditions and quality. For those in search of savings, the store does offer a selection of seconds at a discount, and to the untrained eye, the flaws in these pieces may even be imperceptible.
If you think this sparkling designer china and glassware is too pretty to actually use, you may change your mind after lunch or dinner at the Simon Pearce Restaurant, where seasonally inspired soups, salads and entrees featuring fresh Vermont ingredients are served on Simon Pearce dinnerware, and you can sip fine vintages served in Simon Pearce wine glasses. The consistently praised restaurant, which is open air in the summer and enclosed in the winter, has the added bonus of blessing diners with gorgeous views of a waterfall on the Ottauquechee River and the Quechee Covered Bridge.
What You Need to Know About Visiting Simon Pearce
Location: Simon Pearce is located at 1760 Main Street in Quechee, Vermont.
Directions: From I-89, take exit 1 and follow Route 4 west for five miles. At the first blinking light after Quechee Gorge, turn right. Proceed down the hill and through the covered bridge, then turn left.
The mill is on the left.
Hours: In Quechee, the Simon Pearce retail store is open to the public from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily. The glassblowing workshop operates from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Mondays and Tuesdays and from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Wednesdays through Sundays. The pottery workshop is open to the public on weekends from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
For More Information: Call 802-295-2711.
For Restaurant Reservations: Call 802-295-1470. Reservations are particularly recommended for dinner time.
Other Workshops and Retail Stores: Simon Pearce also operates glassblowing workshops that are open to visitors in Windsor, Vermont; Mountain Lake Park, Maryland; and West Chester, Pennsylvania. You can also shop for the designer's works at retail stores in Boston, New York City, and several other East coast locations.
You can also request a catalog by using an online form or calling toll free, 800-774-5277.
If You Can't Get to Quechee: See glassblowers and potters at work on my Simon Pearce photo tour.