Edible Monterey Bay

Edible Notables: Furnace to Table

Annieglass creates lovingly made
vessels for lovingly made food

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Annie Morhauser was driving with a friend when she noticed a Starbucks sign that read, “handcrafted cappuccino.” She wondered, “Can a cup of coffee actually be hand crafted?” But then, Morhauser was always more focused on crafting the cup.

“My drive to start my studio came from the passion I have for glassmaking and wanting it to continue to be alive and well,” she says. “I didn’t want to cut that continuous thread from the Arts and Crafts movement at the turn of the last century. I wanted to keep Louis Comfort Tiffany’s revolutionary idea alive that everyone—not just the patrons of the arts—should be able to enjoy fine craft.”

Since first discovering glassmaking on a moonlit beach walk more than three decades go, Morhauser has indeed become a provider of fine craft for the people.

In fact, Morhauser has become something of a patron herself of the beauty, bounty and people of our region—a patron of the stunning nature she expresses in her art, and of the nonprofits that seek to preserve it. She’s also become a patron of the farms, wineries and food artisans she features in her weekend studio openings and “Plate Maker” dinners at her Watsonville studio, and a patron of local residents who care enough about their food to want to serve it on pieces like hers.

“I appreciate the person who wears family pearls as a bracelet to the gym and serves peanut butter and jelly on Annieglass,” she says. “At a time when people value artisanship and craft and care about how things like coffee and pizza are made, I believe people see the value in what I do.”

This time of year—when holiday feasts and gift giving last for weeks on end, only to be followed by Valentine’s Day—is not a bad time in general to be a craftsperson who caters to a locavore clientele. But it’s an especially good time for Annieglass, as Morhauser recently launched three news series of pieces that resonate with our local love of the sea, and she is preparing to open her third store, on San Jose’s chic Santana Row.

Annieglass is recognizable in its clean lines, hand-hewn texture, rich, bold color and classic touches of platinum and gold. It has contemporary uses and care requirements, but there is nothing ordinary about Morhauser’s work or her story.

Morhauser was a child artist who, at age nine, took the bus to a class where she sat still to draw Chianti bottles, pears and draped fabric; as a young adult, she studied the exacting techniques of etching and printmaking. She was also a deeply passionate dancer.

Then, 31 years ago, on an evening walk at Waddell Creek, Morhauser encountered a man with a portable furnace blowing glass on the beach. As she watched, she felt the rhythm and witnessed the poetry in his work. The drama of the dancer and the inspiration of the artist in her melded into a whole new passion. Morhauser had found her medium.

“Most important to me is the word craft, whether we’re talking about glass or food or wine,” she says. “Craftsmanship has been my world since I became devoted to the art of glassmaking.”

While on a scholarship to the California College of the Arts and Crafts, Morhauser moved on from blowing glass to develop her technique of “slumping” molten glass into a mold, allowing the glass to take the mold’s shape and texture as it cools.

A trip to Japan, where Morhauser observed how meal presentation is as important as the food, fueled her interest in designing for the tabletop. “It was a feast for the eye,” she says. “The tableware was just as luscious as the food, both in design and texture.”

Morhauser creates a new collection about every six months, and one of her newest, “Salt,” is a highly textured, versatile glass crafted using coarse rock salt for the mold.

“With its texture and uneven rims, you just want to touch it. No piece is perfect and yet it is very beautiful,” she says.

“Around the time I introduced Salt, I also went back in time to more primitive methods to make a collection called ‘Edgey,’ by hand chipping away at the glass, and hand painting the shards with gold or platinum. It came out gorgeous. I love it!”

Morhauser also recently launched a new series of her Sun Catchers, a collection of marine animals in colorful glass, which will support The Clean Oceans Project, a Santa Cruz-based nonprofit organization working to rid the oceans of plastic pollution. Her previous benefit collection of aqua-colored small plates, called Ultramarine, raised $40,000 in four years for the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

It’s hard to imagine a more appropriate fundraising vehicle for a cause fighting plastic pollution than Morhauser’s handcrafted, heirloom-quality tableware—especially at a time when the public cares so deeply about its food.

“People go to all this effort to make beautiful food, to make sure it’s local, organic, and tastes fantastic,” she says. “So why not consider what it’s presented on?”

EXPLORE: Annieglass hosts its “Pours & Tours” wine tasting and studio tour events at its Watsonville location (310 Harvest Drive, 831.761.2041) every Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons from noon–4:30pm. Daily store hours are 10:30am–5pm in Watsonville and 10:30am–6pm at the Santa Cruz store (110 Cooper St., Ste. 100F, 831.427.4260). And this spring, there will be a new Annieglass store on Santana Row in San Jose. For information about the new store, as well as special food and wine events as well as to purchase glassware online, go to www.annieglass.com