A chance meeting with Timothy Jenkins, the managing director of John Jenkins & Sons, a 100-year-old British crystal manufacturer, led to the realization of Yeoward's aspirations. Both men shared a passion for 18th - and 19th-century crystal and wished these pieces could be made again.
"I met with Tim Jenkins and said, 'Wouldn't it be interesting to make a wineglass with a square foot?'" Yeoward recalls. " He took one of my favorite wineglasses away and made one. Then I said, 'Now let's make all the different sizes, and we can have a party.'"
In the fall of 1995, the 80-piece William Yeoward Crystal collection made its debut. Today, the collection encompasses more than 600 pieces of hand-cut, handblown crystal inspired by 18th and 19th century English, Irish and American designs. Unusual details such as lemon squeezer feet, hollow stems, glasses with polished cutting combined with copper wheel engraving, and rare and beautiful shapes characterize the collection. All pieces are functional. "I don't like to do things that are just prissy," Yeoward says. Two years ago, he launched his own line of similarly inspired sterling silver flatware, and just this summer introduced a collection of vibrant porcelain tableware.
On Oct. 25, Yeoward was the featured speaker at The Friends of Art Crystal Anniversary Celebration at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The event, sponsored by Schwarzschild Jewelers, included a display of tablescapes using Yeoward's crystal silver and china, as well as other china available at the store, designed by Richmond interior design firms: Andrews Designs, Janet Brown Interiors, Tyler Fonville Designs, Martin Interiors, Riggs & Co. Interiors, Nita Enoch Interiors, Margaret McElroy Designs and Gary Inman Interiors. Yeoward also made a personal appearance at Schwarzschild Jewelers Regency Square store during his visit.
"I find that it's very important to be able to meet the people who buy the pieces that I design," he says. "I think it gives me a better understanding of why people like my work."
He says he has been "completely staggered" by the response to his crystal collection. "I wasn't expecting such enthusiasm," he says. "It made me realize that the little germ of an idea I had when I started was, in fact, the reality of the situation people did see what I was getting at."
Though Yeoward's designs are inspired by the past, they are also thoroughly contemporary in feel. The designer says it just shows that good design is timeless. "Contemporary design should also be referenced to traditional work," he says. "I like to think all my work has that hallmark."
For instance, his new dinner service looks to the 18th and 19th centuries for inspiration, but the colors are pure 21st century. "What I love to see is color on the table at the moment," he says. "We made very hot-colored stippled plates as chargers and for dessert sky blue, orange, magenta, apple green. We will be setting the table in quite a traditional way, but will be using the accents of modern groupings of color to give it excitement."
Yeoward likes to set the contemporary dining room table in his London apartment with his more traditional designs and use his more modern pieces on his George II table in his country house in Gloucestershire, England. "I like juxtapositions like that," he says. "I think it all has to relate. I think what you should do with good design is take people on a wonderful journey."
Yeoward says he also tries to address different types of lifestyles in his collections. In other words, fine tableware isn't just for fine dining. "I have two different lifestyles," he says. "In London I am quite formal. In the country it is very casual. I try to offer both opportunities with the collections. I try to give everybody the opportunity to decide how they want to live, from plain and casual to decorated and ornate."
No matter what style you choose, the most important thing is to bring out your beautiful things and put them to use.
Yeoward entertains frequently, often once a week when he is living in London. "I think it's fabulous getting people around," he says. "I like to keep an interesting table of different people. I think the way people react when they come together is they fall into the atmosphere you create for them." HS
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