Forty years ago, artist Annie Morhauser arrived in Santa Cruz County with a passion for glass and a dream to succeed.
After graduating from the California College of the Arts with a degree in glassmaking, Morhauser set up shop in a small, 400-square-foot studio in Santa Cruz and got to work.
Today, Morhauser’s glassware manufacturing facility in Watsonville covers more than 16,000 square feet, and the company ships pieces worldwide—including to top luxury brands such as Neiman Marcus. In 2006, some of her pieces were selected as part of a new display at the Smithsonian Institute.
The company also donates to about 365 charities, and provides scholarships to local high school students and mentoring to schools and colleges. In addition, Annieglass is in the process of starting a new sustainability project to work with reclaimed glass.
“Sometimes I can’t believe how far we’ve come,” Morhauser says. “It’s been an incredible ride.”
Morhauser, named Santa Cruz County’s Artist of the Year in March by the Santa Cruz County Arts Commission, says she couldn’t have gotten to this point in her career without her family, friends and everyone at Annieglass.
“Some of my staff have been with me for over 30 of these years,” she says. “They are amazing, and it’s not fair that I get all the credit. I’ve been so blessed.”
To celebrate Annieglass’ 40th anniversary, the documentary film Art of Resilience will be released by local production studio Swan Dive Media. Filmmakers Joel Hersch and Michael Daniel headed up the project, working closely with Morhauser to tell her story.
“It was awesome to have her reach out to us,” Hersch says. “We’re honored for the opportunity. Our film tells the story of a really strong woman who’s had an amazing career and given a lot to Santa Cruz County.”
Hersch, the film’s producer and director, says that working on it was eye-opening.
“I had known about Annieglass for a long time,” he explains. “When you see someone who’s run such a successful business for such a long time, it’s easy to just see that success in front of you. But we had the opportunity to go into the whole story. When you realize where someone came from, all the steps it took for them to get where they are, it makes their success a more tangible thing. That’s cool, as a storyteller.”
Daniel, editor and cinematographer, says he was surprised to learn about the hardships Morhauser went through, from losing her father when she was a kid to living on food stamps in college and constantly forced to endure the sexism of the glassware industry.
“Annie’s kind of a rock star,” he says. “I was impressed by how she persevered through everything to become such a successful business owner. It was inspiring to see.”
Morhauser says she has loved what she’s seen of the film so far.
“They did a great job telling our story,” she says, “from dumpster diving to the Smithsonian and everything in between.”
She adds that the chance to celebrate the anniversary of Annieglass through something creative, like a film, is rewarding after a challenging few years.
“Covid has been a nightmare,” Morhauser says. “Running a business like this that deals with manufacturing, sales, design–just the supply chain issues have been hard. Things we’ve made for years, and suddenly we can’t make them anymore. It’s taken a lot of creative thinking to figure it out.”
But, she still loves what she does.
“My favorite part of what I do is getting an idea and then seeing it realized,” Morhauser says. “Just seeing the final product and going, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s even better than I had in my head!’”
The glassmaker says she is proud to represent South Santa Cruz County, and appreciates the ongoing support from the community.
“[Watsonville] has always been so supportive of Annieglass,” she says. “Even people who can’t afford a piece bring people in to see the studio as if we were a tourist attraction. They show pride in us being nationally known. We really appreciate that.”
“Art of Resilience” premiered at Semper Recital Hall on Oct. 22 and will be available to stream online soon.