One of the many things I love about my store’s location is all the windows. With a full southern exposure spanning from east to west, the windows flood the space with brilliant sunlight. Hanging in every one of the more than 100 windowpanes in the sashes and transoms is a dazzling Pairpoint sun catcher.
Beloved for their intricate designs, rich colors, and history and heritage (more on that later), these pressed-glass medallions truly do catch the sunlight—and the eye of just about everyone who sees them. People seldom own just one.
Sun catchers are noticeably more captivating when they are arranged in groupings. And with nearly 80 designs available in multiple color options, it’s not hard to put together a collection. Some of the designs most popular with my customers are those with birds and animals, maritime images, and Irish/Celtic themes.
For St. Patrick’s Day, the Irish Shamrock is a favorite. As one of the most recognized of Irish symbols, the shamrock was used by St. Patrick to illustrate the Holy Trinity to potential converts to Christianity.
Other popular Irish-themed sun catchers include the 9th-Century Irish Cross (replicated from a cross slab found in Carndonagh, County Donegal, Ireland) and the Irish Claddagh, based on the legend surrounding fisherman Richard Joyce, who purportedly was captured at sea by pirates and sold into slavery in Algeria.
As a servant of a Moorish goldsmith, Joyce eventually became a master craftsman and fashioned the first Claddagh in honor of the girl he had left behind in Ireland. The design incorporated a heart representing love, a pair of hands denoting true friendship, and a crown for loyalty and fidelity. When Joyce was once again a free man, he returned to Galway, Ireland, and found that his sweetheart had waited for him. He gave her the Claddagh he had created, and they lived “happily ever after.”
Many of Pairpoint’s sun catcher designs possess equally interesting histories, and rightfully so: Pairpoint Glass’s heritage dates back to 1837, making the company America’s oldest glassworks.
Each Pairpoint sun catcher’s design is painstakingly engraved by freehand directly into the steel mold, using a hammer and chisel. Bubbles and shear marks in the sun catchers are indigenous to the 19th-century Pairpoint production methods that are still used today.
Although they come out of molds, no two sun catchers are identical. It’s the variations inherent in handpressed glass that are the hallmark—and part of the timeless magic—of Pairpoint’s sun catchers.