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The Woman Behind the Glass

Alex Lemonde-Gray, GDA Staff -- Gifts & Dec, July 9, 2013

Growing up in an Italian/German family, the youngest of four, Annie Morhauser, whose moniker is synonymous with exquisitely designed glassware, learned early on to "run fast and negotiate," characteristics that would be valuable later in life.
     "My Dad passed when I was only 10," explains Morhauser, "and growing up in South Jersey with three older brothers taught me plenty. My brothers are very competitive and I learned early on to speak up for myself. My Italian mother, an incredible seamstress, was forthright and provided a very strong artistic influence. She encouraged my creativity and taught me embroidery, knitting and crocheting. I always saw things differently as a child-colors in the sky, shapes in the clouds-but learned to be quiet about it, especially around my very organized, very business-like German father."
     Wanting to establish West Coast residency for college, Morhauser moved to the Oakland, CA, area for her last year of high school, living with her older brother. She fell in love with the beauty of glass when she first saw it being blown on the beach. Her goal-the California College of the Arts (formerly California College of the Arts and Crafts)-provided the artistic training she craved and there she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in glass.

As a student
Annie Morhauser

FROM STUDENT TO VETERAN GLASS ARTIST
As a student Annie Morhauser learned a range of glass techniques that she was able to adapt for production. Annieglass was born. Analytical and observant, Morhauser reflects, "Glass is an ongoing challenge which has kept me interested these 30+ years. Just when you think you've mastered it, it changes."

AMERICAN HANDMADE
True to Morhauser's craft tradition, every piece of Annieglass-in nearly 500 different sizes, shapes and designs-is designed and handmade in her California factory.

True to Morhauser
Morhauser

30TH ANNIVERSARY GLASS
Designed by Morhauser and limited to 30 pieces, this glass piece sits on her desk as a reminder of her journey.

A FACTORY OF CRAFT
Commercial success hasn't diminished the company's craft tradition. The factory can turn out up to 400 pieces per day.

Commercial
Annieglass

FROM FACTORY TO MUSEUM
Annieglass slumped glass pieces were chosen for the Smithsonian's permanent collection.

Glass Jewels to Jewels in Glass
Morhauser began her glass-making in a guest room of her home, creating glass jewelry pins for a community glass gallery. Demand continued to increase until she could no longer fulfill orders on her own. "Gold was king in the '80s," Morhauser muses. "So incorporating precious metals-gold and platinum- became an innovation," and later an institution for Annieglass.
     "If I had to name my design style," Morhauser says thoughtfully, "I'd call it California Naturalism. I'm inspired by nature, jewelry, travel, Italian things. I love listening to the stories I hear from consumers and retailers alike, about what our creative designs mean to them."
     This year, Annieglass celebrates its 30th Anniversary, manufacturing exclusively in Watsonville, CA. Through three decades, Annieglass has had its ups and downs. "We survived the recession by cutting back our inventory and staff-down to four work days," Morhauser recounts. Many of her employees have been with her since the beginning.
     In addition to manufacturing, Annieglass maintains two company retail outlets: one at its Watsonville location, where visitors can take studio tours and wine tasting, and the other in nearby Santa Cruz. Both stores also feature other local artisans and much more than simply Annieglass.
     Annieglass has resisted the pressure to move manufacturing offshore. "I love being able to control every aspect of this line-from design to finished product," notes Morhauser. "And I have no interest in moving to another part of the world. It's difficult to accept the fact that other companies copy our designs, but my motto of ‘what goes around, comes around' still holds true, even after 30 years."

Beyond Factory Walls
Community involvement, green awareness and fair trade have consistently been philosophies practiced by Annieglass long before these ideals became trends. Deeply committed to social and environmental causes and actively engaged in fundraising projects, Morhauser supports numerous organizations, such as The Clean Oceans Project; Monterey Bay Aquarium, Second Harvest Food Bank, Jacobs Heart Children's Cancer Services, Women in Business, and the Sierra Club, among others.
     When asked if her now-grown children, Ava and Taylor, might take over her business someday, Morhauser laughs, "I love them very much and would never subject them to the business. They are, however, highly motivated to have their own businesses."
     Morhauser is very involved in her business and her industry, both on a day-to-day basis and in a consultative capacity. She was elected to the board of trustees at her alma mater, California College of the Arts, in 2004, and serves as advisor to the Design Strategy MBA program (the first and only program that "bridges the gap between design innovation and business"). In addition, she works with her staff in an Artists in Residence setting, to help direct where Annie glass goes in the future.

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