It’s about beauty. It’s about creativity and inspiration. It’s about the clients.
Peter Yenawine loves what he does. He loves glass. He loves design. He loves the signature crystal pieces that he creates for his clients.
These aren’t your average corporate gifts.
In his Bethlehem-based firm, Crystal Signatures, Yenawine, with the help of his staff, transforms wishes into reality. He designs corporate gifts, awards and even commissioned artwork. His artisans then construct the pieces from quality lead glass.
They do it on the Southside of Bethlehem, in an office and factory at One East Third St., behind the Monsoon and Rain galleries.
His son, Timothy, serves as COO and sales/marketing director and his wife, Nancy, manages the office and handles the finances. Other than the occasional part-time employee, his main craftsmen Robert Kingham cuts glass and serves as plant manager. Kingham, who now lives in Forks Township, has worked at Crystal Signatures since it opened in 1997.
The crew at Crystal Signatures recently received a lot of media attention for the gift they created for President George Bush upon his visit to the Limerick power plant. That lead crystal cooling tower came together in less than a week.
Timothy called his father on Saturday, who designed the project Sunday based on materials delivered to his Swarthmore studio. The staff presented the design to the Exton brass, the owners of the Limerick power plant, early Monday morning.
Even before the approval came in around 2 p.m., Yenawine and his staff had the piece one-third done. It was finished Tuesday and presented to the president Wednesday.
Most projects leave more turn-around time than that, but Yenawine takes pride that his staff can produce a quality, unique piece in two weeks. He’d prefer a month.
Under tight time restraints like those of the Exton project, Yenawine must work with the materials he has in the shop. Since he doesn’t do the glass blowing in house (though he does know how) that limited the potential for the Limerick design.
It didn’t limit the final product. The folks at Exton asked for a 10 to 12 inch cooling tower. They got it.
Yenawine designed it by studying drawings of the real tower and a bronze model. The bronze sculpture didn’t help, he said.
“That was an awful bronze model,” Yenawine said, “so foully proportioned.”
The client loved Yenawine’s final design, as did the White House staffer who called to catalog the gift’s value.
Yenawine said he always listens to what his clients want. He studies the Web site and reads a company’s annual report before undertaking a commission. It’s important to understand how a company presents itself, he said, to truly design something that reflects the corporate culture of that business.
It represents Crystal Signatures in “concept and quality,” Yenawine said.
Crystal Signatures’ factory lends itself to the technical and artistic blend of the work. Yenawine received two patents for equipment. His artisans use machines to cut the glass, but finishing details are done by hand. That gives Crystal Signatures’ designs extra dimension, Yenawine said.
He ended up in Bethlehem when the Southside still had a poor reputation. He came based on the efforts of Frank Gillespie. That was almost 10 years ago. His building had been abandoned for about 10 years prior. Now, he sees a climate change in his neighborhood. Other buildings have been spruced up.
“If the casinos come in, this will be a totally revitalized Southside in four to five years,” Yenawine said. “If they don’t, there’s enough pride and commitment that it will happen, but it might take 15 to 20 years.”
Story by Angel R. Ackerman, who serves as managing editor of Lehigh Valley News Group and editor of The Bethlehem News. Reach her via email@example.com.