‘The Crystal Lady’ November 18, 2014
Story and photos by Kathryn R. Burke
Thirty-five years ago Lorraine and her then-husband had a glass-etching business in Lake Arrowhead, California. A lot of their products were architectural – windows and doors primarily. “I also did smaller pieces, selling them at arts and craft shows,” she says. “Which is easy to do in California, because they have a lot of them.”
But it was Colorado that called. They returned frequently. As their customers and inventory grew, they soon outgrew the show circuit. And California. They moved to Montrose. Somewhere along the line, Lorraine bought out her husband, and became the sole owner of Evergreen Crystal, Inc. Montrose has been her home base for over 15 years, and her customer list now include impressive names like Sea World, Toyota, the National Press Foundation – she fashioned a piece for Barbara Walters, and even the White House! Lorraine’s designs, sand-blasted onto blank glassware like vases and wine glasses, are a familiar sight in stores and gift shops around the country. The shows she does now, are the big gift shows in key cities across the country for wholesale buyers.
It wasn’t always that way. “We started small, with 6 designs and 5 shapes sold directly at those craft shows,” Lorraine explains. Most of our blanks (the glassware to be etched) came from America.” Now, most of those companies are gone, so she buys stock from around the world (vases from Poland, wine glasses from Italy). Lorraine does the designs, which include over 80 North American animals, 30 African animals, a wide variety of floral and seasonal themes, and corporate artistic work and logos converted to line-drawings that will etch well. She and her employees do the work to complete the finished pieces. Clients now include Dole Pineapple, Exon, Cabellas, Rio Carnival, even the US Senate. Sea World recently commissioned her to do five dolphin designs for their new Disney Cove Hotel. She even did a crystal cowboy hat cooler with a stallion for Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee. (Mountain Fever in Ouray carries a similar piece.)
The process is fascinating and labor-intensive. Lorraine makes templates of a vinyl material, each for a one-time use, that are stored in plastic bags (to keep them moist) until use. When an order comes in, the template is attached to the glassware, which is then totally covered (all but the template). “We use a lot of masking tape, “ she laughs. Each piece is then sandblasted, following a chart that is color-coded to show dimension. “Our paint by the numbers system,” she says. The darker the color, the deeper the etching. The sand blasting machines actually uses a very fine aluminum oxide, not sand. Two machines are used – one for the deeper cuts, another for the finer finishing work. The piece is then put in a cooler – like you use for a picnic! Once cooled, the tape is easy to remove. The finished piece is racked with the order form, ready to be shipped.
Limited editions are hand-cut, with each layer then individually carved. Each piece can have over 20 individual layers.
Orders come in all year long, but Evergreen’s busiest season is the last quarter of the year, rolling over into January. “People buy for the holidays,” she says, “then stock up again in January.” Other times, people send in a picture or original design, maybe of a pet or a business logo. A recent order is for a neurology vet clinic in Denver that ordered shot glasses for the holiday season. Lorraine does several regional gift shows where she sells to stores, usually twice a year: Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, New York.
“I’m blessed to work at something I really love doing,” Lorraine says. There is not doubt of that when you talk to her. She is vivacious and excited about her work, which will be very evident when you join us for her presentation on November 18th.
More information: Visit Evergreen Crystal webpage.
WCOC Monthly meetings are held from 1-3 pm on the third Tuesday every month in the San Juan Room of the Ouray Community Center. Regular meetings feature “Uncommon Women: Uncommon Lives, with guest speakers who have interesting and unusual occupations for a woman. See our list of 2014-2015 guest speakers on the right. Click here to view the list of past guest speakers, who have included women in business, service industries, art and authorship, public service, construction, healthcare, sports, wildlife rehabilitation and preservation. The public is welcome.
Following the guest presentation, guests and members enjoy a social period with refreshments and an opportunity to view various projects and sign up for committee activities. The regular membership meeting follows, which addresses upcoming events and activities, shares “Cares and Concerns” with members, and reviews other membership business.
Members and guests are asked to bring a monthly contribution to the Ouray County Food Pantry, aluminum cans for the Elks’ recycling project, and any used cloth for the Second Chance Humane Society’s recycling project. The WCOC “sign-up marathon” featuring volunteer opportunities for spring/summer projects will be available in April.