The Malta Independent 21 January 2019, Monday

FIRST: Half a century in glass

First Magazine Tuesday, 29 May 2018, 10:48 Last update: about 9 months ago

This year is a momentous one for Mdina Glass, for the craft of glassmaking in Malta and for Joseph Said, as they all celebrate a 50th anniversary. We caught up with the man at the helm of the island’s first producer of handmade glassware to reflect on a – quite literally – colourful career.

When did you join Mdina Glass?

I joined in September, 1968. It was my first ever job and I am still here.

 

Did you have any knowledge of glassmaking when you began?

None. I had absolutely no idea. I didn't even start as a glassmaker. I was in the office, helping with the administration. Then I saw the small team of glassmakers at work. I was bored with my clerical duties and intrigued by what they were doing, so I asked if I could give glassmaking a try.

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Was glassmaking something that slowly won you over?

Not at all. As soon as I tried it I knew it was what I wanted to do for the rest of my working life.

How did you get from a trainee to the owner of the company?

Well, I started as a trainee and quickly progressed. I started learning under the guidance of Michael Harris, one of the co-founders, along with Eric Dobson. Then I progressed even further under the Italian glassmakers Vicente 'Papa' Boffo and his son, Ettore. They were true masters of the craft. I progressed quickly and practiced whenever I had a few hours available. I was also organised and serious about my work, which saw me become the first locally employed production manager in 1975.

In 1982 I left Mdina Glass to set up Mtarfa Glass, which became an instant success. By 1985, Dobson had decided to sell Mdina Glass and return to the UK. He offered me the chance of acquiring the company. Mdina Glass was always a very special place for me so it didn't take much thinking about.

 

Mdina Glass is now a family run business. Can you tell us about that?

My children grew up in, and around, glassmaking, especially during their summer holidays. I didn't push them into joining Mdina Glass, it was left up to them. Nevise and Pamela gravitated to the retail side of the business and oversee the running of our outlets as well as handling corporate and export orders. Olivia was always drawn towards glassmaking since she was around seven years old. She's been our head of production and product design for over 15 years. Alan, my youngest, worked his way through engraving and glass fusion to running our busy shop in Mdina. However, it takes more than this to run a company like Mdina Glass and we're lucky to have such a great team of employees around us.

 

What do you think the future holds for Mdina Glass?

We've got to where we are now because of hard work and a determination to innovate and these need to continue as our primary objectives. We're always facing challenges in finding the next generation of glassmakers, upgrading our production facilities and of rising costs of fuel and materials... and that won't change. We also wish to improve our Ta' Qali premises so that it's an even better experience for locals and tourists alike.


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