Kathy and I are always receiving invitations to visit the factories of the brands that we represent and this year we took advantage of an invitation to visit the Lasvit’s Bohemian crystal factory in the Czech Republic. Lasvit is a very successful global brand for hand blown exquisite chandeliers, hanging pendants, and more. We were so excited to experience the start to finish process of these amazing creations.
And equally important for us was to experience the culture and the countryside of the North Bohemia region of the Czech Republic. This area used to be inhabited by Germans, who had been invited by Czech kings in the early Middle Ages. It was one of the wealthiest and most industrialized regions in Austria-Hungary and then Czechoslovakia. After WWII, the whole German population of 3 million people were deported to Germany, and the region was resettled by Czechs from outside the region.
Today, as a result of the expulsion of Germans and four decades of communism (during which part of the landscape was destroyed by coal mining), this region is one of the poorest parts of the Czech Republic, with a relatively high unemployment rate.
While there are mountains that border the German and Polish borders, we traveled through deep pine forest, farms that produce wheat, barley, sugar beets, and hops and flat areas dotted by bizarre sandstone rock formations. After an hour and a half drive from Prague, we arrive in Novy Bor and the factory of Lasvit.
All I can say is that walking into the factory was like walking back in time. A traditional furnace in the middle of the Bohemian woods where dozens of men work glass in an incredibly hot environment. At the center, the main ovens kept melted glass at 1400º C. Divided in groups of three—one master glassblower and two assistants—craftsmen work at high speeds, rough and elegant at the same time, quickly extracting fragments of melted glass that are then put into wooden molds and blown with the force of lungs. In a series of choreographed gestures, the artisans reenact an ancestral way of relating to matter. We stood there in awe for a few hours before it became obvious that Kathy should blow glass.
Not quite the caliber of the master craftsmen but she got to experience the heat, the technique, the formation and the cooling. Kathy asked to blow a beer mug so that she would have the chance to drink beer from it when she got home.
What an experience!