Meet John Drohan, a professional master glass cutter with Waterford Crystal in Ireland.
John has been working with Waterford Crystal since 1970 when he started out as a 10-year old learning by looking over the shoulders of the masters on Mondays after school.
And he embodies what it is to be truly passionate about what you do and create with your own hands as an artisan.
Dating back to the era of the Vikings in the 9th century, Waterford City itself was founded in 914AD and is said to be Ireland’s oldest documented city, filled with buildings that have spanned centuries. Like Reginald’s Tower which was named after the very Viking himself who founded the city.
I came with no expectations of what to do in Waterford.
And for such a compact walkable city, all its major landmarks are pretty much right next to each other and can be thoroughly explored within a handful of hours. Its Medieval Museum sits in two 13th and 15th century buildings with an amazing permanent exhibit of Cloth-of-Gold vestments worn by clergy over the centuries. The 18th century elegant Georgian-style Bishop’s Palace built in 1743 houses the world’s oldest piece of Waterford Crystal and a piece of Emperor Napolean’s hair.
The working heart of the city is the House of Waterford Crystal with its factory and history of artisan crystal making that spans 200 years. You can take a guided tour through the factory as well as check out the world’s largest collection of Waterford Crystal in its store.
And it was within its bowels that I met John and learned about his impressive history and dedication to his craft.
The way he steadily held that Tara cut crystal with an instinctive love the way a mother holds a child while multitasking.
In his case, while talking to us and explaining his craft.
That is the same instinctive love and care I see when a cheesemaker holds a wheel of homemade cheese he’d aged himself, the same way a baker dusts off a loaf of freshly baked bread she’d just pulled out of the oven, or the way a fishmonger tenderly guts a large fillet of a salmon, careful not to destroy the flesh.
That is why I love documenting and photographing people who are absolutely passionate about what they do and create with their own hands.
While I might not be able to rattle off the historical details that make Waterford such a significant stronghold of Viking history, I will always remember John and other passionate people like him who are the ones that truly keep a city’s culture and craft alive.
What to do in Waterford
Take an “Epic” walking tour through the Viking Triangle which is a tour that takes you around the city’s key sights like Reginald’s Tower, Greyfriars Medieval Friary, the Mayor’s Wine Vault (where I personally had a spooky experience), the Bishop’s Palace and more.
Explore world-renown Waterford Crystal where you can watch master glasscutters like John at work, creating various types and cuts of crystal glassware.
The waterfront-located Tower Hotel has all the modern trappings you’ll need within this medieval city.
You can view more photos from Waterford, Ireland, in my image bank below.
I explored this region of Ireland on the #IrelandsAncientEast campaign, created and managed by iambassador in partnership with Tourism Ireland. As always, I maintain full editorial control of the content published on my site.