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Two Generations Of Craftsmanship: Father And Son’s Work On Display At Glass Museum

Posted in: Sandwich News, Front Page Stories
Dec 5, 2008 - 12:21:07 PM
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James Poore sits at a century-old glass engraving lathe while his father Edward Poore looks over his shoulder inside the Crystal Workshop in Sagamore. Edward Poore has owned and operated The Crystal Workshop for over two decades. DON PARKINSON/ENTERPRISE
SANDWICH- At the bottom of a display cabinet in the Sandwich Glass Museum lie a block of unfinished glass and a small collection of stone-spinning wheels. These are the raw materials and tools used by Edward D. Poore and his son James E. Poore of Sagamore to create their art.
Surrounding the raw materials are the fruits of the Poores’ labor, a wide array of sculptures made specifically for the Sandwich Glass Museum’s exhibit titled, “Two Generations of Glass Engravers, Cutters and Sculptors.”
Though the elder Poore has been working with glass since he first began learning the trade under Carl Schweidenback at the Pairpoint Glass Factory in Sagamore, he said this is the first time he has been commissioned to create art on such a large scale.
But the experienced craftsman is no stranger to using his unique talent to create art.
Throughout the years, he explained, he has worked on artistic projects as gifts for friends and family. For example, the piece “Glass Lighthouse” was constructed from the top of an old glass display case for a Father’s Day gift in 1995.
Though many of the pieces in the exhibit are priced for sale, Edward Poore said he will not be parting with the lighthouse.
Though he is familiar with the artistic side of glass engraving, creating a cohesive body of work for display was something new.
He followed his instincts for inspiration.
Edward Poore explained that he often allows the particular piece of glass to dictate the final product. Instead of trying to coax out a particular image, he said he lets the image come to him as he works.
A vase engraved by James Poore shows a spider in its web surrounded by plant life.
The resulting pieces are what Edward Poore calls “abstract” glass sculptures.
The collection reflects his inclination to “play with the reflective properties of crystal.”
One piece, a small obelisk-shaped glass sculpture infused with a dash of red color, stood out as one of his favorites.
Standing before the display case that held the sculpture, he remarked on how the piece took on different qualities when approached from different angles.
“I like all the ones with color,” he said. “They each have their own unique qualities.”
This week the younger Poore described his work as more representational than his father’s. While his father plumbs the depth of his imagination for inspiration to craft abstract works, James Poore relies on a natural artistic ability and love of nature for his pieces.
Though he modestly denies having any inherent artistic talent, his work proves otherwise.
Engraved vases with titles like “Butterfly Battulo” and “Framed Dragonfly” show his eye for detail.
The scales of a fish on one piece took several hours to perfect, he explained.
Though their sculptures display the touch of effortless craftsmanship, the Poores explained that the exhibit did not come together easily for either of them.
Edward Poore spends his days at the Crystal Work Shop in Sagamore, which he owns and operates. It is there he does the work that has sustained him throughout his entire adult life.
A glass sculpture created by Edward Poore. Mr. Poore said he created pieces for his exhibit at the Sandwich Glass Museum that play off the reflective qualities of light. COURTESY SANDWICH GLASS MUSEUM
However, glass restoration is more craft than art. And, he said, there is little time for art when you run a business.
James Poore, who works as an antique dealer, said he needed to take the entire month of September off from work to prepare the exhibit.
They would love to do another showing, but finding the time to be an artist when one pays one’s bills as a craftsman is not easy, they said.
“I wish I had more time to do more pieces,” Edward Poore said. “But time is tough.”
This week the Poores strolled through the Sandwich Glass Museum in Sandwich and talked about their work and the display there.
It was at the Crystal Work Shop in Sagamore that Edward Poore put down roots after he learned the trade at the Pairpoint Glass Company.
The shop is decorated with the functional relics used for engraving glass and with the unique detritus associated with engraving.
While most workshops conjure up images of bales full of sawdust, the Crystal Work Shop’s floors are dusted with silica.
“It’s basically all just sand,” Edward Poore said.
While the elder Poore seemed comfortable enough at the museum, discussing his art, he seemed far more at home in his shop, among his various lathes and grinders.
He spoke fondly about his apprenticeship under Mr. Schweidenback at Pairpoint.
He still misses it sometimes, he said. There is no one left from his era working at the factory under the Sagamore Bridge, but the memories are still strong. He remembered the water fights the crew would have to help cool down after a long workday.
A glass vase engraved by James Poore features cattails, butterflies, and a dragonfly.
A pile of stone-spinning wheels on a workbench conjures up another memory. After working at the Pairpoint Glass Factory from 1971 until 1980, Edward Poore decided to strike out on his own.
Around that time, he found the very stone wheels that he still uses today for sale, cheap, in a basement in New Bedford.
“Without those stone wheels, I probably would not be in business,” he said.
The wheels were made at the turn of the century, so they fit well with his favorite tool in his shop—a century-old, five-speed lathe.
He bought the lathe for “all the money I had in the world”—$250—three decades ago, and it is still one of his most used tools today.
There are also newer, more modern tools in the Crystal Work Shop. Three top-of-the-line lathes from Germany are stationed near the window of the shop.
He sometimes uses those grinders to give instructional lessons. He is not worried about somebody learning his trade and moving in on his territory, he said.
“I’m not paranoid like I used to be,” he said. “It feels good to teach now. It feels like it’s time.”
The Crystal Work Shop is where Edward Poore taught James the craft.
James hated it, he said. Even “cold-working” as glass engraving is known relative to the work done in scorching factories by glassblowers, is an arduous trade. As Edward Poore put it, “It’s tough on the muscles.”
Rather than forcing the trade on his son, he set him free.
Instead of giving him raises, he rewarded his son with time off, he said. Eventually, like his father, James Poore grew to love glass engraving, though he does not make his living from it.
Now, Edward and James Poore, father and son, see each other as peers.
Ironically, though, they have never collaborated on a piece of art, they said.
In fact, until asked about a possible collaboration, they had never even considered it.
They would like to though, if they ever got around to doing another exhibit.
“We’ve been so busy looking for other people to work with we kind of ignored each other,” James Poore said with a laugh.
Though their styles are disparate, the father’s abstract and the son’s more naturalistic, a collaboration might still work.
After all, they both share the same views on what makes something “art.”
“We just do what we like to do,” Edward Poore said. “Our tastes are good enough, so we trust that if we like it, other people will like it, too.”
Their exhibit, “Two Generations of Glass Engravers, Cutters and Sculptors,” will be on display through the end of the month. Admission is $5 for adults, $1.25 for children ages 6 through 14, and free for children under 6 years old. The museum is at 129 Main Street in Sandwich.