From concept to art: Annie Morhauser started from meager beginnings

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Photo- Gigi Goldeen (contributor)

Annieglass’ Annie Morhauser started from meager beginnings

WATSONVILLE: For Annie Morhauser, the owner of Annieglass, the ancient ritual of glassmaking combines dance and art and is a transformative experience.

“I take a concept or idea and merge it into hot glass,” said Morhauser, 56, who studied art and dance at College of San Mateo and earned a bachelor’s of fine arts degree in 1979 from the California College of the Arts where she had a scholarship and lived on food stamps. She now serves on the board of trustees at California College of the Arts and is an adviser to the master’s in design strategy program that she helped start more than five years ago.

“Glassmaking is like a drug to me,” Morhauser said. “I get lost in it, and forget time and place. I am struggling to follow a maze that leads me on as I am trying to make it do what I want.”

As a student, Morhauser feared that she couldn’t draw as well as other artists.

“I was petrified,” she said.

Yet the then 19-year-old found her niche one evening beneath a full moon at Waddell Beach watching a glassmaker practice his craft with the help of a portable glass furnace.

Morhauser was mesmerized by the interplay of the hot glass and the movement of the blowpipe through the night sky and the orange liquid orb continually moving and kept on center by the artist who gracefully revealed a vision that could not be touched until the final product hardened and cooled.

“I was hooked, I wanted in,” said Morhauser who started Annieglass in 1981, a widely acclaimed enterprise that produces more than 75 different shapes of platters, bowls, dishes and other durable tableware made from window glass in the Watsonville store with its 30 furnaces and almost as many employees. Roman Antique, a signature product, is a thick plate with a simple wide band of gold or platinum melted into the edges of the glass.

Morhauser said unfortunately too many glassmakers are “arrogant and zero customer service oriented.” She wants to change that as well as help artists successfully market their products. The U.S. State Department has appointed her to be an arts envoy to Algiers, the capital and largest city of Algeria, to help glassmakers there improve their craft and increase demand.

Tenacious and eager to solve design problems, Morhauser said her mother, who immigrated to America from Italy, raised her to be independent and self-motivated. Morhauser’s father died from cancer when she was 10 years old but her brothers stepped in and taught her to be assertive and to compete with men and women.

A track and field athlete, Morhauser said her brothers viewed her running as a metaphor for life. Their advice: “Run fast and if you get caught, negotiate.”

Morhauser said she believes she inherited her aptitude for art from her grandfather who painted murals in Italy.

“My creativity has gotten me through life crises and unexpected changes,” she said.

Her husband, an avid surfer with whom she had two children and was married to for 17 years before they divorced, died of cancer when he was 54 years old.

When the Loma Prieta earthquake struck in 1989, Morhauser was pregnant and had a 2-year-old child. Her mother had died two weeks before the earthquake. The Santa Cruz Annieglass store was then located in the Sash Mill and the entire glass inventory was destroyed.

Yet Annieglass has flourished and donates products to more than 300 charities and social service organizations including the Dominican Hospital, the Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Business and UC Santa Cruz.

Morhauser has been a co-chairwoman of the Second Harvest Food Bank holiday food drive and a past board member of Jacob’s Heart and the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History.

“My curiosity and wanting to solve problems gets me up in the morning,” said Morhauser. “If glassmaking was easy, I would have abandoned it years ago. My notes are my textbook and guide. The challenges keep me humble.”

Article- Andrew Lachman, Santa Cruz Sentinel

Editor’s note: This article is one of a series on happiness and well-being featuring Santa Cruz County residents, highlighting the guiding beliefs and philosophy as well as the challenges, achievements and struggles that have given meaning to their lives. If you know someone who fits the mold and should be featured, email

What: Glassware artist, manufacturing

Where: 110 Cooper St., Suite 100F, Santa Cruz and 310 Harvest Drive, Watsonville

Details: 831-427-4260 in Santa Cruz; 831-761-2041 ext. 21 in Watsonville

Store hours: 10:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sunday in Santa Cruz; 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday in Watsonville

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