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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Kade

Watched them make my glass dish with a mold

We changed our minds about 5 times on where to visit today, as it was supposed to rain. We finally decided to go to Hergiswil and see the glass works.

Took the train from Interlaken West to Ost; changed to the train headed to Luzern; got off in Saren, changed to the train going to Hergiswil.

The Hergiswil glass works has existed on Lake Luzern since 1817. This was where the Siegwart brothers found a production site with ideal transport infrastructure for both energy and goods. In 1975 the glass works was on the verge of closing. It had missed the chance of installing new technology, and automated glass production abroad was forcing the owners out of competition.

The Glasi-Lüüt [Glass People], the Hergiswil council and above all Roberto Niederer saved the Glasi from closure. The traditional craft was rescued and linked to design ideas that are still effective today. Shortly before the death of Roberto Niederer, his son Robert Niederer became Managing Director of the Glasi in 1988. With more than 100 employees, he has kept the craft of glass going since then. The glass works has been completely renovated in recent years, and redesigned so as to make it friendly to visitors. The Glasi Museum illustrates the history of glass, and of the Glasi in particular, in an impressive three-dimensional presentation.

The artisans were on break so we went to the store to do some shopping.

"Switzerland's only glassworks has built up a remarkable reputation in the 20 years since Robert Niederer took over the factory from his father Roberto.

This content was published on April 30, 2008 - 12:56April 30, 2008 - 12:56

The proof is that almost three out of four people recognize the name and praise the quality of the small company's products, according to a survey carried out on the image of Swiss firms.

The factory - affectionately called the Glasi - has been making glass in the village of Hergiswil near Luzern in central Switzerland since 1817, but it's only in recent years that the place has really come alive. Niederer has made a visit to the place an unforgettable experience. For example, the Glasi features a museum on the history of the factory, with a surprise twist at the end. You are guided on to a balcony above the very heart of the action where the glassblowers are at work in front of the oven. The heat and the sight of glass being produced in front of your eyes bring the Glasi to life. "I try to bring a lot of people here to show them how we produce the glass. I think this is the only way we can survive," Niederer told swissinfo. "We have around 200,000 people come every year and it's clear that if they are fascinated they also spend money. They buy our glass and we live from this." About half of annual sales are made in the two factory outlets – one selling seconds - with the other half sold to shops around Switzerland.

There are other attractions that make the Glasi stick out. There are a number of exhibitions, featuring what you can do with glass and light, as well as glass and sound.

Another part of the philosophy of the place is that Niederer does not produce glass with lead, arguing that he does not want to endanger the health of his workers.

In short, he says the glass comes out like honey from the oven and is turned into "just a normal, nice glass that we can also call crystal glass without lead".

In the near future he will be grooming his son Roberto to take over the company and continue making glass in Hergiswil."

You start with sand and in a few hours you have a glass sculpture.

There is an interactive section where you can "play with the glass". I filmed Michael but I had fun playing with the glass, too.

Making a bucket for a bottle of wine or prosecco.

Molds for the glass plates

If you were wondering.......yes, the Swiss Made Shop in Wengen, the Woodpecker in Interlaken and the Glasi in Hergiswil do ship. Actually, shipping is cheaper from here to Arizona than it is from Arizona to here.

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