There have been hundreds, but they are practically on the verge of extinction: in the Marinha Grande, there are few who still know the manual art of glass. At the Glass Museum, which is celebrating 20 years, the history of the sector remains alive.
Located in the Stephens Palace, an 18th-century building, the two-story museum includes documents and unique collections in the centre of the “glass capital“, with Marinha Grande’s Professional and Artistic School as a neighbour.
“The museum tells us about our history, our identity, our DNA, and that’s where we were born as a city, as a territory. It was here that the whole life of the Marines was built, “he told.
The mayor points out that in this museum is “reflected the whole history” started with Guilherme Stephens, who in the sixteenth century acquired its first glass industry, hitherto owned by John Beare.
“Around this museum, there is a heritage that was also a legacy of Guilherme Stephens and still preserved today. It is the only national museum that tells the history of glass, which counts this art, crafts and archaeology, in the investigation that was the history of glass in Portugal, “adds Cidália Ferreira.
The glass has no secrets for Alfredo Poeiras, one of the few glassmakers to resist and for 52 years a hard worker in this industry. In the studio Poeiras Glass, “the pieces are almost all unique“.
“We do not use moulds, we make them entirely shaped with our hands, we follow drawings or our imagination and we work the glass at 1,100 degrees using different colours,” he says.
Alfredo Poeiras believes that the museum is also his: “At the time of the inauguration I worked hard and I had a team to work on. The museum is also very mine, both as a person and as a glazier.”
Alfredo Poeiras highlights the role of this space – “will transmit to the new generations a little history” of glass, “that is lost.”
The master assumes himself as “an endangered species“.
“I’m very sorry, the companies closed and it’s not an attractive job for today’s young people“.
Alfredo Poeiras doubts the ability to attract young people to the industry, even because “nowadays almost all the glass is made with ‘robots’“.
In his view, the new technologies “take the creative part to glass, which has unfortunately never had a living wage.” This limitation led people to withdraw in an “irreversible process.”
The glassmaker explained that “almost all companies have a glassware shortage“, because “it takes many years” to master the art and “companies also never wanted to invest in their training“.
The Glass Museum received more than 370 thousand visits in its 20 years of life. Space was reclassified to serve as a library, theatre, school and museum, among others, constituting a strong cultural pole.
“There are about 25 thousand visitors per year, who will take this story: any piece of glass that is here tells us for previous centuries and its history, reports us to the hands that have always known, throughout all these centuries, work the glass and give it this artistic shape that still has today, “said Cidália Ferreira.
In the windows of the Glass Museum, he emphasizes, “the history of so many glass workers is contemplated that with their hands they have transformed all the objects into works of art,” even when they have a utilitarian side.
Cidália Ferreira exemplifies with the lamp of one of the rooms, which is “a replica of those who are in the White House“.