Crystal Signatures: Sculptor to the famous

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Tim Yenawine says dad, Crystal Signatures founder Peter Yenawine, 'has a gift and a vision.'
Tim Yenawine says dad, Crystal Signatures founder Peter Yenawine, 'has a gift and a vision.' - (Photo By Eric Steinkopff)

When the White House is a client, it's always a good thing.

The president of Crystal Signatures of Bethlehem has worked with seven presidential administrations and recently finished work for the Obama White House, something that the company cannot discuss until Barack Obama leaves office.

Since 1997, signature designer Peter Yenawine has been designing and creating crystal awards for the likes of ESPN, NASCAR, IBM and the PGA Tour, among other well-known brands. The company makes bowls, platters, obelisks, sculptures and custom art in providing pieces for nationally televised award shows and international professional sporting events, as well as for companies and corporations of all sizes.

"We're shipped all over the world, including Dubai," said Tim Yenawine, Peter's son and director of sales and marketing.

Peter Yenawine "has a gift and a vision," his son said. "He can come up with an idea for a crystal piece by talking about a company logo, and then create it with his hands."

Tim Yenawine said clients make a leap of faith in believing Crystal Signatures can deliver the "wow" factor they're looking for in an award.

"My inspirations come from the opportunities that are presented," the senior Yenawine said. "Taking all of the client's parameters and turning that into an extraordinary presentation piece is a challenge I relish daily. … That's the joy of custom work."

FOUNDED IN 1997

Peter Yenawine was a master designer for seven years at Steuben Glass, based in Corning, N.Y. He also made crystal creations for many of the well-known crystal and art glass companies: Baccarat, Swarvovski and Lenox, among others.

He then became director of design for the Franklin Mint and worked closely with Jacques Cousteau on a commission to create a sculpture representing the "water planet."

In 1997, Yenawine obtained investors and started Crystal Signatures.

"A goal has always been to see Crystal Signatures recognized as a world leader in unique and innovative product development, with a clear emphasis on design and designers and flawless materials," he said.

He's on the board of visitors of the College of Visual & Performing Arts at Syracuse University in New York and also serves on the board of directors of the Community Art Center in Wallingford.

Tim Yenawine said the company fits a niche for custom orders – projects that can take six to eight months to complete, although one last-minute order from the White House was done in two days.

"We always deliver," he said with a laugh.

ARTISANS

Two other signature designers work with Peter Yenawine.

Steven Correia, owner of Correia Crystal, frequently is commissioned by Crystal Signatures. And Katherine De Sousa, an independent designer who has worked for Baccarat Crystal and Lenox China, often does work for the Yenawines. As signature designers, they sign each piece they create.

Other artisans work as glass blowers and etchers.

Tim Yenawine said he tries to hire people with an artistic background who love what they're doing. Experience with other media – bronze and wood – is needed, as some work is done with them.

PRISM-LIKE COLORS

Crystal can have as little as 7 percent lead, while full-lead crystal is made from a mix of sand, potash and at least 24 percent lead oxide.

The mixture creates products with exceptional clarity and prism-like colors.

After being heated to 2,400 degrees Celsius, the mixture is cooled to a workable temperature but still is extremely hot. Design formation is done in a relatively short amount of time.

Color in the crystal is produced by different metallic oxides. For clear, colorless crystal, precautions must be taken during mixing and melting to assure absolute purity. Any foreign matter will result in flaws and discoloration.

It's the lead that gives crystal a noticeable "ping" sound when flicked with a fingernail.

In the region, Crystal Signatures has done pieces for Air Products, Olympus, Sands Casino Resort and Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital, among others.

"A lot of our work comes via word of mouth, both locally and internationally," Tim Yenawine said. "Reputation is everything."

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