University of Vermont

Academic Ceremonies - Commencement

Honorary Degree Recipient

Simon Pearce
Doctor of Humane Letters

Simon PearceSimon Pearce is a glassblower, master craftsman, and visionary business leader. The Vermont company that bears his name makes and sells handmade tableware world-renowned for blending clear glass, graceful forms, and practical designs.

Pearce has followed a life-long passion to create glassware and pottery using skilled hand labor and old-world techniques. From this passion, success has followed: Simon Pearce operates four workshops, nine retail stores, and two restaurants. His products are available at hundreds of independent retailers in the United States and by mail order.

As a boy, Simon Pearce dug clay for his father’s pottery in County Cork, Ireland. He knew from an early age that he wanted to work with his hands. A dyslexic, he left school at age 15 and the next year was apprenticed to a potter in New Zealand. There, he “learned how to work,” he says. After two years, he returned to Ireland to make pottery with his father.

But he had always been enchanted by antique glassware and soon began to seek instructors to teach him the deceptively difficult art of hand-blowing glass. This took him from the Royal College of Art in London to glass factories in Amsterdam, Venice, and Sweden to learn how to make traditional glassware. “I was interested in making functional, everyday glass, not one-of-a-kind art pieces,” he says.

In 1971, he opened his own glassblowing workshop in Kilkenny, Ireland. He spent thousands of hours perfecting his craft and developed a loyal group of customers in Europe and beyond. But it took eight years before Simon Pearce turned a profit, and though he loved Ireland, he grew frustrated with the limited infrastructure and high cost of energy there.

So, following long tradition, he decided to make a fresh start in America. In 1981, he moved his business and family to a historic mill on the banks of the Ottauquechee River in Quechee, Vermont. From there, his glassware became famous and the business grew. Today, Simon Pearce employs nearly 400 people, with workshops in Vermont, Pennsylvania and Maryland, and stores on Park Avenue in New York and Newbury Street in Boston among others.

Every piece of his company’s glassware and pottery continues to be made by hand.

Pearce’s company is now headquartered in Windsor, Vermont, while the Quechee mill remains the flagship location for the company attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

Simon Pearce and his wife, Pia, have four sons and live in Hartland, Vermont.

Last modified February 27 2011 08:09 PM

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